The Orange Bullet

BY: Dolores Gomez, Brisbane historian, brischic@sonic.net

Gas was rationed in World War II, so Brisbane residents took public transportation or car pooled. Many residents didn’t even own a car. To catch a Greyhound bus, it was a long hike to the highway, through trails in vacant lots; fine during summer, but muddy and slippery in winter. But a small bus, shaped like a bullet, saved the day for Brisbane residents. Allen Bybee was the owner and the bus was housed at the Bybee’s busy gas station at One San Bruno Avenue.
The Bybee Family was well known; Allen’s dad, Lester Bybee, a short stocky, realtor had an office at 30 Visitacion; brothers, Vern, Rule, and Bobby also lived in town. Driven by Allen’s wife Alma, a petite brunette, the bus was painted bright orange and the top was shiny silver. Because of its shape, I called it the “orange bullet.” I wonder where the odd bus came from. Did some clever person create it and whatever happened to this strange looking bus?
Upon entering the bus, no larger than today’s SUV, we had to stoop over, head down, until you got into a seat, but no problem for a child of nine or ten who could stand up in the bus. There were three single leather seats on each side, with scant room in the isle and a short seat in the back. Sitting on the seat could be a bit difficult if holding a bag of groceries or a small child. There was a handle with an extended bar, Alma used to open and close the bus door for passengers.
From early morning, the bus could be seen travelling around town, until the service stopped before dark. Alma circled Brisbane and stopped to pick up passengers, standing on the street. Then the small bus headed to Bayshore Highway and up to Visitacion Valley, where the bus parked in front of the (old) Bayshore Theater. There was no set schedule; at Bayshore, Alma waited for about 20 minutes until the bus had some passengers or it was filled, then leave headed for Brisbane. This bus was extremely important transportation for residents. After dark, if you missed the bus, the only way back to town was to wait for a Greyhound bus to Brisbane. Getting off of the bus, residents walked to town from the highway.
In the 1950’s, Bybee bought a large vehicle that seated at least twelve people. What an improvement; we could stand up in it! Seats were large and room for passengers belongings. I remember a woman driver, at times, had a real chicken on the bus. Passengers were always delighted to see that brown feathered bird sitting on the dashboard. There is an article in the Brisbane Bee about the unique traveler.
After the war, gas rationing was gone; residents purchased cars and were independent. There was no reason to rely on a bus that circled Brisbane anymore. I searched all over for a picture, even locating a member of the Bybee family, but they had no picture of this unique orange bus that took us for a ride back in the early 1940’s.