Back in the “good old days” buses were the main mode of travel from city A to city B by the general populace. We are fortunate that San Augustine had a nice bus station with service to several large cities in Texas.
Around 1947 I took my first unaccompanied bus ride from Beaumont to San Augustine. At age ten I was plenty nervous about this trip. My parents had left me in Beaumont on Calder Avenue to visit with my long-time friends, Hoyt and Bessie Burkhalter. They owned and operated a feed store there for many years.
They took me to the Beaumont Trailways station and made sure I got on the right bus. I recall asking the bus operator “does this bus go straight to San Augustine?” The driver, being cute, answered, “No, son, it makes several turns along the way.” I was very happy to see the bus turn into the bus depot in San Augustine because I was home safe.
From 1939 through 1956 the bus depot located at the corner of Main and Montgomery streets served our city well. In January of 1939, Mr. Sam Hankla had the depot built from native rock, the architect being Rayford Stripling. Randolph Hankla, the son of Sam, helped in the operation of the depot after his graduation from college.
The bus depot was divided into three distinct operations, the bus traffic, a restaurant, and a service station. In 1941 Nay Carter took over the service station area selling Magnolia oil products. The ‘Airline Bus Station’ suffered serious fire damage on January 5, 1945. A $10,000 motor coach was destroyed and damaged the service station area. Shortly thereafter Mr. C. H. Williams took over operations of the ‘Airline Service Station’ selling Sinclair products.
In December of 1945 the “Airline Motor Coaches” entered into a special arrangement with Dixie-Sunshine Trailways to offer through bus service to Dallas and Beaumont. The citizens of San Augustine County could now have direct service to Dallas, with stops in Nacogdoches, Henderson, Tyler, Canton, Wills Point, and Terrell. On the way to Beaumont, riders stopped at Jasper, Kirbyville, and Silsbee.
The “Airline Bus Station Café” was operated by Carmen (Buddie) Fussell in late 1945. They served plate lunches, short orders, drinks, and candies. Records indicate that the service station had several operators over the years, including Howard Epps, and Archie Stewart.
On September 13, 1956 Dr. Curtis Haley purchased the bus station building from Sam Hankla. It was remodeled and changed into a medical office shortly thereafter. Dr. Curtis Haley’s clinic remains to this day.
The bus service to the city was taken over by Mr. Opal L. Wells, who moved it to 816 W. Columbia Street where it remained for a number of years. Ruth Bright was the new agent for Continental Trailways, where she also opened the “Lazy Susan Inn” at the new location.
In February of 1964 Elsie Nichols opened “The Ranch House Restaurant” at the bus station. In June of 1972 John and Judy Lynch remodeled the restaurant building and opened the “New Continental Restaurant”. John had plans to open a taxi service, though no records can be located verifying that this did happen.
In November, 1972, the bus station and restaurant were damaged by a windstorm. Approximately a year later, the bus station was moved to a location on Highway 96 north. Luis and Lewis Jewel were the operators at that time.
Eventually bus service to San Augustine was terminated in the late 1970s. With no passenger train service or bus service, the city had to rely solely on their automobiles, as it remains today.
Personally, I made use of the bus service one final time in 1960 when I rode to Houston to take my physical examination for the military. But that’s another story.