Working on the buses was great fun, and relatively well-paid. This job enabled me to buy my first really nice car – a three-door (hatchback) gold-coloured Ford Fiesta. I bought it from the Ford Garage in Coalville, and it was nearly new. (I saw a similar one the other day, and thought how odd it looked: cars used to be a lot more angular, then.) I was amongst the very first drivers to be employed on the new ‘Foxcub’ service. There were about twelve of us altogether; there were three other women besides myself. We hadn’t driven for a living before, so had to be trained specifically for the job. One of the women used to work in one of the textiles factories in Whitwick, which I mentioned earlier, making swimsuits. One of the other women had a qualification from the Agricultural College. She lived with her boyfriend, but they were having domestic difficulties and he had a drink problem. So, needs must, I suppose. We were all kitted-out with brand new uniforms: light-blue shirt; ‘foxcub’ tie; dark-blue cotton jacket; and, for us ladies, a dark blue skirt. When we started our shift, we had to walk from the bus depot up to the Clock Tower in Coalville town centre to board our minibus. We must have looked really conspicuous in the early days, as people would stare as we walked by – we looked, perhaps, more like glamorous air hostesses about to fly-off on some exotic far-away adventure; rather than the dull reality of us having to drive a bus around the depressed locale of the old mining communities, all day long. As we settled into the job, we got less glamorous and more rough and ready, losing the ties and replacing the skirts with trousers.
There were four routes in all, which ran at regular intervals from the town centre to an outlying village (or vicinity): Thringstone, Agar Nook, Ibstock or Whitwick - and back again. There was a bus stop directly opposite my mum’s house, which was convenient if I ever wanted to use the loo, or grab a quick snack – depending on whether I had any passengers, of course! Each route took approximately 50 mins-1 hr to complete; depending on variables such as number of passengers, and amount of traffic on the roads. Weekends were busiest, when everyone went to town to do their shopping. It was rather chaotic at times...you might catch up with the bus in front, which was taking all the passengers and leaving you with none. There’s a saying about waiting around ages for a bus, and then three turn up at once – well, it’s true, and I can see why. In the beginning, there were radios in our cabs, so we could keep in touch with the depot and other drivers; however, it all got a bit silly as some drivers used and abused them for light entertainment, and in the end we were forbidden to use them, except for emergencies.
To cut a long story short: