Alabama Coaches Co. on Main Street – Part 2
Updated: Feb 20
In the first few years after Alabama Coaches Co. began operating out of their new terminal on Main Street, transportation in the state had not yet become dominated by the automobile. Passenger trains served the traveling public the way airlines do today, and Montevallo had as many as three trains running between Rome, GA, and Selma stopping at its depot each day. The L&N railroad’s north-south route between Birmingham and Montgomery kept the large station at Calera busy and bustling.
With the exception of major highways, most roads were a combination of dirt and gravel and were unimproved and sometimes treacherous. Owning a car was still considered a luxury, so a bus line like Alabama Coaches Co. filled an important niche at the time. It provided service every 30 minutes for passengers needing to get to the train at Calera as well as regular service to Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Gadsden, and Selma. More importantly, the bus line made brief stops all along the way on these routes to take on and leave passengers traveling to and from these remote spots on the map.
In its first two decades as a full-fledged bus service, Alabama Coaches Co. deliberately purchased smaller bus equipment than what was being used by national lines, such as Greyhound and Trailways. These smaller buses were better suited to the less-than-desirable road conditions along its routes and, given the nature of its market, could operate with fewer unfilled seats.
But by 1954, transportation began to change and have an effect on what was now known as Alabama “Coach” Co. That year, the last regular passenger train through Montevallo was discontinued. More secondary roads in the area were paved and more people now owned cars. The beehive of activity at the Main Street bus station began to slow down and many once thriving routes to and from Montevallo were discontinued. Bus drivers were laid off and it was not long before the ticket office and waiting room was no longer open as before. Sadly, the gleaming new terminal, so perfectly suited for a bus company based in a small college town, only operated as it was intended for about 10 years.
By 1960, Alabama Coach Co. was a mere ghost of its former self. In the mid-1950’s, the company bought a classic Volkswagen mini-bus that they used to make daily trips for a few commuters to and from their jobs in Birmingham. A regular-size bus was no longer needed for this sole surviving daily route.
The company’s primary source of revenue now shifted to charters. As the business changed, many of the smaller buses began to be phased out, one or two workhorses were retained, and a variety of larger buses were brought in that had once been part of Greyhound’s national fleet that were air conditioned and could seat larger groups of passengers. Alabama Coach’s customers became groups such as athletic teams, high school bands, college and school field trips, church excursions, and special runs to events such as the state fair or the annual Alabama vs. Auburn football game at Legion Field in Birmingham.
Alabama Coach Co. bused the Montevallo High School Band to “away” football games throughout the 1960’s and also transported them to band competitions in Tuscaloosa as well as the Alabama Governor’s inaugural parade in Montgomery in 1963 and 1967. The 1963 parade is remembered for that day’s high temperature of 24º that froze the band’s instruments as well as new Governor George Wallace delivering his notorious “segregation forever” speech. Governor Wallace’s wife, Lurleen, was inaugurated during the festivities in 1967. The members of the band were always grateful for the Alabama Coach buses, especially on long trips. They were far superior in comfort to a traditional school bus.
Into the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Alabama Coach Co. withered on the vine, but did not die. Essentially all that was left of the company was what remained in the heart of the old busman and bus driver, Wyman Brown.
He continued to own the bus station and garage, which housed a number of inoperative buses from his heyday, and he could be seen at the station puttering around with this and that, but he always seemed to have at least one bus that he could pull out and prepare for a charter that he agreed to take on. Mr. Brown died in 1996 at age 81, leaving the remnants and remains of his spunky little bus company for his descendants to clean out and dispose of, which was no small undertaking. After the last old, dead bus was dragged out of the garage and hauled away by an intrepid bus collector and restorer from north Alabama, Wyman Brown’s estate could finally sell the property and let it enter the next phase of its sojurn on Main Street.
Today this building is home to Main Street Tavern.
Thank you Clay Nordan, Vice President of Montevallo Historical Society, for this information! Special thanks also to Jimmy Brown, son of Wyman Brown, for the use of many of the photos shown with this story.