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Data and family stories about persons or families from Little Washington, Washington County, Pennsylvania.

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Washington, PA

Genealogy and family history research in Little Washington,
Washington County, Pennsylvania from 1700 to present.  

Delivering Lives by a Flat-Faced Pusher 

by Judith Florian



            The blue & white, flat-faced pusher chugged up the hill, the driver working the clutch and shifting gears to make it up the long stretch.  A four-way stop broke his momentum, making him hold down the large brake pedal.  A lone car took the right-of-way, before the driver once again applied his foot to the gas pedal again.  A lurch pushed us forward.  We quickly settled in again to the steady push up the next hill towards the hospital.  We would take the old drive to the right next, which twisted immediately again left, then straight up another short slope to the stop sign.  Here we faced the hospital, as shown in numerous pictures, but people rarely exited here.  First we had to turn to the right, and within a half-block make the turn onto the left side street that ended at the Emergency Room Entrance.  

            Here is where, towards the beginning of winter, a woman sat anxiously near the front, the look of pain clearly in her face.  Applying the brake, he came to a stop as quickly but as gently as he could and set the emergency brake.

            "You alright?" he asked.  

            "Hurry! Please - hurry!" she pleaded.

            "I will - hold on!"  In one leap he skipped the 3 steps, his feet hitting the asphalt driveway in front of the  E. R., and quickly disappeared inside.  

            After delivering his urgent message, he rushed back outside to her as she was anxiously trying to pull herself up from the seat.  "Help - me," came the words between deep breaths, as she let her body slide in one motion off the seat to the floor.  The baby was already coming!  A quick look over his shoulder confirmed that the doctors and nurses weren't.

            The full-term baby boy's cry came minutes later.  Of course, that was precisely when the doctor and nurse came rushing out.  It wasn't the first time this driver had made deliveries, nor seen a baby born (he had 2 children of his own), but this was certainly the first baby born on his bus.  It was the early 1960s.  He never knew the black woman's name, and shortly after the birth, the driver jumped back behind the wheel to continue his run.


            His bus this day was the Hospital route that covered the Hospital, back to Jefferson Ave, to Maiden Street, out to Pancake, and turning around, simply headed back on the same streets to the Hospital again.  The second route covered from uptown to the West End, up Goat Hill to the stop sign at Wylie Ave and Edgewood Avenue where he took the right onto Edgewood, down the side streets to Jessop Bar near Washington Steel (a busy steel plant), back around the lower circle, coming back up the lower side streets again to Wylie,  and then returning to the West End and uptown once more....  Again and again, the drivers kept the 2 Washington City buses moving on their routes, mostly on time, except when snow and ice made driving difficult on the slick side streets and steep hills. 


             The buses were distinctive with their flat fronts.  Drivers called them "flat-faced pushers."  The power came from the motor mounted in the rear, but the buses didn't seem to have much 'power' with going up the steep hills around Washington.  The motors always chugged, groaned and strained to pull its load up 45 to 90 degree inclines.   In summer, the old windows barely let enough air in to cool the inside of the blue and white buses of the Swanson Bus Co.   And with the windows open, the sweet-foul smelling smoke of the engine curled around the back end of the bus, almost choking the passengers sometimes.   On humid summer days or in winter, the exhaust cloud hung low around the tire closest to the exhaust pipe, and on breezy days it reached as far as the door on the side in the front.


                Making the way through Washington's narrow streets was not always easy.  Parking on both sides of most streets narrowed the way.  The drivers forced their chunky buses to practice courtesies of the road that are fairly standard in Washington: a vehicle ascending a hill always takes right-of-way over one descending, either pulling close to the parked cars, or in an empty area between parked vehicles.  After the traffic light at Main Street and Highland Avenue, the bus entered the intersection, only to immediately tip downward at the top of the hill.  A long hill, there often was oncoming traffic already coming, making bus drivers pull close to the right immediately.  Half-way down the hill, the street bends to the left then continues down to a stop sign at the bottom.  It was similar to coming east back to town on Chestnut Street, where the very long downward hill often made drivers stop on the downward side of the hill - not an easy thing to do in a heavy flat-pusher - ending at the bottom where railroad tracks crossed Chestnut, forcing the bus to stop and slowly cross the uneven tracks.  The tracks marked the valley of this street, where after stopping for the tracks drivers had to then get back up to speed to climb another hill up to the light at Jefferson Avenue.  On upward climbs, passengers were pushed against the backs of their seats.  But the momentum on the steep down-hills often made bus riders push their feet against the floor or against the bracing of the seat in front of them, as though helping the driver apply the brakes.  And, along the route, even on the hills, were scheduled stops for those leaving or boarding.


        People of all kinds rode the city buses in the 1960s - workers, shoppers, women in babushkas with paper shopping bags, kids and teenagers in private school (like Immaculate Conception High School) who juggled stacks of text books and notebooks in their arms.  One small group of teens waited every week morning directly in front of the stop sign on West Wylie Avenue and the corner of Edgewood.  They were the oldest three of  'the Florian Girls' (as they were called) -  Diana, Cathy and Colleen - heading to school at I. C. on Chestnut Street.  Each carried large stacks of thick books -- biology, algebra, trig, and language texts for Latin and Spanish.  Two had brown hair and eyes; the second oldest of the group, who had just turned 13 years old, was blonde with clear blue eyes.  The blonde was Cathy, my older sister.  (While my sisters crossed Edgewood to wait for the bus under a sprawling old oak tree, I had to turn to walk up Edgewood and go down past Washington Steel, and on to Henderson Avenue where I was still in St. Hilary's Grade School.)  Weeks passed much the same, except the changing of season.  Each day, we'd walk out through the front yard, and head towards Edgewood Avenue, the three oldest sisters in front, with me some steps behind, scuffing my shoes in the cinders that had been thrown by cars to the side of the road.  They had things to talk about as teenagers that I was not privy to hearing.  At Edgewood, I'd leave their company (secretly wishing I could join them though).  Sometimes the bus would pass me walking as we both took those back roads heading down to the back of Washington Steel.  The bus driver would tap the horn as he went past me, and my sisters would give a wave as the bus went past.  I knew the driver would go down and around, coming back to Wylie and then on to uptown, where my sisters would be dropped off at school.  


            After making the endless runs of the two routes, the last passenger would be dropped off at their destination.   At the end of the day, each driver returned to the company's garage on Chestnut Street to turn in their bus.  And again every morning, both drivers would arrive early to check the machines on a walk-around, then hopped aboard to start them up.  They'd idle near the garage until the motors warmed up, ready to make another day's run through the city streets.  If you don't remember, the garage was half-way down the block between Chestnut Street and College Street, after crossing Main.  The garage was on the right.  Its building was torn down and this where the City built its first above-ground parking garage beside a medium-sized street-level parking lot.  Before a dozen years of employment passed for the seasoned driver, Swanson was out of business.  



            Shiny yellow school buses of the G. G & C. Bus Co. took over in the late 70s after Swanson's closed, running the same two routes around the city perimeter.  Later, two additional routes were added to accommodate passenger's needs.  But, other than the different buses, nothing was much different on the routes the buses ran.  By then, I had started high school.  But instead of the bus, I often just walked from Wylie Avenue to I. C., going straight up Jefferson Avenue to Chestnut Street.


        Only years later did I hear Cathy talk of her daily bus trips to school, and of her growing fondness for the bus driver who ran that route every day.  Over the next 4 years of high school, and while she worked at Citizens Library, they got to know each other through talking twice a day on the way to and from school.  After her graduation from high school, they parted company, their lives taking them in separate directions until chance brought them together again.  When they re-met, they both already had children and were separated from their spouses.  That was the beginning of their courtship.  They dated and eventually they married.   My sister and brother-in-law Bud had known each other over 30 years when she died in 2003.  From the time they started dating and through their marriage, they were inseparable, except during Bud's runs as a long-haul truck driver.  They always teased each other about the way they met on the city bus, and ended up marrying.  



        The G. G & C. Bus Co. is still in operation, now running the flat and boxy automatic-driven city buses.  The G. G. & C. Bus route map is posted online.

See Greyhound Bus Depot in my Uptown Landmarks -s2 for South Main Street locations & more.

See Uptown Landmarks-n1 for North Main Street locations & more.

See more about the City of Washington in my Town-Talk pages.

A few current street scenes are at the City Hall website.

Memories of Locations
Read Jefferson Avenue to Main Street

Read Uptown Landmarks - n1 for North Main Street Locations.

Read Uptown Landmarks - s2 for South Main Street Locations

Read about lower South Main Street to Maiden Street

 City Bus and G.G.& C. Bus Co. - Stories

MAPS see below

Old Webpages from The Washington Business District Authority "Main Street" Program (WBDA) 

-- Bus Route Map 

-- Mapquest City of Washington PA, streets around downtown 

Street Map of 1 South Main Street 
and surrounding streets uptown

-- Washington PA Improvement Development Map with primary downtown locations

-- Old Newsletters from The Washington Business District Authority "Main Street" Program (WBDA) 


Keystone Town Markers

List of Historical Societies in Washington County PA




( - and put Amity in the subject line)

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(c) Judith Ann Florian
Girard, Ohio 44420

Copyright Notice - Data / info. for individuals and surnames may be reproduced for personal family histories only, but not for any commercial use or sale. Please give credit to Judith Florian and Catherine L. Caldwell for locating newspaper items and original documents. You may use J. Florian's research conclusions if credit is given. No other data or images may be reproduced without permission. 2005-present, Judith Florian, Copyright All rights reserved.

This page was last updated on Saturday, August 10, 2013 00:37

The background was chosen specifically to emphasize the matriarchal role of women in "the life" of children and families, and the resilience of all the women of southwestern Pennsylvania.