Images of a Bus



In June of 1979 I bought an old Wayne school bus.

I'd just graduated from college, finally, and the world lay before me. However, the prospects for a conventional career didn't look good, and there seemed no time like the present for an adventure...

Over the next several months I worked to convert the bus from a "rug rat express" into a rolling home, then took off to make friends with America again.

These pictures tell the story of that transformation and journey.
(Pictures may take a few seconds to load on slow connections)

The beginning

The bus was known by many names, but perhaps my favorite was "Condominimum."

There wasn't much else "minimum" about her though. She was 35 feet long, weighed about ten tons at the curb and had a 549 cu. in. V-8 engine in the rear. The steel in the sides was just about bullet proof armor and when you sounded the air horn, small cars would flee in terror.

It had a new engine and was in impeccable shape mechanically. But it had been vandalized, side windows smashed and seats slashed and the windshields stolen, so it was a cosmetic disaster. You'll notice the windshields are missing in the photo above. That's because the upper corners are rounded. Seems they didn't make that shape of windshield any more so these things were valuable.

We had an idea of how to fix that,
but only after we loaded in the big stuff.


I set to work gutting the interior and building in the needed amenities. First we had to clear out some room however. We'd loaded all our stuff in there
and were camping out in it at the same time.
(Do not try this at home.)


Our worksite was a small parking lot behind a college dorm, overlooking Allemany Blvd. in San Francisco. It was a great location; the sky and clouds provided an ever changing show.


A radial arm saw, borrowed from the in-laws (along with the station wagon), and my van formed an open air workshop. A canvas tarp gave us temporary closure in the front.


What we suspected was right, the new windshields were just squared off at that upper outside corner and if we used a bit of ingenuity, we could square off the opening, get a new gasket and replace the windshields. So we did.

That's Bill Schappert on the right.
He's the guy who sold me the bus. Good man.

We moved our rolling workshop a few times, as we could find space. Bill gave me some room to work in a school yard.

A school on stilts in San Francisco.
Guess it can sway better that way.


I'd collected a lot of materials to "recycle" into the bus. No one was going to mistake me for Norm Abrams, that's for sure.


Then we got her painted up a bit...


And she didn't look half bad.


The interior needed a bit more work though.


Eventually, things got squared away and we took our first shake down cruise.

Who knew that there was a weak water hose?

The bicycle came in handy.


And it was good to visit with Dick and Joyce, my cousins in Santa Cruz.


Believe it or not, I was making progress...


At long last it was time to hit the road and "see America."
A rainbow arched above us as we headed out.


The first stop, in Black Butte, California,
wasn't very crowded in January, 1980.


Along the way I found some things that were
actually bigger than the bus.

A snow plow in the Siskiyous...

And Multnomah Falls...

That's just east of Portland,
along the Columbia River, in "Orygun."

Travelling along the coast had been fun,
except when the muffler fell off and got squished.

Did you ever try to find a muffler
for a 15 year old schoolbus
in the middle of nowhere?

That's why God invented glass packs.

I'd always wanted a car with dual exhaust...

BOY, does 549 cubic inches sound sweet with those!

From there I travelled up through the Pacific Northwest, crossing the Continental Divide on Rt. 12 east of Lewiston, Idaho, above the Locksaw River. Same route that Lewis and Clark took. They didn't have to worry about their brakes though.

I was glad I had good brakes though, let me tell ya!

In Gillette, Wyoming I met some interesting folks, who also lived in a pair of school buses.

They were heading to Alaska to homestead. I'd never seen a gasoline powered washing machine before.

We travelled back across the upper tier of states
to the Mid-west.

Some places were a little better than others to stay overnight.

At least the neighbors were quiet.

Yes, that's the graveyard that was behind the church.
The pastor knocked on our door in the morning and brought a dozen farm fresh eggs, and joined us for breakfast.

Travelling off the interstates often gave us wonderful little surprises like "Barton's Grocery" in Indiana.

We eventually arrived in New Jersey, at my parent's home,
on Mother's Day, 1980.

I'd kept the date of our arrival a surprise.

The family had just sat down to eat when my brother, Steve, looked out the window and up the road and said, "That's either the world's largest caterpillar or Doug's home."

Mom said that was the only time that people had left her table hungry that she didn't mind.


I ended up parking behind their house for the next three years, cutting a small pad into the hillside to find some level ground for this monster.

And even the winter's weren't toooo bad.

In the course of time I travelled back to California using the back half as a moving van and living in the front.

For some reason though, I got lots of pictures of the sights along the way but hardly any of the bus itself.
Guess the novelty had worn off.

I knew I was getting close to Los Angeles because I could see the smudge on the horizon starting well east of Palm Springs. Quite a shock after so many days of clear skies and wide open spaces.

With my entry into graduate school, the bus had to go. There was just no room in the budget for its voracious appetite. So my buddy, Max Kayes, helped me give her a final coat of paint on the inside.


As you can see, the interior "matured" over time
and here are some shots of it as it finally looked.

The front right side of the interior.
The couch bottom slid out to form a bed at night.

Farther back on the right side was the kitchen, complete with double sink, range and lots of drawer space. Beyond it is a full height pantry, behind that was a couch and wardrobes. In the back had been the queen sized bed before I converted that area to the "moving van."

Across from the kitchen was the bath and shower area. Behind it had been the wood stove and more wardrobe space.

And in the front behind the driver's seat was the dinette.

A buyer was found
and with a last long look,
she passed on out of my life.

Gone but not forgotten.


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Copyright 1999       Doug Dobbs
Last revised: March 18, 2001.