The New England Bus Association Hall of Fame Award is given to one person each year who has made noteworthy contributions to the industry. This year the award was given to George Zeiba, whose photography has chronicled the history of the region’s bus operations.
“When we elect someone to the hall of fame, it’s usually someone who worked in the industry, like a driver, owner or salesperson. George is unique in that he’s none of those. He’s literally just a fan of the industry,” said Dennis King of King Ward Coach Lines in Chicopee, Massachusetts.
George comes from a family of bus and trolley operators. Two uncles worked weekends as mechanics at the Eastern Mass Taunton garage. His grandfather drove streetcars on the Weymouth Division of the Old Colony-Bay State and Eastern Mass St. Railway.
His interest in buses and trolleys began at the age of two when his father, who drove and maintained trolley cars, would take him to his work on his days off. If he behaved, his father would let him sit in the driver’s seat of the buses.
In high school, George had an after-school job at the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, Massachusetts. This was in 1948. He started working at the library full time in 1952, leaving for a while to serve in the military.
After he returned, George became the bookmobile librarian and driver from 1957 until 1990, navigating the 13-foot-high, 39-foot-long, 96-inch-wide library-on-wheels through residential streets without hitting parked cars or tree limbs.
George married his wife Claire in 1960. They visited three trolley museums in New England on their honeymoon. On their 50th anniversary they visited several new bus garages and transit authorities in Vermont.
George and Claire are well-known among New England bus operators and are fondly referred to as the “Bus Nuts.” Whenever a new bus is added to a fleet, George is not far behind, asking to take photos. He said operators “even call me when they get new buses, so I’ll come take pictures.”
“I don’t think there’s a bus that came into New England that he didn’t photograph,” says Chris Anzuoni of Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Co., in Plymouth. He gave George’s NEBA Hall of Fame induction speech in June.
George took his first pictures in 1946 using a Kodak box camera. His bus and trolley photo collections now span 375 albums, with approximately 300 photos each.
Sharing his collection
“What’s nice about George is that he doesn’t just collect stuff, but he shares it with bus operators. For example, our company was established in 1888, and George came in with hundreds of photos. Now I’ve got a bunch of pictures from the ’60s, and even from the ’30s and ’40s. It’s a world that existed back then that you don’t even know about,” Anzuoni said.
Joan Libby of Cavalier Coach Trailways in Boston points out that George didn’t simply take pictures, he documented precise details about each of the buses. “Not just our company, but every company here. He loves to take pictures of buses and has been doing it for years. He writes down the VIN numbers and the year of each bus he captures. It’s very involved, and he does a wonderful job.”
Cavalier Coach was presented with one of George’s photo albums. “It was a wonderful thing to be presented with an album 30 years ago,” Libby said. “There are recent pictures and ones going all the way back to when we first started.”
George had so many pictures of King Ward Coach Lines they filled two albums. “It has pictures of buses I forgot I even owned,” King said.
“He’s one of those guys in the industry that we call a ‘bus nut,’” King said. “George is kind of the King Bus Nut. There are others, but I know him the best.”
George is approaching his 87th birthday, and his daughter Susan says he’s slowing down.
George and his wife still find time to pursue his passion. “My parents go into Boston South Station to check out the bus action there on Fridays,” Susan says.