By: Paige Cline
I came across a book that I had almost forgotten the other day. It was written by Jack Craft I 1969.
Jack Craft was the founder of Consolidated Bus Lines which served the southern coalfields for many years before everyone owned a car. Emblazoned on every Consolidated bus, below the company name, was written “Serving the Billion Dollar Coalfields.”
Although Craft’s story is interesting and part of the history of Appalachia, my memories are of the days that the buses made their stops and picked up and unloaded passengers at Holloway Drug.
Every couple of hours the bus would roll in and park beside the drug store. A few people would get off, meet their relatives and claim their luggage.
The drivers were all known to the drug store employees and many became good friends. The Consolidated drivers always wore a spiffy uniform, complete with tie and military-like cap. Jack Craft was a stickler for neatness and courtesy.
The drivers, like everyone else, loved the delicious sandwiches and drinks prepared at the fountain. They always put off eating until they made the Pineville stop.
When it was time to pull out, the driver would stand at the back door and call out the destinations of the bus so as to not leave any passengers who might still be eating or talking on the pay phone back in the corner. If the bus was taking route 10, the driver would announce for all to hear, “BUS FOR OCEANA, MALLORY, MAN, LOGAN AND HUNTINGTON,”
Those who were not already aboard, finished their food, or conversation, and hurried to get a seat.
My brother Salty worked at the fountain back then and became a favorite of the drivers. Sometimes they would allow Salty to call the bus. He had a slightly different way of calling the Route 10 departure. Salty would announce” BUS FOR ROCKVIEW, JESSE, TURKEY DIP. HATCHER AND CYCLONE.”
Folks did what they could to have a little fun back then and few were better at it than Salty Cline.
Almost all the guys who worked for Holloway’s back then would later serve their country in WW II. Like the other able-bodied men of the county, they served thousands of miles from the little sanctuary between the hills. Some would return after the war and would never be the same. Some would not return at all.
Back to Jack Craft–the Consolidated Bus Lines founder. He wrote that he was born in a cabin in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky near the West Virginia and Virginia borders in 1902. As a youngster he plowed and hoed corn for 25 cents a day and a meal.
At age 12 he showed his independent nature by raising his own potato crop. He hauled them into town and traded them for a shotgun and a blue serge suit.
Craft always admired the characteristics of mountain people. They liked their freedom and were willing to give up some advantages to maintain it.
Even the most affluent families back then had little more than the necessities of life. Tallow candles, oil lamps, outside toilets, spring water, dried beans, dried pork, homespun jeans, shoes for children only in winter and white corn whiskey for medicine.
Folks of Appalachia were a tough, self-reliant people–they had to be. They were proud and loyal to family and were patriotic even though they were so isolated from much of the country. It was said that when the U.S. entered the first world war, there were so many volunteers that they didn’t even have a draft in some counties
From this humble background, a man came to West Virginia with a vision and little else, and built a business that would link the little coal towns and cities.
And it would connect our little town to the rest of the world.