Remember when the Greyhound buses used to run through DeForest every day? The bus stop for many years was the drug store on South Main Street. The morning bus would be south bound to Madison and rolled into DeForest in mid-morning. The afternoon bus came through about supper time and was heading out of Madison, going north.
There were usually three or four people boarding on the morning bus and three or four would be getting off at DeForest in the afternoon. Most of the passengers were younger students and senior citizens. I took that bus many times during my later pre-teen years. I don’t remember the exact cost of the fare, but it was less than $5 for a round trip ticket.
The most frequent rider from here was Florence Raimer, who taught first and second grade at DeForest Grade School and rented a small apartment in downtown DeForest. She never married and I don’t think she ever had a driver’s license. She would take the Greyhound bus at least once every week. I remember we would see her walk by our house a few minutes before the bus arrival. She would always be carrying two empty shopping bags in the morning and when she came back in the afternoon the shopping bags would be full.
When I was about 11-years old, a few of my friends talked about taking the bus into Madison and seeing a matinee at one of the downtown movie houses. I asked my parents if they would let me do this and they were alright with it but I would be paying for the trip with my own money and let them know in advance when I planned to take the trip.
After I had $10 or more saved, I’d start looking though the movie ads in the newspaper and when a good movie was playing in Madison, I would announce that I wanted to go on my Madison trip. I would usually go by myself. A couple of times I went with a friend but I preferred doing these Madison trips alone.
The big Madison Greyhound terminal was just off the Capitol Square. I always enjoyed the arrival at the Madison terminal. The bus would turn off the Capitol Square at the Wolff Kubly corner and go about a half block when it made a sharp turn into a long, narrow alley. It then made a sharp right turn and we were in the lower level garage of the terminal which fronted West Washington Avenue.
My first stop off the bus was a visit to the box office of the movie I wanted to see to check the starting time of the matinee. Then I’d start exploring the dime stores around the square. There were four of them — Woolworth’s, Kresge’s, Green’s and Grant’s dollar store. Around noon I’d enjoy a lunch at one of the dime store lunch counters or the Rennebohm’s Drug Store lunch counter. Lunch was usually a hamburger and a chocolate shake or a large Coke.
When I finished lunch it was usually time to head to the theatre for the movie. The show houses were the Orpheum or Capitol Theatre (across State Street from each other) or the Strand on the Capitol Square. Cinemascope had just been introduced back then along with stereophonic sound so it was great entertainment and you could pick your seat as most afternoon crowds were sparse.
After the movie it was time to head to the big Wolff Kubly and Hirsig store and visit their great hobby shop — they had the best selection of model kits in Madison. I usually had a hard time deciding on which model plane, boat or car kit I would take home with me to assemble.
Then it was down to the bus terminal and I usually had time for a treat in Hill’s Coffee Shop at the front of the terminal building before heading down for my bus and the trip back to DeForest.
I miss not hearing the Greyhound bus traveling around DeForest’s Main Square. Those diesel engines were loud and I remember the loud hissing of the air brakes as the bus came to a stop. My mother used to love the smell of their exhaust while I thought the exhaust fumes stunk.
Gradually the number of bus passengers dwindled and then the buses stopped running. Now, there are hardly any Greyhounds in Madison. I see where there are three Greyhound bus stops listed in the city, but there is no terminal and no regular routes to the suburban towns around Madison. The only way to get from DeForest to Madison and back is by private car or a taxi. The Greyhound buses have gone the way of the old passenger trains, but I still have happy memories of my bus trips to Madison years ago.
Dick Emerson is the former publisher of the DeForest Times-Tribune.