Greetings Everyone, in August of 1969, the week after Woodstock, I started my training as a Vancouver bus driver. First off, my hire photo, AKA Mug Shot. I have been assigned the seniority number 3281 in our class of 6 trainees. I was 21. I made change and sold tokens for 7 months until Wednesday 1 April 1970 when Exact Fare arrived and we no longer had to do so. I worked an evening run on Stanley Park/Nanaimo driving a Brill trolleybus, and sold my last tokens at Cordova and Carrall downtown, and changed a quarter for the final time at Nanaimo and Charles Street. While so many drivers cursed the changers, B.C. Hydro allowed the drivers to purchase their changers, and a large number did so. I bought my 6 barrel Johnson changer.
Six years later, here I am in a 1947 Canadian Car Brill T-44 trolley coach in the Stanley Park Loop. I have my feet up on Grant Money Meter fare box. Tie was compulsory during winter months. To differentiate between the two types of vehicles, the instructors called a trolley a “coach”, and a motor bus a “bus”. And we were “operators”, not drivers. Photo courtesy of Sean Nelson.
B.C. Hydro took this publicity photo in a “Fishbowl” General Motors New Look diesel bus at the Oakridge Transit Centre to make people aware of the 1st April 1970 date for the Exact Fare policy. The EXACT FARE card behind the transfer rack was put in the exterior card holder on the front of every bus in the system. Looks like they borrowed the secretarial pool for the photo. Lady standing has a $2 bill in her wallet. You can see the change dish, and the rack for the changer above the transfer cutters. The operator is wearing his Chauffeur’s “A” Badge on his cap visible to the public, a requirement of the commercial driver’s licence back then. I wore mine on my jacket. This photo also shows the Grant Money Meter, a musical fare box
Grant Money Meter fare boxes annunciated the coins and tokens thusly:
1¢ – BUZZ
5¢ – BONG
10¢ – BONG-BONG
25¢ – BING-BING
“A” token – BING
“B” token – BRRRINGGGG
“C” token – no sound. These were made of blue plastic the size of poker chips and had to be collected by operating the lever for the scavenge door.
Fares: Student “A” tokens – 10 for $1.00; Adult “B” tokens – 4 for 75 cents; Child “C” tokens – 4 for 35 cents; Cash fare – Adult – 20 cents; Cash fare – Students – 15 cents; and, Cash fare – Children – 10 cents.
When I tell younger people today that when you bought four adult tokens for 75¢ back in 1969 you saved a nickel over the regular fare, they say: “Why bother?” I respond: “Well, 5¢ was half the price of a cup of coffee.” It also became apparent that we functioned as change machines. If you ran out of a certain coin or token on the road, you could always stop another bus and see if the driver could sell you what you needed.
The employee newsletter published the following article in 2005:
An excellent film made by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1965 shows what it was like when I started the job few years later, and you can hear the Grant Money Meter tinkling away:
The Grant Money Meters were phased out in 1976 and replaced with Duncans. They in turn were replaced with Cubic electronic fare boxes in 2001, which are still in use. Community Shuttle buses have recently been fitted with drop fare boxes and those drivers issue paper transfers. Over 90% of fares are now registered with a Compass proximity tap card.
When I started we drove Brill trolleys with manual steering and no right side exterior mirror. We learned to drive with our left hand and fill the changer barrels with our right. We were trained to climb up on the roof of a trolleybus, walk down the pole and repair a broken retriever rope. Neat trick: If one retriever jammed, you cut its rope and tied it to the other rope. You can put up both trolley poles on the wires with a single retriever rope. I once had this happen and didn’t have a knife with me, so I asked the passengers if someone could help. A man came to the rear of my bus with me and produced a switchblade knife, which did the job.
And if you think climbing up onto the roof of a Brill trolley was adventuresome (see fold-out steps just behind the rear door), check out how we kept service running back in the day. My friend John Day snapped this photo of me riding the back bumper at about 30 km/hr on Commercial Drive for a parade detour circa 1972.
Until 1952 Vancouver’s streetcars had conductors and conductorettes on the heaviest routes to handle fares. Here is Edra McLeod alighting from a streetcar during World War II. She became a bus driver and retired in 1976, two years after a new generation of women operators were hired. The last conductors collected fares on the Marpole to Steveston Interurban in 1958.
All the best,