These were the “good” old days?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” Charles Dickens got it right. (I stole his line assuming MOST of you weren’t around when he wrote it.)

The results of a tire fire in 1972.

Seemed it would be fun to share with the young among you some stuff about the good olde days that made Dickens so right.

For example, tires used to have inner tubes. If your tire blew, the tube usually curled up and spun around inside the hot carcass. That friction often created a sneaky fire that played hide-and-seek with firefighters.

But wait, even MORE fun were the two-piece “split rim” wheels. Occasionally the outer ring would split (pun intended) and flee the bus. As soon as the tire figured out what was happening, it slid off the wheel and headed for freedom. For those who’ve never slid a Flxible sideways under a bridge… don’t.

While the bus was grinding to a halt, the ring spun up the road searching for prey like a flying guillotine in a horror flick. The guillotine reference returns us to Dickens… sometimes things just work out.

Which brings us to power steering. It took two of us to ALMOST control the Flx as it slid. If we’d only had (the optional) power steering, the landing would have been marginally better. It wasn’t until 1980 that power steering became standard, and weenies like me could do stupid stuff unassisted.

Another cherished memory is compressed air powered windshield wipers. In the moments they worked, the right and left ran at different speeds, and when you shut them off, they habitually parked the blades mid-windshield. If the motor didn’t wear out then the on-off valve did. The good news is that, on some buses, left and right interchanged, so if your drivers’ side motor pooped (and it always did), you had a spare.

The motors were pretty easy to access under the dash, so on bus models where swapping didn’t work, it was pretty easy to pull into a GBB (Great Big Busline) parking lot, snatch their motor, replace it with yours and disappear into the rainy gloom. In fairness, one time that this was done, we had just bought the used 4104 from GBB and figured they owed us a replacement motor.

One tip: your lookout should not bring a date, as that tends to make them less alert.

A personal favorite was the throttle cable. They can break, freeze or come unfastened. Hydraulic linkages add more drama (don’t get me started on hydraulic clutch linkages).

In the event of failure, sophisticated drivers knew how much clothesline to buy… and whether it was best to run that rope down the aisle through a floor hatch… or out the window along the side of the bus. The aisle route is chancy if you have mischievous passengers who want more speed.

And then there is… the sliding window sash. It fell from favor back in the 1970s for many good reasons.

Years ago a girl dropped her wallet out an open window. In an effort to retrieve it, the driver slowed and my buddy Oakie, always gallant, stepped out the door to run back and pick it up.

A couple of lessons learned. You can’t accidentally drop stuff out a sealed window. Second, do not get off a bus unless it’s stopped. Oakie rolled, whacked the pavement with his head, and was unconscious for several days. The tarmac was uninjured. For those who know Oakie, this explains a lot.

We were manly back then… not smart… manly.

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