Interviewed by John Dodson
Charles Moore: Some information on the bus line, that my father and his brothers had started back during the depression,
John Dodson: Well, I’m going to have some information now.
Charles Moore: and, and a, but I grew up on stories about the bus line, all though we don’t have a, much information, as far as pictures. My father put me to bed, and, and tell stories about driving the bus from here to Bluefield, or from Wytheville to Bluefield.
John Dodson: Well wait a minute; let me get this down first. This is, alright, I’m John Dodson, and I am interviewing Charles Moore and this is a 9/9/99, and we are at the um, Bland County Fair, and we are going to talk about the bus line that use to run from a, Wytheville to Bluefield. Could you tell me first exactly how it ran?
Charles Moore: Well,
John Dodson: The root that it, that it took.
Charles Moore: The way that I remember my father telling about it, he and his brother’s a, went down to Richmond to the State Corporation Commission and applied for a, a bus route, and started a bus route, the roads were all unpaved, umm, through Bland County at that time. It was a, I think right at the beginning of the Depression, or right during the Depression. And a, they got a charter as I understand it and it went from Wytheville to Bluefield, and went through Bland County. A, they a, had a nine passenger Studibaker touring car, which was actually the bus. And a, one of the stories that, that a, wasn’t too much of a story, but one of the things that came out of it. There was a Mister Guy Niece on a, the south side of Walker Mountain, he had a team of horses and when the road was so muddy, why, he’d hook the team of horses and pull him up the mountain, and then he could come down on the Bland side. Mr. Scott had a team of oxen on the Bland side, and would pull him up to the top of the mountain going toward Wytheville. A, a, but the roads then unpaved, why, he said that he would, had watermarks on the trees. There weren’t any bridges either, and he would come up a lot of the times to the creeks where it would be Walker Creek, or Clear Fork, or any of the various creeks, and if the creeks was up too high, why, he wouldn’t try to ford it. If it wasn’t above the watermark, but still pretty high, he’d get out and he had a combination of, of umm burlap a, sacks, and, and twine and so fourth and he’d get out and, and take his fan belt off and wrap the sacks around the spark plugs and the coil, and distributor, and a put something over the air intake and go through the creek. He said many a time that he’d come up and there’d be some other vehicles stopped beside him, whether to go through and that he’d prepare the bus and drive through, and they’d see him drive through, and they’d jump in their vehicles and start through without doing any preparation and drowned out, and said lot of times why he made as much money pulling people out and them paying him, tipping him as they would on bus fares.
John Dodson: Now that’s interesting.
Charles Moore: To, to a, he always carried a chain as well, a, a long with it. A, things still pretty ruff in those days, and one day he started up Big Walker Mountain, a and a the rule of the road was, if you were going up the mountain why, you got to stay on the crown of the road. The man coming down the mountain got off in the ditch a if it was a muddy road, and then you stopped if he had any trouble getting out of the ditch and you’d help him get back in the crown of the road and go on. A, said one day he was going up the mountain and just had one passenger on, and said he got a, a stretch going up Big Walker there that straightens out a little bit, and you can see pretty far up the road and he saw this vehicle coming down the road so he didn’t know if they knew anything about what was the normal customs, so he got in a straight stretch still on the crown of the road where he could start out pretty messy in the winter time and he a, got out and started walking up the road a to see if they had pulled off and a couple of fellows that were drinking pretty heavy and a they hollered at him get out of the road fellow we gonna, go on down by. And he said well, said I was just going to ask you to, to see if you’d let me by and then I’d help yawl get back in and they said, awe said, get out of the road before we whip you. And he got a little bit worried and started easing back toward the bus, afraid to take his eyes off of ‘em, but he noticed that their eyes were getting bigger, and he looked back over his shoulder and said this one fellow that had been sitting’ on the bus had gotten of and had two big, six, six gun, six guns strapped to his side. Said driver, you need any help?
John Dodson: Ha, ha, ha, ha…
Charles Moore: And, and said, said those fellows said, said, said gnaw he doesn’t need any help, we gonna get off the road and let yawl by and said, said don’t even bother to help, said we can get back in the road ourselves.
John Dodson: Ha, ha…
Charles Moore: So a,
John Dodson: That’s amazing.
Charles Moore: A.
John Dodson: What, now did the road pretty much follow 21, 52?
Charles Moore: Pretty much.
John Dodson: You think so?
Charles Moore: Pretty much a, they just pretty well paved it over.
John Dodson: Right.
Charles Moore: A, they had a lot of convict labor building that road. And a, at the time before they sold the bus line out why they had a, a camp in Bastian. They had tents set up, and they had a, cots and there was a metal pipe set in concrete down through the center of the tent. And they’d bring the convicts in, and take the, they could unlock from the ball that was locked to their foot. And they’d take that chain and lock it to that center pipe. And feed the fellows in the tent there. And my father said that, said that he always made a habit. Said they’d help him out any way they could when he was coming over the mountain, and so he’d always made a habit to come over there at Christmas and bring them a pack of cigarettes, and some candy, and so fourth things that they didn’t get, and, and he go through the tent to see that every body, every body got one of those things. He said those fellows have a pretty hard time of it, and they would drill the holes and shoot it and all of that work was done by hands. A, and when they’d be, sometimes when a fellow was, was getting awful tired of his work or needed, felt like he needed to get off he’d go to tamp, and that charge in there and they’d tamp it. Just a little bit hard sometimes and it would cause it to go off, and they wouldn’t have too much of a charge in the whole. Then the rod firing through the man’s hand would blister his hands and they would have to get him off from work, on the road. Said, said he’d seen that a, fellow do that some several times there. And said that rod would go plum out of sight. Said you couldn’t even see the rod when it would fire up through the sky like that. He a, they, they traveled every day no matter the weather and he said that, that a quite often that the roads would have such bad ruts in them and they would freeze that he would wear a tire out in the side wall before he would start out with a new tire and they were worn out before you’d get to Bluefield. Where the rut, frozen rut would wear the sidewall out of the tire, and he’d have to change the tire on the way. Of course everybody, everybody that drove back then drove those vehicles they knew how to get off and patch a tire and pump it back up. And start out again, he went into the station at Bluefield was, was down at the foot of Bland Street, and before it turns up to the hospital over there I think it’s a, I want to say St. Luke. I don, I don’t really know, and but there’s fairly long sloping hill not real steep going down to the old bus station. And a, he started down that hill one time, and he touched his breaks to see if he’d be able to stop. It snowing, and then in freezing rain and deposited on top of the snow, and when he did why, the break locked up on him one of the wheels, causing the bus to start in a slow revolving circle going down the hill. And he said there was a fellow came across the street, or starting across the street just above the bus station. And said that fellow looked up and saw that bus coming and his feet were sliding out from underneath of him and he was barely able to make it, and he just froze when he saw the bus coming toward him. Said that bus just slowly turned around and just rotated right around the man and stopped down in front of the bus station just the way it was suppose to be going missed the man all together. And said a fellow, said hot dog said that’s the best bit of driving I ever saw telling my father there father said he didn’t do anything but just set there and hold the steering wheel and hope nothing would happen. Fellow had tipped him five dollars and that was the fare from back then from Wytheville to Bluefield.
John Dodson: That was a lot of money.
Charles Moore: That was a lot of money.
John Dodson: Yeah.
Charles Moore: Yeah.
John Dodson: That’s a…
Charles Moore: That’s a…
John Dodson: Now did a, did the bus line have a name? Or they…
Charles Moore: They called it the Moore Brother’s…
John Dodson: Okay.
Charles Moore: Bus Line, they sold it out to a, Campbell City and I was sitting here talking, trying to think there’s a man up here that lived up near Red Oak Church that went with them. I want to call him a Mr. Tickle, and I’m sure that’s the right name. A little research, or a little talking to somebody and I think I could find out for sure. I wasn’t prepared for this…
John Dodson: Right.
Charles Moore: a, interview but a, he went with, they sold a bus to Campbell City and, and Work Tickle, that’s his name, Work Tickle. A, went with them and said that, that bus, they drove that bus even back then well over a million miles, which that was quit a, quite a bit of running for a vehicle in that days time. Yeah, ruff mileage. A, and, and Mr. Tickle went on with the other bus line which then later became Gray Hound. A, all together a, but as I, as I, as I remember what my father told me, why, Mr. Tickle went on and drove for them, and then later I think for Gray Hound. A, on it but he was, he was one of them that started out with then as one of their mechanics. A, to keep the bus running of course all the vehicles back then you, you worked on them it seemed like almost as much as you ran them, on them. But they took great pride in you know, even back then being a bus line trying to, to be there when you were suppose to be there.
John Dodson: Now did they leave, did they make one, did they go to Bluefield and then come back all in one day? Did they…
Charles Moore: Yeah.
John Dodson: just go one time?
Charles Moore: Yeah, they’d go to Bluefield and come back all in the same day and they had it scheduled when they would a, meet at various places. A, Mr. Dow Davis up here has got a building standing on his place there where he still lives. A, that was one of the places that they stopped it was a little, little store and a, and they would stop. People would leave off a, message to pick up thread, or a pharmaceuticals, or just various things that, that they couldn’t a, a get. Sometimes it would be something down here at Bland; sometimes it would be picked up at Bluefield. And, my father said that of all the things he bought that that a no body ever beat him out of a penny. He’d buy, comeback, leave a ticket, and pick the money up the next trip. A said people were as honest as they can be, and paid everything. A, he never worried about buying something for somebody over through here, and, and being paid for it. A, he a, he a, a gosh, slipped my mind there. I was going to think of one other thing there that a, was somewhat interesting about it, but a, places like that. I know he stopped at Bruce’s Store, a, or maybe it was called Bruce’s Station. But over at Bastian, a, a and he got to know an awful lot of people, and he later went into the lumber business, and a lot of people from Bland came over and traded with him at the lumber business because of that. I know what the other thing was… It was during prohibition, and he was coming back from Bland to Wytheville one day, and a, a man wanted him to take a, a quart of moonshine back to Wytheville, and he told him, he said, ah, he said I ah, I can’t do that. Said, just as sure as the world, the sheriff will stop me on the way. And a, the fellow said ah, they ain’t going to stop a bus, said here, take this over there. He wanted him to take it over to a man at Wytheville, never did say who gave him the moonshine, never did say who, who he was going to, but said, got over into Stony Fork, right where the gap of the mountain is real close, right in there about where a, a, the park is over there, and said the sheriff was setting there beside the road. My fathers name was Brent>>>>>, said he pull, pull down through there and the sheriff waved at him to stop there, and so he pulled up and he said how much moonshine are you carrying today Moore? He said nothing but this quart between my feet. Sheriff said, ah, quit fooling me and get down the road.
Both: Ha, ha…
Okay. A lot of things that, that were interesting there, and I’ll probably think of a bunch more you know, a long in time because like I say, I’d go to sleep with him telling stories about it there.
John Dodson: What was he, were there ever any robberies or anything? Do you remember anything like that? Back during the depression?
Charles Moore: Not that he, not that he told about, and of course you got to remember he was telling me these things when I was five to ten years old?
John Dodson: Right.
Charles Moore: So he was going to tell me these things that he thought probably were positive, rather than negative and some of them you know humorous and, and then telling them why a lot of times he would a, like a, the one about carrying the moonshine, but he wasn’t, he wasn’t telling it to say he was doing anything wrong. He was telling it to tell me that honesty was the best, best thing.
John Dodson: Right.
Charles Moore: And of course when I tell it why, it doesn’t have the insight into it that he was portraying to me when he would be telling me the stories of, of, long.
John Dodson: What did, did he ever get caught in a blizzard or any big snow storms and get trapped? Did he ever tell you about that?
Charles Moore: Well, it was a pretty ruff, and I’m sure he did. He told me that, that, that there were times when he would come through certain areas, and would be pushing mud over the front fender. And I’m not talking about the whole fender and of course you know back then the head lights were the bubbles sitting of the fender and he said that a lot of time that, that sometimes only part of the headlight would be showing out of the mud. A, but he said they always tried to make it. A, but I’m sure you know there were times that he couldn’t. He, he never did, never did tell or say too much about anything about weather that he couldn’t make it. A, and I’m sure there were times that he couldn’t a, a gnaw he, his other stories that he would tell about the hard winters, he’d tell about stories when he was, he was raised over on Reed Creek. Right at the, a, above where the water, or right where the water changed form being backed up to fast water on Stone’s?? Dam over at Wytheville. A, and his winter stories were about his childhood days and that and how they cut ice and, and so fourth like that. A, gnaw he don’t I don’t guess he wanted to tell when he couldn’t make the bus run. Ha…
John Dodson: A, I’m sure there were times, but what was, what was the last year that he ran the bus? Do you remember?
Charles Moore: I think it was in thirty, the last part of thirty-two, or the early part of thirty-three when they sold out. They took a, they got a check and because it was in the depression, they took it to Winston, Salem. They, they had a certificate check drawn on a bank down in Winston, Salem. They went and took the check down there and cashed it and he, he had two brothers, Alan, and Talson, and their father being named Brent? And a, they cashed their check and divided it up however it was to be divided. My father said there was a stock exchange across the street and Chevrolet Stocks, as best as he could remember it was selling for fifty cents a share. And he came awful close, he wasn’t married at the time, and he said that was the biggest mistake he ever made. Said he should have gone across the street and bought, taken all of his money and bought Chevrolet Stock, which later became General Motors.
John Dodson: Right.
Charles Moore: A, but of course no body knew, knew what was going to go on. He, he left that and went to work as an apprentice for a, Appalachian Power in the book keeping department, and got married soon after that.
John Dodson: What, what year did it…?
Charles Moore: I think it was thirty-one. A, but I, I, I, like I say
I’m totally unprepared, and he never did say. Umm…
John Dodson: He only did it for a, a…
Charles Moore: It was just a few years. Wasn’t, wasn’t a, too many years, but he said that even at the cost of a tire, and so fourth, he said that they, they wearing’ a tire out, said you wouldn’t believe it, but he said they made a little money on it. A, a whole time there.
John Dodson: Boy, little money went a long way back then.
Charles Moore: A little money went a long way.
John Dodson: Yeah that’s interesting.
Charles Moore: But I, you know I’d like to find out a little more myself, because of the bus line, or of the bus. A, or that’s what I’ve been told that it was, and I’ve got a, a copy of when my father died, we were going through things that he and my mother had at the house there. Well after she died, and on the back of one of the pictures was one of the bus schedules that they had pasted to the back of the picture. And so I have a bus schedule a copy of it.
John Dodson: Now that would be interesting. Now I would, I would…
Charles: I’ll bring you
John Dodson: Okay.
Charles Moore: a copy of that.
John Dodson: Right that would be great. Why you a, I was trying to think, I was trying to think there were some questions I would like to have. I guess at that time the bus line in the county was the lifeline. I guess for a lot of people.
Charles Moore: Well, it probably ended up helping a lot of people. Because people like Walking Joe Lambert, as the way I knew him, why he would set out for Wytheville, and walk to Wytheville and buy what he wanted and walk from, and that wasn’t uncommon for people.
John Dodson: Well, I, you know people and I’ve heard stories. I’ve got a place over here and a, on top of Pinch Creek. It must be eight miles from South Gap, and I’ve listened to guys talk about how they’ve walked over the mountain to South Gap, and catch the bus go to Bluefield and come back that evening and walk all the way back home. That’s a good ways to walk, but now does walking, Walking Joe Lambert…
Charles Moore: Walking Joe Lambert…
John Dodson: Joe Lambert.
Charles Moore: is the name I’ve been told and he’s suppose to be the walkenist man in these parts, the way I was told.
John Dodson: Right, Now I’ve heard a little bit about him to, now he was from around Ceres or something wasn’t he?
Charles Moore: Yeah, yeah.
John Dodson: Now you never did meet the man?
Charles Moore: Right. No, I never met the man, just a, heard, well a there was a fellow, Bruce Niece that worked with my father in the lumber company and he was the great gatherer of a, of a what went on and so fourth, and a, and he was the one that told me about Mr. Lambert and, and, he said he was known as one of the quickest walkers so to speak. , And he could cover a lot of territory and long distances in a short period of time. And a, it was just amazing how far he could get in a day’s time. A, Bruce Niece was the son of Guy Niece that lived at the bottom of the mountain and he later worked for my father for forty years and a in the lumber business. He started out in the lumber, sawmill business when he was a young man and he sawed timber here in Bland County and new a lot of Bland County people himself there and.
John Dodson: All right here’s a question. What model bus was it?
Charles Moore: It was a, a, I don’t remember the year but they called it a nine passenger Studibaker touring car.
John Dodson: Okay that’s right. Touring car.
Charles Moore: They, and of course they always called it, Daddy always called it a bus, but it wasn’t anything like a bus that we see, it was more like a Model T that was made longer than a Model T. Ha…
John Dodson: Right. So it stretched too.
Charles Moore: Yeah.
John Dodson: Right.
Charles Moore: And the picture of it there, that I have, you can invision that if you had very many passengers. They could put their luggage on top and tied it on whether that having it inside but this fellow that, that had the six guns when he got on the bus and he had his bag in the back and Daddy said that he didn’t get in like a lot a people if they were just the only passenger. They’d get in pretty close to the seat where he drove and talk with him all the time this fellow just went to the back of the bus and sat down. Said there wasn’t anything said the whole time, and said the fellow never said anything more after he come up and said Driver do you need any help with those six guns strapped on him. Said he guessed he was one of those Texans there that knew what they said. Ha…
John Dodson: Right that’s a great story.
Charles Moore: He a, they an on e other thing that was interesting there that, that has stuck with me down through the years. A, a lot a talk here this day and time about forestry people and what have you that maybe they’d put some rattle snakes back on the mountain and a whether that’s so or not, I don’t know. But Daddy said that he saw a black diamond back rattle snake that had white that separated the diamonds and then it had little red streaks here and there through the, on it there. Said that he never saw anything, a rattlesnake before or since that was colored the way that rattlesnake was there. That was…
John Dodson: I bet that was exciting.
Charles Moore: most unusual thing. Of course they, he saw quite often a lot of snakes that would be crossing the road because they were a, doing the, the digging out and dynamiting’ on a lot of it down there. Instead of coming down the way 52 does, though, he went down off of what I call the old road, from the tower at the top of the mountain. And came in above, stopped the place up there and it’s right at the divide if you can get up at the point why where the road comes in you’re either, the water goes toward Ceres, or the water runs back towards Bland,
John Dodson: Right.
Charles Moore: right up there. And that’s, that’s the road that they came across as far as I know, the other roads hadn’t been completed. I think it was that they were beginning to work on it. But a, a, the cut that comes down by a, a, where 52 comes down now, was, was that didn’t exist at that time, or not to my knowledge. Anyway, the bus went up there.
John Dodson: Okay, well that was something. Well I appreciate it. I really do.
Charles Moore: Well I, I appreciate anything that you, or any people that you interview come up with.
John Dodson: Well, I’ll share anything, with no problem. Well I thank you, and I’ll thank you again.