Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Blue Goose

In 1959 my mother took my brother & me on the Greyhound bus to see Grandma in Orlando. From Detroit we changed busses in Pittsburgh. In Weston we got off the Greyhound bus and boarded the Blue Goose. It was shorter than a school bus and it was, of course, blue. The road from Weston climbs the divide between the watersheds of the Left Fork of the Monongahela and Oil Creek , which flows into the Little Kanawha, so the road winds back and forth up the hill and then back down. It was a bumpy ride in those days, all the more so in this little bus. Even after the hours we'd spent confined on the bus trip from Detroit it was an adventure to ride that little Blue Goose up and down the hills to Grandma’s.

Davide Parmer tells us that for 15 years Paul Knight drove the Blue Goose, winding up and down the hills between Orlando and Weston, and jogging back and forth across the railroad tracks as it followed Oil Creek into Burnsville. Paul Knight not only got folks where they needed to go, he helped out small farmers along the route by taking their cream to the creamery in Weston, and helped many families along the line by doing little errands in Weston for them.

David Parmer tells us how the Blue Goose came to be, and how it ended.

The Blue Goose – The History of the Weston – Burnsville Bus Line
In October 1948, Clavel Stilwell, a native of Burnsville, but living in Marmet in Kanawha County , petitioned the West Virginia Public Service Commission, for a certificate of authority to operate a bus line between Burnsville and Weston, the route to go through Orlando and Goosepen.

Stilwell proposed to the Public Service Commission that he anticipated perhaps three round trips per day, and that he would use a 1940 Chevrolet limousine, twelve passenger vehicle as the means of conveyance. The Public Service Commission heard from various witnesses as to the need of the bus line. Among those speaking in favor of the new service was Clarence Finster, Claude Waugh, Charles Hudson, Alton Heath, Ralph Riffle and Clavel Stilwell. Most of the witnesses lived on the Goosepen part of the bus service.

Stilwell proposed a fare of three cents per mile for the 22 mile trip from Burnsville to Weston. The Public Service Commission which approved the certificate to operate and set the fare at 75 cents from Burnsville to Weston, 50 cents from Orlando to Weston, and 25 cents from Aspinall (known sometimes as Shanty Town) to Weston.

Stilwell was a full time employee of the Atlantic Greyhound Corporation as a bus driver so he did not become actively involved in the day to day operation of the bus line. The first driver for the bus line was Walter Scarff , originally from Orlando but living in Burnsville . The service commenced immediately with two round trips daily to Weston.

In December 1949, after about a year of operation, Stilwell petitioned the Public Service Commission to allow him to suspend operations. The reason given by Stilwell to suspend service was because of the deteriorated road conditions. Many people opposed the suspension of service. Among those signing the petition in opposition were many Orlando residents, including O. L. Stutler, Pete Henline, D. Skinner, Benjamin Mitchell, Necie McNemar, Marie Barnett, Lona Gibson, John Gibson, C. M. Mick, E. G. Riffle, Mrs. E. G. Riffle, Virginia Riffle, N. J. Henline, Rosemary Riffle, W. E. Beckner, Josie Beckner, Naomi Parrish, Charles Parrish, Orena Thomas, Arden Thomas, B. C. Godfrey, Tom Godfrey, C. A. Tully, Ernestine Tully, George Heater, Mary Heater, Evelyn Wimer, Ida Wimer, Dora Wimer, Nellie Casto, Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Riffle, A. Heater, Addie Dolan, John Dolan, Clyde Hoover, Ralph Thompson, Mayme Davis, Harley Pumphrey, Shirley Davis, John Davis, Junie Riffle, Patty Jean Riffle, Frank Dolan, Ann Dolan, Sue Dolan, Violet Townsend, Hubert Townsend, Bertha Townsend, Ruby Townsend, Ramona Townsend, Mamie Ables, Mary Ables, John Harris, Jane Ables, Iva Ables, Earl Radcliff, Fred Jeffries, J. W. Queen, Irene ______, Henry _______, Frank Skinner, Vernon Skinner, Eugene Skinner, Betty Barnett, H. C. Skinner, Rena Skinner, Dorothy Gay, W. D. Barnett, W. E. Skinner, Fred Bee, E. G. Riffle, Denzil Skinner, Billy Nixon, Pete Wimer, Maxine Freeman, _____Freeman, S. W. Mitchell, and approximately two dozen more signatures which were smudged and illegible. Apparently Stilwell had a change of heart about ceasing operations and his petition to suspend operations was withdrawn, and the bus line continued to operate.

A few months later, in March 1950 Stilwell petitioned the Public Service Commission to transfer the certificate of authority to O. R.”Ray” Crutchfield Sr of Burnsville. Ray Crutchfield, a long time resident of Burnsville, owned and operated the mop factory in Burnsville, was a school bus driver and also the father of Paul Crutchfield, a recent graduate of Burnsville High School, who was not yet twenty one years of age and therefore not of legal age. The certificate to operate therefore had to be requested in the name of Ray Crutchfield although Paul Crutchfield was to be the actual owner when he became twenty one years of age. The Public Service Commission approved the transfer of the certificate for the stated consideration of $600 for the 1940 Chevrolet limousine and $100 for the certificate. Paul Crutchfield added a 1948 Ford, 21 passenger bus, to the bus service and also a 1942 Pontiac 12 passenger limousine. Because Paul was not yet 21 years of age, Jerry Brooks Sr of Burnsville was the driver of the bus, until Paul turned 21 years of age at which time he began service as the bus driver.

During the Crutchfield ownership of the Blue Goose line, fare increases were approved by the Public Service Commission by a quarter to the existing fares. Fares from Burnsville to Weston increased from 75 cents to $1.00, from 50 cents to 75 cents from Orlando, and from 25 cents to fifty cents from Aspinall.

The Burnsville end of the Blue Goose's line was here at the taxi stand where a hungry traveler could dine on "the finest hot dogs in the state of West Virginia," according to our Anonymous Gourmet.

Ray Crutchfield died in 1950, and in 1952 Paul Crutchfield was called to service in the U. S. Army and it became necessary for Paul Crutchfield to divest himself of the Blue Goose line. A petition was filed in March 1952 with the Public Service Commission to sell the bus line to Dora Price of Weston. Mrs. Price had recently sold the taxi business she operated in Weston and decided she would purchase the bus line. The Public Service Commission approved the transfer of the bus line to Price for the consideration of $2000.

Mike Price, son of Dora Price, was the operating manager of the Blue Goose line briefly when the bus line was again transferred with Public Service Commission approval to John R. Lynch and Blair Winans. Lynch and Winans also operated the bus line only briefly when it was again transferred to L. T. Mick. Mick also found something he would rather do than operate the bus line and he transferred the certificate of authority to Paul Knight of Burnsville in May 1953.

Paul Knight, the new owner of the bus service, provided continued service of the Blue Goose line from 1953 until 1967 when economic conditions and more people owning automobiles spelled the end of the Blue Goose line. Knight operated the bus line longer than all of the other owners put together and was much appreciated by the riders of the Blue Goose line. Knight helped out small farmers along the route by taking their cream to the creamery in Weston, and helped many families along the line by doing little errands in Weston for them. As it became more difficult to operate the bus line given the costly repairs that became necessary to keep the aging bus in service, in November 1967 the public service commission approved the suspension of the Blue Goose bus line. During the Knight ownership of the Weston – Burnsville Bus Line the Public Service Commission approved a change of route from Burnsville to Weston from the Goosepen Road to the Roanoke Road . Upon petitioning to terminate service, several residents of the Roanoke area opposed the suspension. Among those objecting were Nellie Puffenbarger, Blanche Riffle, Ronna Riffle, Eugene Riffle, L. H. Groves, Sylvia Groves, Lillie Posey, Ruth Conrad, Barbara Posey, Virgil Conrad, Ruby Hitt, Willard Hitt, James R. Brown, Harry Puffenbarger, Laura Gay, Hulda Cosner, Robert Cosner, Roy Skinner, Lynn Foster, Pauline Burkhammer, Franklin Burkhammer, Gerald Gay, Dorothy Gay, Janet Smarr, Bill Smarr, Macel Foster, John Foster, and Delma Skinner. In pleading his case to the Public Service Commission Paul Knight told the court that his bus “was worn out, and was a fugitive from the junk yard” and he just could not continue the operation as much as he would like to continue it. The Commission agreed to allow the suspension and the Blue Goose line was no more.

Some people may wonder where the term “Blue Goose” originated. Robert Knight of Burnsville advises that Lee Coberly, a Burnsville resident who lived on Oil Creek just above its mouth, would often ask small children if they had seen the “old blue goose”. All of the early buses of the Weston – Burnsville Bus line were blue in color, and apparently when the strange looking buses would pass them by, the children would say there is the “old Blue Goose”. The name “Blue Goose” was synonymous with the bus line from its inception. Everyone was sorry to see it end, particularly the steady patrons from Orlando.

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