There’s a lot of talk these days about our need for more mass transit or rapid transit.  Way back when I was little, the bus was a big part of my life.  Not that I took it all the time, but it was a pretty fun way to travel or get around town.  One of my grandmothers drove a little, around Ardmore, but not on the highway, so she always took the bus to come see us or stay with us while my parents were on a trip.  We would pick her up or drop her off at the bus station.  I loved the bus station when I was little.  It was such an exotic place to go and watch all the people coming and going.  Tulsa had the beautiful Art Deco bus station – and airport – in those days.

Union Bus Terminal Tulsa, OK

Sometimes, I would go home with my grandmother, riding the Greyhound with her all the way to Ardmore, which must have been about a 6 hour drive in those days.  It was fun to sit beside her watching the landscape go by, different than from the back seat of my parents’ car.  As I got older, and I’m talking about 9 or 10, I got to ride the bus by myself.  I would take it to Oklahoma City to see my other grandparents and my cousins.  Once, I took it all the way to Ardmore.  On that trip, my aunt in Oklahoma City met me at the station there and waited with me until it left again for Ardmore.  I remember sitting next to a window, reading a book and looking out the window.  And watching the other people on the bus.  Quite the adventure.

While my grandmother stayed with us, we took the bus downtown.  I think she could have driven my mother’s car, but that was a scary thought for all of us.  She wasn’t the best, an understatement, driver, even in her own car.  She walked a lot at home.  Anyway, we’d walk about two or three blocks to the bus stop and ride downtown to eat and shop at the Kress store, walk around,  look in all the store windows, and come home.  It’s hard to describe how much fun that was.  I guess it was just different than driving downtown with our parents and because she always bought us some little thing at the store.  She didn’t have much money, so it wasn’t much, but it was a treat.  And, we weren’t in any hurry so the waiting and slow pace was nothing to us.

As I got older, my friends and I rode the bus downtown.  I can remember being in Oklahoma City when I was about 12 and going to a movie downtown with my cousin.  My aunt dropped us off and we were to take the bus home.  We got tired of waiting for our bus, so we just took the first one that came along and ended up somewhere other than where we were supposed to be.  On purpose.  Not that we were scared…we often did stupid things together, giggling all the way.  We walked for a long time after getting off the bus and I can’t imagine how we found a phone to call my aunt to come get us when we realized we were probably in trouble.  No cell phones in those days!  My aunt wasn’t too happy with us…giggle, giggle.

As shopping centers popped up and I became a teenager, we began to walk to those places for hanging out with our friends.  Waiting until we could drive cars.  No more buses after that!

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a city bus in Tulsa.  We’re very much a driving city, which doesn’t help those who can’t afford cars or don’t want the hassle of parking or driving in traffic.  The only thing that will change our driving habits is the cost of cars and gas, although that doesn’t seem to matter to most people. I drive a small car that costs almost as much as my first house.  And it’s a cheap car comparatively…a hybrid.  Getting places quickly is the main issue, I think.  Nobody has or takes the time to wait for a bus… or anything else.  The age of instant gratification extends to getting places, too.

The buses I take these days are mostly charter buses or tour buses or shuttle buses. Taking the bus long distances has the reputation of being dirty and dangerous.  Pretty sad.  Oklahoma State has wonderful buses, the BOB (Big Orange Bus) system, for those who commute to the university in Stillwater.  I rode one with a group and they are plush compared to what I remember.  A comfortable place to study on your way to class down the highway.

I rode the buses a lot in Seattle when I used to visit my son, later son and daughter-in-law, there.  I easily learned the bus routes and loved the ease of jumping on and riding downtown or back rather than fighting that traffic or finding an expensive place to park.  They were colorful trips to say the least.  The diversity of Seattle was seen in force on the buses, a never ending parade of humanity.  I looked forward to it actually.


I still have a little origami bird that an elderly Chinese man made for me while we rode.  I was sitting across from him, watching him create this little treasure from a piece of newspaper.  I found out later that he was known for riding the buses, giving away his little birds.  He quietly folded the paper, then looked up at me, smiled, and handed me the bird.  Charming!  One of those serendipitous experiences in life that we should treasure!


I don’t know where the bus system will end up here in Tulsa or if my habits will ever change or have to change.  All I know is riding the bus was a special part of my childhood, one that I wouldn’t trade.  As I sing “The Wheels on the Bus” with my granddaughter, I’m sure what I see in my mind is so different than her vision…the wheels go round and round, round and round, all over town.