Glory days of Greyhound

Douglas Chambers remembers how large and busy the Penticton Greyhound bus station was during his childhood in the 1940s and 50s. 

"It was my dad's whole life. We spent all kinds of time in the Greyhound garage, going through the busses, all the kinds of thing a kid does," Douglas said. 

Now, with Greyhound service in B.C. drawing to a close on Oct. 31, 70-year-old Douglas is looking back on his father's long career with the company. 

His father was one of the first ever Greyhound drivers in their B.C. division. Douglas inherited his father's bus cap, emblazoned with the badge number one. Lyall C. Chambers started work as a driver and regional superintendent in 1928, the first year Greyhound was in the province. 

He then spent three years with the Canadian Army in Europe during the Second World War, and was recalled to Canada to help bring returning soldiers home using the Greyhound bus system.

"We've still got the letter from Greyhound that asks Dad be sent back," Douglas said.

The letter, which is part of Lyall's war records, is from Greyhound to the Minister of National Defence. It states the dire need for bus drivers to fill the transportation needs of returning soldiers. 

"We would appreciate it very much if, having regard to this vital need of the country for transportation and the vital importance of this man to this essential industry, you will have his case investigated, and have him released as soon a possible," reads the letter. 

Douglas recalls how different travel in Penticton and the interior was during his father's career. Roads on routes like his father's, from Oroville, WA to Kamloops, were not the well-maintained highways of today. 

"They told of cliffs that went straight down and there was only room for one vehicle to go around there, so everybody had to stop while the bus went down," Douglas said. "You looked down this thing and it was just vertical all the way. Just pioneer trails, really, back in the early, early days."

The bus was the main artery for travel to and from B.C.'s small communities and larger cities before cars were such a widespread commodity.

"I know people now call it the 'loser cruiser,' but back in the day, people couldn't afford travel," Douglas said. "And the train went through but it only made certain stops, and you could only get off at those specific places, whereas the Greyhound would stop at all these little places along the way like Summerland, Peachland, Westbank. The train didn't do that."

Lyall worked for Greyhound as a regional superintendent and eventually province-wide superintendent for over 40 years, from 1928 until 1969. He then served Penticton as an alderman. 

Douglas, who now lives in Fort Langley, is happy that although the Greyhound itself won't be around anymore, a piece of his father's legacy with the company will be. Lyall's Greyhound cap has been donated to the Penticton Museum for posterity, to preserve part of a time that Douglas remembers fondly. 

"[Greyhound] was really something back in those days."

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