All aboard for memories of life on the buses in South Shields

An old trolley bus.
An old trolley bus.

Today we feature more memories of South Tyneside’s transporting past, the trolley buses and buses, and the people who worked and rode on them.

We start with a wonderful letter from Judith Marshall (nee Spence) who writes: “Seeing the photograph of the old South Shields buses (Time Of Our Lives, April 13) brings back memories for me, as my father (Vic Spence) and grandfather (Bill Spence) both worked on these trams and buses.

“My father began as a point boy, changing the points around the town, mainly at the crossing of Mile End Road, King Street, Ocean Road and Fowler Street.

“He then progressed to being a conductor before becoming a driver, and finally ending his 40-plus years in the offices.

“His job was even kept open for him to return to after spending five years in the Army during the war.

“I remember the conductors would jump off the trolley bus at this crossing and run into Minchella’s with their billy cans to have them filled up with hot water for their tea before jumping back on, when they would bang on the back of the bus to let the driver know they were aboard.

“As a member of the Transport cricket team my father would often drive the ‘banana bus’ (a single decker yellow motorbus) which was used to convey the cricket team to their matches.

“Some of the families would accompany them, and I remember going to places like Chester-le-Street, which seemed a long way away in the 1950s, but great days out. I do have a photograph of the cricket team.

“Every summer all the employees’ children would pack into a double decker bus and be transported to the likes of Crimdon Dene or Saltwell Park for fun and games, races and picnics.

“We were also treated to a Christmas party each year too.

“Sadly, I don’t have any photographs of my grandfather or father at work - perhaps some of your readers may have some?

“I do have his driver’s identification badge which he wore on his uniform and a brass numbered token which was on a key ring.

“I believe this was to enable staff to travel free on the buses, though I’m not absolutely sure about this. Happy days and happy memories.”

Mrs Dorothy Wilson, of Whitburn, also got in touch with her memories of the trolley buses.

She writes: “It was 1953, my friend Nan, who had MS, and I decided to go to the Lid Cinema at The Nook.

“Nan was expecting her son Richard. Well, I pushed her to the Marsden Grotto for a trolley bus, but we had a problem - her wheelchair wouldn’t fold up.

“Nan sat on a side seat and the poor conductor and me tried, but the chair wouldn’t fold up.

“So the conductor said if myself and him kept hold of the handles we could pull it behind the alighting step.

“We did, but we had to get off at the top, at the Marsden Inn, as he would get into trouble if caught.

“What a sight we must have been, but never mind we were halfway to The Nook and the cinema.

“Coming home we had another problem - I had to get her down that bank. But four young lads who were going to the Grotto all held on to the wheelchair and even pushed Nan to the Grotto.

“Was I pleased! Then it was a straight road to the council houses where we lived.

“What an adventure, hair raising to say the least, but thanks to the conductor and driver, who drove really slow up that bank, we got to the cinema, but never again.

“I don’t think that pulling up a wheelchair has ever been done before or since.”

* What are your memories of riding the trolley buses or the double deckers that came after them?

Did you used to work on public transport and have any interesting or funny tales to tell?

Please share them with our readers by getting in touch with me at (0191) 5017476 or emailing me.