I found this picture online about a year ago, thinking I might share it here, but Jim Brophy’s recent post of vintage bus photos inspired me to finally write up a post. The curbside in front of Palmer’s Drugs, as well as adjacent corners of the main intersection of University and Shattuck in downtown Berkeley, California was a place I spent a lot of time as a child growing up. If there was no 67 or 51 or F bus in sight, there might be time to run into Palmer’s and browse the comics, or if I was feeling flush, buy a pack of gum for 5 cents.
A little research showed that this photo was taken during the introduction of a fleet of New Look GM buses with extra features specifically for trans-bay routes to and from San Francisco, in the “Travelcade of Progress”, in December 1960. It’s entirely possible that a young dman and his Mom or Dad are among the people on the street. By the time I started elementary school a year or two later, until I graduated from high school in the mid-seventies, I waited for buses almost every school day at this corner, often both morning and afternoon. More on the New Look bus can be found here.
The new buses were already common when I started riding them daily, but there were still many of the old buses in service, though if we had a choice – for example when two buses on the same route showed up back to back – we always preferred the newer ones. If I chose to take the Number 7 bus, which took a steeper route to a stop 3 blocks from my house than my usual 67, which stopped half a block from my house, the driver of an old bus might ask the kids to get off so it would make it up one particularly steep pitch, and then reboard. Although Berkeley was one of the first cities to implement mandatory busing for school integration, I was not part of that program and always rode the public AC transit buses.
Aside from the buses, what caught my eye in the street view picture was the number of “imports”. Not just a VW, but a Fiat Multipla, an Austin A40, and what looks like a Simca. Any other unusual finds on the streets here?
About twenty years ago I briefly got intrigued by the new generation of die cast “collectible”, as opposed to “toy”, vehicles. With the advent of online shopping, I found things that I didn’t know existed, including this nice Corgi GMC coach in AC Transit livery. It’s in the form of a Number 83, a line I don’t recall ever riding … and a lot cleaner than any AC Transit bus I remember from childhood. I did buy it, but it’s been hidden away in a closet for some time now. Not the daily encounters that I had many decades ago.