It was the Seventies and the children and I

Had spent the summer at my parents’ home,

And spent an inordinate amount of time

In used bookstores downtown, buying books;

Cookbooks, mysteries, novels, and

Children’s books,

Which I had packed into boxes

Until we had five heavy boxes of books

To somehow take home with us;

I thought of the Greyhound Bus

Because they didn’t limit

The weight of baggage

(At least not back then)

And so I bought 5 one-way bus tickets

To California,

And my family saw us off at the bus terminal

In downtown Cincinnati,

Where we boarded with

Pillows, blankies, and comfy objects,

And each boy had a little carry-on suitcase

Filled with coloring books and crayons

And little cars,

While I had a tote bag filled

With snacks and crackers and fruit

And a thermos of coffee

And a couple of paperback books to read.

We commandeered the back of the bus

Closest to the lavatory

Since Chris always had to go,

And that way wouldn’t be stepping all over

Other passengers’ feet.

The other travelers, then, were a motley group

Of raggedy men and women,

Some smelling unwashed,

A few servicemen and

A lot of colored folk,

Heading somewhere west.

But as the bus drove towards California

People got on and others got off

At the many bus stations along the way,

And the type of passenger changed

From raggedy and disreputable looking

To old white-haired or bald men with canes


Prim silver-haired ladies with

Hair tightly permed, and

Carrying purses and

knitting bags.

However, in St Louis the bus driver announced

This was as far as this bus was going

And we would have to walk to a different bus station

Three blocks away.

It was 2 AM in the morning

And the children and I trudged with our

Little suitcases and pillows to the other bus depot

In a dreary forsaken part of the downtown area.

We were too ignorant to be afraid.

Onward we traveled.

In Oklahoma we got off the bus and spent a day

Visiting my Tulsa penpal; it was

A brief respite from what had become

An Endless Journey.

Like Dorothy I thought

We would never find Oz.

The landscape changed

And there were frequent lightning and thunder storms

Which mesmerized

All of us and kept us

Staring out the windows

Awake and fearful

Through the nights.

Every so often everyone had to get off the bus

So it could be cleaned

Or it would stop somewhere

At a diner so that

Passengers could go order something to eat.

In Texas a little boy about the same age as

My son Michael

Got on the bus with a fishing rod

And surveyed the bus,

Then quickly attached himself to

The lady with the four little boys

In the back of the bus.

Now I had five

But the tow headed boy with the fishing rod

Quickly made himself useful

And helped with the two youngest boys.

As the bus descended from Barstow into Riverside

The white haired men and little old ladies

One by one used the lavatory to freshen up

And one by one congratulated me on the fine behavior

Of my five little boys.

I didn’t try to correct them or say that only four were mine

When he actually looked enough like my sons to

Be one of them.

In Riverside the boy with the fishing pole got off the bus

To meet and greet his parents.

He had been visiting grandparents in Texas.

We waved goodbye.

In downtown Los Angeles, my husband was waiting

To greet us

And expressed much dismay

Over the five boxes of books,

Which had reached California ahead of us

But were waiting in the Greyhound storage room.

A redcap toted the boxes to our station wagon

And remarked

What you got in here, lady? Fort Knox?”

“Something like that” I replied.

When I told my sister about our adventures

She said
”You should write something and call it

Us on a Bus”.

I swore I’d never do that again

But like childbirth, you forget the pain, and only

Remember the good parts

So we did make another trip from Ohio to California

On a bus a year or two later

But thought I was being smart

By buying the tickets from the Trailways Bus Company.

But it turned out

They only went as far as St Louis

And we had to switch back to Greyhound,

In that city but I don’t remember

If it was 2 AM in the morning.

I do recall

We detoured and spent a week in Tulsa

With my penpal Penny and her family

And had a wonderful time.

The next time we traveled to Ohio

I saved up change in a coffee can for a year

To buy airplane tickets

And we flew.


–Sandra Lee Smith




2 thoughts on “THE BUS TRIP

  1. Nice story didn’t know about that . I sure wish it didn’t cost so much to get old film developed as I have 7 rools of film mom took with my movie camera. I don’t have a clue as to what’s on them. Maybe someday.


    1. Biff–how many rolls of film do you have? You can probably take the film to Walmart–maybe a few at a time which is what I did for Kelly & Keara a few years ago–some pix turned out pretty good, all things considered, some didn’t–they didn’t charge me for any rolls that didn’t turn out at all. love, sls


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