I don’t remember exactly why we went into town, into Chilliwack. We went with mother, my brother, the Angel Monster, and me. It was an outing, something special that we didn’t normally get to do. To ride the ‘big bus’. Not like a city bus, a trolley or one of the smelly gas or diesel buses that stopped every block to let people on and off. This was a highway coach, with big soft seats, because you were going somewhere far.
The bus didn’t pass in front of our house, on Sumas Prairie Road. We had to walk, perhaps half a mile, to Yale Road, which fed most of the traffic in and out of Greendale. It was a warm sunny day and the walk to the bus stop was no big deal for me but probably seemed twice as far for the Angel Monster, whose legs were much shorter.
Greendale was a farming community, like many in the Fraser Valley. The farms were close to each other, many just a couple hundred yards apart. Not like the big grain farms on the prairies where the farms could be a mile or more in between. Most every farm had long barns where the cows came to give up their milk or they had rows of fruit bushes, raspberry, strawberry or such. There were no orchards where we lived, but there would have been plenty around because the weather was perfect for them. The air always had the smell of life, fresh earth, blossoming fruit flowers and even the cow manure gave the scent of prosperity.
It was a special thing, to ride the highway coach. It was bigger than a city bus, tall, shiny silver, with a red bird painted on the side to look like it was flying out of ‘Pacific Coach Lines’. It didn’t have a coin box to drop your fare in to, like the city buses that I had ridden on my own many times, in Winnipeg. You told the driver where you wanted to go and he told you how much the fare was. The farther you went, the more the fare. Our bus looked sort of like this:
Perhaps we went into Chilliwack for a doctor or dentist visit, or perhaps the Angel Monster was getting circumcised, I don’t recall exactly. In any case, before boarding the bus for the ride home, we were awarded with a small treat from the confection bar at the bus depot. We sat on the bench outside the red brick building, consuming our treat and when the bus arrived we boarded.
The Angel Monster and I were quick to find a seat halfway down the aisle. Mother remained up front in conversation with the driver. After a while she joined us and the ride home began. I felt important, riding in a highway coach, like a traveler going on an adventure or even a vacation to somewhere exotic. The first part of the ride was through the city but once we passed the limits and were back into the countryside, our adventure resumed. The bus stopped a couple times to let passengers off load.
Our Pacific Coach Lines highway coach stopped again right after turning onto Adams Road, still at least a couple miles from our stop. But mother rose from her seat and told me the driver would let me and the Angel Monster off at Sumas Prairie Road and I was to take my brother home. She would be with us in a while. I asked why she was getting off. She told me that she only had enough money to pay her fare up to this stop. I had a brief sense of abandonment, but it was quickly replaced by a feeling that mother was being unfairly cast by the roadside and now it was my duty to see my brother got home. I knew we were not well off, like most other people, but up to that point I never knew we were as poor as we were, to not even have enough money for her bus fare.
If she hadn’t given in to us for a treat, she would have had enough money to pay her fare the whole way to our stop. The Angel Monster was confused. I don’t remember if he started to cry or if I told him to be quiet, but I do remember feeling like a measure less than all the other riders on the bus and wondering if our mother would suffer on her long walk home. I had a sense that all the other passengers were staring at us, thinking we had no business riding the bus with people that could afford the fare.
We were let off the bus at Sumas Prairie Road and made our way home to our rented house. At the top of the driveway I turned and looked back up the road from where we had just come. In the distance I could see the corner where the bus driver let us off. There was nobody walking down the road towards home. Mother was still somewhere in the far distance, still far out of sight.
She arrived home a surprisingly short time after the Angel Monster and me, none the worse for wear. Perhaps she enjoyed a walk in the country without the continuous pestering of my kid brother. Perhaps not.