One of the great things about the Aptos History Museum is that I get to interact with people who stop by. Some people have questions, and some people have new stories to tell. Sometimes I have already learned the answers that people want to hear and sometimes I get to be a detective. Fortunately, I am able to ask other people who know far more than I do, and I am able to learn something new about our past.
In 2016, Mike Van Lienden came by the museum. He likes to ride around the back roads on his motorcycle. He told me about three locations where he found what he thinks were shelters for old school bus stops, one on Trout Gulch at Victoria Lane, One on Trout Gulch at Larson Road, and one on Porter Gulch. I went out to photograph them, but I could only find two. I could not find the one at Larson Road, but I seem to remember one there, once upon a time.
I wrote historian Carolyn Swift and asked her what they might be. Carolyn grew up and went to school here. She replied, “I can only guess. Since I rode the #2 bus on the Trout Gulch/Valencia route in 1957, I can tell you there were no covered bus stops then. And Porter Gulch would have been extremely remote. I don’t remember any kids coming to school from that area, in fact. I think that area was in the Soquel District. So, these shelters were probably built some years after Cabrillo College opened in Aptos, (1962), and the residential areas of Aptos began to fill in.”
They must have been bus stops, because transit service didn’t extend into remote areas, and did not on a regular schedule between Watsonville and Santa Cruz until after the Kemper murders in the early 70s.” (Yikes! That is another story for later) “If you wanted to ride a bus before then, you took the Greyhound. So, my official guess is that these are school bus stops that date, at the earliest, to the mid-to-late 1970s. How’s that?”
I also put out a request for readers of my stories to help, and I must thank the many people responded. It turns out that they are old school bus shelters.
When I first looked at the photographs of the two existing bus shelters they appeared to have been built from the same plans. But when I examined them more closely, I saw that they are similar but a little different. That is because they were not built by a school district or a transit district, but by the property owners for use by their own children and their neighbor’s children.
Kathleen Miller wrote, “Yes, those little shelters, which can be found all over the county, were for kids to wait in until the school bus showed up. I don’t know when it stopped, being a given that all kids living more than walking distance from school took the school bus. There weren’t very many schools until the ‘70’s, and bus rides were long and sometimes unpleasant (bullies, bus breakdowns, no air conditioning), but taking the school bus was what you did. And then you walked from the school bus stop to your house, unless you lived so far out in the country up narrow roads, in which case there was often a shared kid-pickup conducted by the parents. The shelters were usually put up by the local residents. Some are still in use. Maybe if the parents let their kids use the school buses on offer, there wouldn’t be so much traffic congestion in Aptos at certain times. Yes, there was one at Larson Rd”.
Elaine Winkler commented, “I saw your article about the bus shacks around the area. I don’t know about all of them but the one at Victoria Lane was built by my uncle, Stanley Mount, for his children and his sister’s children to wait for the school bus, or “brother Fox” the Baptist minister to come pick us up for bible school at Aptos Baptist Church in his “Woody.” It’s was quite a shock to drive up there last weekend and see that there is no trace left of the farm my aunt, uncle, grandmother and grandfather had on that no name driveway save that run down bus shack”. According to Stanley Mount’s daughter, Cathy Rigor, it was built in 1956 and was known as the Mount bus stop.
Georgia Cantando lives up the driveway from the Porter Gulch bus shelter and she asked her landlord, Jean Lawrence about it. Jean responded, “The little bus stop at the end of our driveway was built by my dad, Dr. Carl Showalter, about 1956 or 57. It was to shelter his children, Ted, Jane, and Jean, from rainy skies while they waited for the bus. (Never mind that we had to walk to and from the bus stop in the rain!) In the case of Jane and Jean, that was Bus 3, driven by Elmer Morden (father of Bob Morden) whose route usually took us to Oak Ridge Road, where he would turn the bus around and head for Soquel Elementary. More recently, the bus stop has been used by someone from the next driveway up on the left”.
These shelters were built during a simpler time. People did not expect government to provide as many services as today. Likewise, I doubt that building permits were obtained or even required. These shelters were built on private property by enterprising people with a “can-do” attitude. Sixty years ago, most families did not have two cars, and riding the bus to school was a given unless you lived close enough to walk or ride a bicycle.
I hope that these great little structures from our past are preserved by the property owners who are lucky enough to possess them. They are increasingly rare and are showing the signs of age.