The Memories Of A Bus Mechanic

Teresa P. Thompson

© Copyright 2002 by Teresa P. Thompson


Photo of Papaw Lincoln and Ka'ssee.
In the days before everyone traveled by cars and other vehicles, passenger buses provided an important means of transportation for many small towns as well as big cities throughout the United States. The small town of Harlan County, Kentucky was no exception to that rule, especially during the World War II era, and my father, H.L. Pruitt is proud that he attributed to that means of transportation.

As a mechanic for the former Verda Transportation Bus Company (VTC Lines), Pruitt recalls how significant the busses were to the housewives and the elderly citizens of Harlan.

"With all the men away at war, there was really no way that they could get around to do their grocery shopping or other errands, so they depended on the buses for their transportation," Pruitt said. "Back in those days most women didn't drive and the older people didn't either."

Pruitt went to work for the bus station in 1956 as a diesel mechanic, where he along with several other mechanics were responsible for the upkeep of the buses to provide for the safety of the hundreds of passengers who rode them daily.

Although it was a huge responsibility, Pruitt said he enjoyed his work with the company and felt that it was his way of attributing his efforts to the war.

"I had medical problems at the time that kept me from joining the army, so I felt this was my way of taking care of the people back home," said Pruitt. "I felt like it was my duty to keep the buses in tip top shape."

Pruitt said the bus company had become somewhat of a family tradition in his family, passed down from his father Charles S. Pruitt Sr.

"My father had been a mechanic for the company years before I was old enough to work," Pruitt said.

VTC Lines was a family owned business which was operated by Merle and Logan Middleton. The brothers had first opened the business in the small town outside Harlan called Verda as a means of transportation for the local coal miners. But when World War II emerged, the company as well as the county found a great need for public transportation for everyone.

"Elderly people and housewives needed to get back and forth to town and with all the young men off at war, the buses became their only hope," Pruitt said.

The bus company moved its location from Verda into the city limits of Harlan on Christmas Day in 1936.

During the war, the bus lines ran on hourly schedules from 5 a.m. to midnight. After the war ended, the hours were cut to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The bus line was a booming business during the war, but after it was over it seemed like the business slowly started fading," said Pruitt.

Pruitt said he attributed the loss of business to the fact that the use of automobiles became on the rise immediately following the war. During the next several years following the war, the bus lines began to slowly fade out of existence.

Although the county-wide bus lines officially closed its doors in 1975, Pruitt said he continued with is career as a mechanic in other fields such as mining equipment repair.

He said although he has had a wonderful life doing the job that he loves doing, he will always be thankful for the opportunity that he was given to be a part of the team that help Harlan Countians with their transportation needs during the war era.

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