Veterans recall days when bus drivers were really in the hot seat

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 April, 2009, 12:00am

A celebration this week of 60 years of the KMB double-decker bus brought back memories of heavy steering wheels, hot seats and conductors chatting up pretty girls for some of the men who drove the vehicles.

'The steering wheel was very heavy and a lot of strength was required when driving it. Sometimes we needed to stand up to obtain more leverage, and on some occasions we even had to ask passengers to help turn the steering wheel,' said Chan Yue-choi, one of the drivers born in the year of the double-decker's introduction who helped mark the anniversary. He remembers wearing shorts for work because the driver's seat was close to the engine.

'It was very hot during the summer. We needed to put a fan by the seat. Now the engine is at the back of the bus and it is much better,' said Mr Chan, who joined Kowloon Motor Bus in 1970.

Though driving was a lot harder, Mr Chan loved the job. 'Those were the happy days when I saw the faces of busy workers rushing to work. The economy was so good in the 1970s that even old grannies had jobs and rushed to work in peak hours.'

His colleague, Leung Kei-kai, recalled the Daimler A double-deckers had two conductors to sell tickets, keep the passengers orderly and signal to the driver when to move off.

'I worked as a conductor before becoming a driver. It was a very nice job, as we had a chance to talk to the pretty girls who took the bus. We kept tickets with special serial numbers, such as 1111 or 8888, for regular passengers, especially those pretty girls. But the coin bag was very heavy and I had to handle hundreds of coins.'

The job was not without its dramas in those days. Mr Chan said: 'Bombs were found everywhere, even on buses, when there were riots in Hong Kong in the 1970s. We had to run for our lives and evacuate passengers. Police and bomb disposal experts were called in.'

The firm operated 215 Daimler A buses between 1949 and 1983.