Young, Harry

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                                         HARRY YOUNG
                                      A bus-load of memories
                                         By Beatrice Jardine


Harry Young of Sunny Corner enjoys telling stories about his years living and working in Red Bank.

He also likes to talk about his future plans. Young, who will be 65 in April, just retired from his janitorial position at North and South Esk Regional High School.

Before his years as a janitor he was a bus driver – part of his duties included being a banker, delivery boy, taxi-driver and mechanic.

Young is married to Norma, Stanford McKibbon’s daughter. They have two children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Young has also been silently battling cancer for the past three years, but remains optimistic about his future.

He retires from the school at the end of April officially, but he is out on sick leave.

Young married in 1945. He worked in the woods until April 1946 when he started running the bus for McKibbon. He drove the bus for McKibbon until 1950. McKibbon sold it to Charlie Williston and he drove for Williston until he bought the bus from him in 1966.

Young drove the bus until 1976 when a heart attack meant he couldn’t drive anymore. He got a job at the school as head janitor.

                                           Long Haul

It had been a long haul since the first day he sat behind the wheel of the old bus they built themselves. The buses first started running in 1928 and continued for 49 years. Young drove for over 30 years.

Once during his first two weeks of driving he ended up stuck in a mud hole in Whitneyville. “I had to leave it there for a day and a night in a mud hole. It was spring and we had to use the horses to haul us out of the mud holes. And before spring, the road got so bad we had to chop out way out of a rut,” young said.

“The buses were tough and could stand a lot of rough roads. They used to buy the frame and build the bus. They were good for the roads we had back then.

“Pat Hogan had a barber shop. There were a number of little grocery/hardware stores such as McKibbon’s. Norman Sutherland had a store with a post office in it and a drug store in the back. A canteen. Dr. Frank Williston had a little office up there at the time.”

                                  Bus vital to area

The stores and the people in the community depended upon the bus at that time.

There were four buses in the area when he started out. He drove Red Bank up to Halcomb and Matthews Settlement. He also made three trips to Newcastle during a week.

He also used to carry people down to the “big shows” in town every Tuesday and Saturday night – Saturday night was always a big night in Newcastle, he added. The buses were loaded with people standing in the aisles. It was quite a sight back then, the buses loaded with excited kids going to the show, he added.

And fare was reasonable – 50 cents from the Southwest Miramichi area, 35 cents from Sunny Corner, 15 cents from Eel Ground, and 10 cents from the underpass in Newcastle. Gas was cheap, 35 cents a gallon.

When Young wasn’t busy hauling people to shows or to school he was delivering, picking up parcels for his friends, neighbors and for the store owners. He would also carry cans of cream and milk back and forth to town and was at the express office every day. Delivery of groceries to the stores was about 10 cents a box.

“People depended upon the buses them times. I have hauled all kinds of groceries, even chickens in the spring of the year, banked people’s money, did the banking for the store owners in the area, went shopping for people,” he said with a smile. He pulled out a letter with a list of groceries printed on it. He saved that letter, along with a few others. “They would give me a list of things they wanted done and I would do it for them. Most of the store owners in town knew me and all I had to do was give them a list, and they would fill it for me,” he said.

“People didn’t have cars back then. There was maybe one or two cars along the road, but that was about all.”

“Money was also scarce back then. I made $50 a month, which averaged about $3.50 a day and extra when I did chores for people, or if I picked them up. But rent was cheap. I lived at Hubert Mullin’s at the time and used to pay $10 a month rent.”

                                          Good times

“But despite the lack of money, we had some good times. “People were happy back then. They didn’t seem to have much, but they did have fun – they would go skating in the old outdoor rink, hold dances in the halls, go to shows. There was always people on the go and most of them out enjoying themselves, not like today where you see people stressed out from their jobs or trying to pay bills.”

“But everything was not all fun, we had our share of bad times, too. I think the older people really miss the way things used to be – the service from the buses especially.”

Parents used to pay to send their children on the bus. They would pay $1 for 12 rides and the teachers who travelled on the bus would pay $1.50 for 10 rides.

There was only one factory made bus in the area – the others were built.

“One year I remember going to Saint John to buy a frame, with no cab and coming home and building the bus, including putting the old stove in the back of the bus for heat,” he said. “The bus looked similar to the ones today with the windows along the side. And they were built sturdy.”

“Charlie Williston bought a factory bus in 1950. I went up to Ontario with him. It was a nice bus. There wasn’t much use for a good bus, most of the time they never got out of high gear. In the winter time when you met a car you had to pull off, the roads were so narrow you couldn’t pass and there were some high snow banks.”

“One night I was coming home in a snowstorm and two buses got struck near the United Church in Whitneyville at McKay’s hill. We put a big fire in the stove in the back and some decided to stay the night. Me and a few others took off walking home. I landed home in Red Bank at seven the next morning. We never saw a plough until the storm was over.”

                                   Young started working at 13

Harry Young started to work when he was 13. Some 52 years later he has just retired from NSER. “I find it awful hard to stay home after working for almost 52 years – I miss the kids, the people I worked with – those I seen every day,” he said.

“Everyone was awful good to me. they held a big assembly for me last week, complete with a big cake, and gave me a gold watch with my name engraved on the back. It was real nice.”

“I only got two weeks in yet, but if my health keeps, I am going to look into becoming a Big Brother, and I’m still in the church choir and have a busy family life. I thought about becoming a volunteer at the hospital – I have to do something.”

Young’s granddaughter is teaching him to play the piano. He started a year ago, but he only wants to play for himself, he added with a smile.

“I helped out with the baseball teams, hockey teams – former superintendent of school District 8 Mike Coster even played for me on the hockey team – and he was good, too.

Young got a contract with the government in 1969, but he still remained doing the same thing he always did.

He remembers when they built the North & South Esk Regional High School in 1953. The teachers used to travel on the bus, but some had to walk quite a ways to catch the bus. And as soon as the first snowstorm hit, the bus only travelled up to Somers’ bridge. They would have to walk to the Somers’ bridge. Many times passengers would have to carry their groceries up the ‘Crow’s Hill,’ they used to call it. “Things changed shortly after that, then I got two buses – one running the north side and one running the south side of the river,” he said.

“I really enjoyed working at the school. I got along well with everyone and despite all the years there I never got a bad word spoken to me by the staff or students – that seems to mean a lot to me.

“There have been some smart people come from that school – doctors, lawyers and everything else.”

“I used to go in at 6 a. m. and put the fires on and make sure everything was opened up and running smoothly. I left at 10 for a break and would come back from noon to 5 p. m.

                                       Broken elevator

“One day, I remember vacuuming the carpets and pressed the elevator to do the upstairs one back in the new elementary school. I got in the elevator, thought I must have gone to the second floor, got out and started to vacuum. It was a few minutes before I realized I was doing the same floor over again. I wasn’t long grabbing my vacuum cleaner and walking up the stairs – needless to say I never took the elevator again.”

“And there were times when the fire alarm would go off in the night. The alarm would ring into my place and that of the principal and the police. Many the nights I jumped out of bed to go up to the school because of the alarm – most of the time it was just a short in the wire.”

“Life is great on the Miramichi. If I had to live my life all over again, I would do it all over again – the same as I did before. It is the people here that make life so good.”


Source: Miramichi Leader – January 24, 1992

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