A Day Trip to Southsea

A Day Trip to Southsea

After my recent piece for the Old Bus Photos 'Galleries' page relating to my driving days with Eatonways of Hays Mill, many memories resurfaced. Some just personal recollections of the long hard days doing day trips, the hat being passed around for tips as we approached base etc etc. However, one particular event continues to bring a smile these 50 odd years later.

A party of lads pitched up for a day trip to Southsea together with crates of booze. This was not encouraged by the boss, Freddie Eaton, and definitely not by the drivers! The outbound ‘passage’ was without incident and, on arrival on the seafront, the usual ‘speech’ outlining the importance of returning to the coach on-time (and sober) was duly delivered. The hour of return was nigh and the usual missing pair – there were always two – held up our departure. After about 45 minutes I, and not surprisingly the other passengers, were getting a little irate. Eventually the absent pair arrived, well ‘oiled’ with no apology. I announced there would be no stop for refreshment as we were now so late, this to grunts and groans from all.

We had not been going more than an hour when the inevitable plea for a ‘pee-stop’ came from the two late comers, I carried on regardless. It was now dark the saloon lights were on and I just wanted to see the lights of Birmingham – still some three hours away! The pleas for a stop continued, I continued to ignore them for which, the next day I was to be read the riot act by F.E. – on reflection well justified!

I had been keeping an eye on the troublesome pair but, concentrating on the road, I had failed to notice some desperate soul, or souls, had managed to lift the centre isle floor inspection panel on the old Bedford SB and on my next mirror check was astounded to see two standing bodies about to relieve themselves. Before I could safely stop (that is without catapulting them to the front) the ‘liquid’ had hit the propshaft and sprayed the nearest occupants of two or three rows. The air was blue (or was it yellow) and, because of my failing to heed their pleas earlier, I fully expected to be lynched.

I did reap the ‘reward’ for failing to allow a comfort stop, both by the threat of the sack and, even more demeaning, having to clean three rows of seats! Thinking back, the attendant danger of removing the inspection trap didn’t even cross my mind at the time, many months later my boss did see the funny side, thankfully it was never repeated.

Nigel Edwards

Desperate folk will take desperate measures, eh! In the days when there were no onboard toilets, there were usually refreshment breaks en route. Despite this, I always had a 'thing' about coach travel and the inability to pee at will! I well recall taking the non-stop coach from Victoria Coach Station to Southsea, where I then lived. I drank little in the hours beforehand, then went twice before boarding. We'd barely made Kingston when I had the urge. I lasted until Rake, a couple of miles south of Hindhead (the usual stop) when I had to take the walk of shame and whisper in the driver's ear. "I can't stop, it's a Clearway", was his response. My face said it all and he pulled over and stopped. I got out, walked a few yards behind some bushes, pointless as it was Winter and there were no leaves! I observed passengers wiping the condensation off the windows and peering out. After what seemed an age, I climbed aboard once more, to repeat the walk of shame! So it's a claim to fame that I once stopped the non-stop coach to Southsea! Thank God for on-board toilets - never needed by me because I know one's there! Oh, incidentally, I was quite sober that day!

Chris Hebbron

I'm glad Nigel held on to his job! One who didn't was a Smith's of Reading driver who in the mid-60s took a coachload down from Reading to Southsea on a timetabled excursion (also, I believe, in a Bedford SB) and was not to be found at the wheel when all his passengers were back in their seats for the return run. Someone hinted that he had been seen entering a place of refreshment not far from Clarence pier, so a couple of volunteers set off in search of him. Whether the story we heard next morning had gained some embellishments over the intervening eight hours I don't know, but the account we heard was that this thirsty steersman was so inebriated that a wheelbarrow had to be borrowed to convey him back to the coach park. I don't recall whether the passengers were allocated seats on the other Smith's coaches or whether Alf Smith had to stoop to hiring a local coach to repatriate them. All I do know is that his clock-card no longer graced the rack, yet he was taken on immediately by another coach firm. I don't think that would happen today!

Ian Thompson



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