RF433, Jim Blake 1Route 236:

Michael Parsons' memories

Page last updated 18 November 2014

Last day of joint working - Michael drives RF433 with his clippie, wife June, standing beside him.

Photo © Jim Blake

 

For Pat Spencer's memories, see the foot of the 236 page.

 

Michael Parsons (seen here in 2009) tells his story:

 

My memory goes back to about 1945-46, when my father and I were on a 623 trolleybus going up Forest Road towards Walthamstow.  I noticed what I now know to be red 2RT2 buses parked up on some land outside the Eveready Works.  I did ask father why they were there, but he did not know - I found out in later life that it was due to problems with the brakes.

 

Leyton Bakers Arms, just up the road from Leyton Garage where Michael worked.  H1-class trolleybus 899 is working the 557, one of the routes travelled by the young Michael.  For more east London trolleybuses, see here.

Photo © David Bradley

When I was about twelve, on Sunday afternoons after I had done the dinner-time washing up I was sent out to get some fresh air.  I took to going for a ride on the local bus routes, 35, 35A, 38, 38A, 20, 144 and of course the trolleybuses 557, 661 and 623.  On one occasion, I got on a 38A up to Loughton Stn; at that time there was a large road builders by the name of W & C French at Buckhurst Hill, I found the yard and to my delight there was line of six ex-LT STLs all in red with the LT logo painted out.  I used to get a 661 to the Green Man and a 20 to Epping Town and walk down to North Weald Airfield and watch the Meteor and Vampire jets take off and land; we used to be able to catch lizards, newts and sticklebacks in Epping Forest in them days.


When I left school in 1954, I started work as the gofer and tea boy on the maintenance staff at a suitcase manufacturer called S Noton Ltd at the back of the Eveready Works.  All this site was the old AEC works of the old General Buses where the B-types were built.  Our job took us all over the complex; one part was an old cellar that had been disused for very many years.  There were no lights and when we did eventually get some jury lights, we found about a dozen or so very rusty primitive petrol engines; we thought that these had been meant for the B-types and as far I know they were still there in 1957.  I also watched them dig up the old AEC railway sidings to start building on to the factory. 

 

I left there in late 1957 and got onto the Eastern National as a conductor out of Wood Green Depot on the main road (251) from Wood Green to Southend; my mates were earning £12 a week and all I could earn was £5 a week and I wanted a car and girlfriends!  I was put with an old guy by the name of Bill Eves, one week we were doing the last one home from Southend (2125) and all week we should been running behind a swinger as far as Romford Market.  The swinger was an extra that should have been in front by three minutes to pick up all the short rabbits, leaving us to pick up the long runners, all week we had gone round him and took the road then we never saw him again.  On the last Saturday of the job, old Bill told me to get him going with the bell out of Southend, we went like mad down the Southend road into Raleigh where we left the stand by now about ten minutes early, turned left past the station down the hill and into the speedway stadium car park.  All the lights went out, I told our rabbits what was going on, and within ten minutes or so our swinger went past with a domino load.  We pulled out and sat behind him all the way to Romford; he got slaughtered but never pulled that trick again.  [See here for more on Mick's days as a conductor with EN, courtesy Essex Bus Enthusiasts Group]

 

Eastern National 1958 experimental Bristol LDL 236LNO, driven by Michael, seen arriving at Southend in 1965 on his route 251.

Photo © SCT61, follow link for more details

 

Then in 1961 I passed my PSV test around the West End of London on a Leyland PD2.  I was taught bus work by an old City driver who was seventy when I first started and he knew every trick in the book - in fact he used to make me cringe at times, but no one ever tried to outdo him and if they did they never did it a second time.  One of the buses I conducted then drove was a brand new Bristol LDL Lodekka, bonnet number 1541, registration 236 LNO, which was one of the first 30ft seventy seat buses ever built.  After a long working life she is now preserved and appeared at Duxford for the first time in 2008. 

 

Once in Raleigh High St, it was on the journey home, I had pulled into the stand and picked up a load of wombles (old people) in the forward entrance FLF.  I got the bell, slipped into gear (crash box with overdrive out of top - 6th was out of 5th - so do not stop in top), eased out of the stand, turned left down the hill and within a few yards got loads of bells.  I pulled over got out and went round to find out what was amiss, went into the bus and there is a woman at the back of the bus covered in white, as was the back of the bus - it turns out she had got on carrying a cream cake in her arms and as I had turned left she got into a trot and hit the back of the bus, the cake exploded and went in all directions, all the wombles were in tears with laughter, as I soon was. She was not hurt and saw the funny side of it all, we never heard any thing more about it; we worked the bus through to Brentwood and got it changed, people were laughing for a long time about that.  [See here for more on Mick's days as a driver with EN]

 

I left the National in about 1962 as I wanted to go long distance HGV driving.  I ran for Harry Lebus out of Tottenham and I used to do Aberdeen, Inverness and up to Wick and Thurso.  That lasted until 1969 when I went up to Manor House [London Transport Recruitment Centre] as by this time I was married and my late wife June was nagging me about being away too long.

 

RTW362 nears the end of its life with LT, in use as a trainer.  It was based at both Grays and Edgware between 1965 and 1970 - thanks to Andrew Chilcott for spotting that the Vauxhall was registered in Essex during 1965, so this is most likely Grays.

Photo © Paul Redmond

 

I got in, spent two weeks at Chiswick and although I already had my PSV, the Board told me that I must go through the training school so I had a week in the classroom and a week on the road in an RTW and the skid patch.  When I took my LT test in an RTW (no power steering and they were heavy) around the West End, the examiner placed a cup of water on the floor of the bus and told all three of us if we managed to spill the water from the cup he would drop us - so that would mean starting again and none of us wanted that to happen, apart from the embarrassment of failing the test, so we did not spill the water and we passed.

That was on the Friday morning then I did type training the afternoon on RT, RM, RML, RF and a quick one in an MB.  I started at Leyton Shed (T) on the Monday morning and was sent out route learning.  I passed all my route learning on all the routes - 38s, 48s, 69s, 262s and of course the 236/210s.  You got the conductor to sign the learning sheet to say that you had done the route which was then handed into the office.


By this time June had decided that she wanted to get onto LT and hopefully become my clippie.  I was spare to start with, doing all routes and even some of West Ham's and Walthamstow's.  June went and did her training week at Chiswick and she joined me at Leyton although not on the same shift times.  Then we started to try to get onto the same rota line which took a few months but we did eventually.

 

Being spare I was put onto the 38 road at different times, on late or early with a new conductor each day.  The 38 road was a fast hardworking road with RTs, with something like a three minute headway from Walthamstow Garage to Victoria through Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus and Hyde Park Corner, so if you did not keep your foot down the guy behind you was punching you up; some would work the road with you taking one stop for one stop, some would not, but more often than not a couple of you would work the road together.

 

June arrived at Leyton and went on the spare, doing as I was doing.  At the next rota change, I was put on my own rota line on the 262/69 road, which ran the RML type, with a huge overweight conductor whose name that I cannot remember.  All he wanted to do was sit on the back seat and reach round to ring the bell and did not like me to go round another bus to share the road.  In my world he was lazy, so I nicknamed him Pig Features.

 

By this time June had got herself onto the rota on the 262/69 road and we set about asking Pig Features to swap with her.  He did not want to know, so I decided to make him work - and he did, by most of the time having a full load.  He used to complain to me as to how tired that he was, but I told him that was the nature of the beast.

 

Leyton's RML2366 working route 262.

Photo © Paul Redmond

 

Our luck changed when June's driver left, so I got a rota change onto her line.  Bearing in mind that LT was short of platform staff at this time, we worked a rest day every week as a crew and did earn good money between us.  On one occasion we were on an early turn on the 38s, waiting to leave Victoria, where a jumper (Inspector) was always on duty on the stand in rush hours to get you out on time and fill up the bus with wombles going up to Hyde Park etc.  He thought that June was on the top deck collecting fares and gave me two bells; but she was answering a call of nature which I did not know about; I was away, first stop Hyde Park Corner then I sat there waiting for the bell.  I finally got out to find out what was going on and the wombles told me that I had left her at Victoria, so then I had to wait for the following service to catch up and we both worked the road home.  Nothing was said and the jumper said ‘sorry’ the following morning, so a lot of wombles got a free ride to work. 

 

Leyton's RT186, carrying a much later body than its registration would suggest, runs the 38 and leans taking a junction on its way to Chingford.

Thanks to Roy Barnacle for identifying the junction as Islington Green.

Photo © Paul Redmond

 

On another occasion, on the 38s again, we were on a very late one on our way home on a Saturday night.  I pulled up at the stop at Piccadilly and a crowd just out of the theatres got on.  One guy would not go either up or in but stood on the platform trying to stop himself being sick (too much to drink) and June came round to me at the next stop to tell me what this guy was doing.  We were finishing, all the punters on the long seats were cringing away from him, so I pushed it hard up round the bend in New Oxford Street and he sort of fell off onto the footpath and by all accounts the punters cheered, so pleased that he had not done anything over them; we just carried on home.

 

Once when we were on the 48s (RMLs), a woman got on in Dalston Lane with a pushchair and just left it on the platform.  June was on the top deck; she gave me the bell, off I went and as I took the right hand bend at the top of Dalston Lane I got lots of bells.  I stopped, got out and went round to see the pushchair vanishing down Ridley Road and the woman chasing after it, we just carried on as she had not paid her fare and I was blocking the road.  Late one night in the week, we were on the 55s (RTs) and we used to turn in Walthamstow Garage.  When we got there, the yard was full with buses - I should have put out the lights and gone round to the Crooked Billet doughnut to turn but we wanted a cup of tea, so I foolishly turned into Walthamstow’s yard, at the entrance there was an LT roundel on a high post in my struggle to turn around I managed to put one of the arms of the roundel through a top deck window breaking it.  When we got back to Leyton and did an occurrence report we said that some kids were throwing stones in Hoe Street and that's how the window was broken.  Exploits of a typical LT crew – it’s too late now for me to be booked by a jumper and appear before the garage manager now, although I must say it only happened a couple of times usually for running early.

 

The Crooked Billet 'doughnut' in the 1950s, well before route 55 was introduced and when the only motorbus route past Walthamstow Garage was the 38.

Photo © David Bradley

 

In my time on LT I only had one accident and a coroner's jury cleared me of any blame.  I was on the 55s working back to Leyton Green for my meal relief on a Saturday afternoon, which by this time was OMO with the DMS type.  I had picked up a domino load out of the Narrow Way shopping centre in Hackney: women, kids, husbands young and old and loads of bags.  As I approached the white stop opposite Clapton Pond a guy staggered into the road.  I sat on the horn but no response. he kept on coming.  I swung the wheel to the right and I found myself looking at a 106 (RM) at the stop on the opposite side of the road and I can still see the driver’s eyes staring at me; I do remember thinking me and him will finish up in the same cab and my wombles and his wombles will get badly hurt if I carry on this path, so I swung the wheel back to the left, another foot and I would missed this guy but I did not.


His head hit the nearside pillar then he was gone.  I came to a stop round the back of the bus stop; as luck would have it, there was a wide pavement behind the bus stop and nobody was on it.  By this time everybody was screaming I isolated the doors and asked for three witnesses, which I quickly got, then let the passengers out.  I did look through the back window and he was lying in the road with people around him.  I did not get off as I had my takings in my cab, the police arrived and an ambulance which took him away, the police told me that he reeked of drink.  A jumper arrived and I gave all the statements to him and the police.  He asked me if I was ok to drive, I said yes, so I got the bus out from behind the bus stop and ran it back dead.  I had a late meal break and went out and finished what was left of my second half (no health and safety in them days).  He passed away that evening with serious head trauma; the case eventually came to the coroner's court in Hackney Town Hall, I gave my evidence and I was cleared of any blame - it was decided that he was drunk and it was his own fault. The following day (Sunday) I was on the same times and road and a woman got on in Hackney Mare Street.  As she gave me her fare, she spoke about the accident the previous day saying everybody on the bus was amazed that no one on the bus had been hurt, not knowing that it was myself at the wheel.  I then felt a little bit better about it all although I did not have a lot of sympathy for the guy - his actions could have hurt a lot of people.

 

Clapton Pond, and MS2 passes LS6, both buses of the trial batches tested on the S2 (formerly the 208). 

Photo © John Law

 

Thinking of Clapton Pond, I did watch as Scania MS4 on its first day out on the S2s drove straight into Clapton Pond - all the way in.

 

The 236 road was a very friendly road and we got to know most of the punters by name, it was a road that seemed to be little known unless you lived on the route that it covered.  June and I shared the 236/210 road with turns on the 55s and 69s, at that time Leyton shared the road with Dalston (D) and quite often did shorts and turned in Dalston Shed.  We could always get a cup of tea in Dalston's canteen, more so on late turns.  We would do the short at the start of our turn from Leyton Shed via Leytonstone Station to Dalston Shed then back to Leytonstone Station and take up the service to Stroud Green.

 

If we started on an early turn, we took the bus (or, to use an old Eastern National term, tram) out of Leyton Shed and ran via Leytonstone on to Finsbury Park Station then back to Leytonstone.  Sometimes it was a long first half with two rounders, or it could be a short first half with just one rounder before running back to Leyton Shed for our meal break which was anything in between 3/4 of an hour to an hour and a half.  For the late turns, on early afternoons we would jump on a 235 (OMO) outside the shed to go round to Leytonstone Station, to take over on the stand, again a nice cup of tea in the station canteen.  Late afternoon or evenings starts, we would take our tram out of the shed.  On a couple of occasions if we came out of the shed late (NBA` - no bus available) in the afternoon, we would run straight down Leyton High Road and turn right at Leyton Town Hall and June would make her waybill up as though we had gone the correct road.

 

The busiest times were the rush hour morning and evening plus when the Arsenal Football club played at home either on Saturday afternoon or a late evening match, as we passed within a few yards of their ground.  Then we would get slaughtered with a domino load of supporters and every stop on the way home - if the Arsenal had won they were in good sprits, but if they lost you could see it in their faces and they were not happy wombles.

 

RF370 sits at Golders Green on a Sunday between 1968 and 1970, during the period when the route replaced the 210 on that day.

Photo © Paul Redmond

 

Sunday was a nice day to do the 210s, the day’s work was only two rounders, Leytonstone Station to Golders Green Station, with a cup of tea at Golders Green and our meal relief at Leytonstone Station.  It made a pleasant day to go over Hampstead Heath and past Jack Straws Castle, with all the families going out for the day and to see the kids go fishing in the pond.

 

We had eleven RFs, including numbers 335, 410, 416, 433, 435, 447, 451, 467, 469, 494 and 501.  Dalston had nine RFs including numbers 373, 394, 395, 405, 413, 446, 474 and 484 for the service, the last crew RFs in LT service. RF447 was a slow motor, it just would not go, but RF469 was a flyer and it did go well.

 

As we very rarely saw a jumper on the road, we did at times pull a few strokes.  On one occasion, we went through Ridley Road street market, which was busy on a Saturday, late on a Saturday night a guy was stood at the stop in the market with a sideboard which it seems that he had bought that afternoon, gone for a pint or two forgot the time and wanted to get back to Hackney.  June said yes, let’s do him a good turn, so we opened the back emergency door and pushed the sideboard in and carried on hoping that we did not catch a jumper, he was forever grateful to us for that good turn.

 

We were together as a crew until 16 April 1971, then the 236 went OMO with SMSs and we lost the 210s which went to Muswell Hill (MH). The next day was a Sunday. I went back onto the 236 doing the road on OMO with a few slight route changes. We did work together as a crew now and again, sometimes when I did a rest day. The 236/210 was a fun road and I think that in some ways that I was sorry that it all changed but we had a mortgage to pay so the extra money was very useful.

 

The entrance to Leyton Garage holds SMS657 from the 236 and early SMS21 on the 235, the route that took over the section of the 236 between Leytonstone and Leyton Hainault Road.
Photo © Paul Redmond
 

I have good memories of when being a busman was a proud job and you were the best if you were on the Board.