Take the Bus

Dissect the details of this 1951 image of a city bus.

Photo courtesy Erik Overbey Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama

Riding the city bus, like the one pictured here in 1951, to stores or school was certainly a modernized alternative to the previous streetcar system. The first bus runs in the city coincided with the start of World War II and, like the war, contributed to Mobile’s economic and geographic expansion. An interesting detail in this photo is the ad for Delchamps. The supermarket chain, founded in Mobile in 1921, grew quickly, and by 1928, it was the largest food store in Alabama and the first to offer self-service (meaning employees no longer picked and boxed items for customers). Unfortunately, the grocer is no longer in business, having been sold to Mississippi-based Jitney Jungle in 1997.

“I was blessed to have been born in 1951 and grown up in Prichard and Eight Mile. We rode the bus Downtown, and it was absolutely exciting. Can you imagine children doing that today and saying it was exciting?”

Jim Cook, as said in the Facebook group, Mobile Nostalgia for Old Folks and Young

Fast Facts

Q5: In the 1950s, a bus’s license plate began with the county code (2 for Mobile), followed by the letter ‘Q’ and a number. Fives were used for buses with a seating capacity of 21 to 40.
$1: Cost for a bus to drive through the Bankhead Tunnel in 1941 (that’d be about $17.70 today)
1941: The year county codes first appeared on Alabama license plates
25¢: Cost of a bottle of Hunt’s catsup at Delchamps in 1959


1860: Mobile’s public transportation starts as a mule-drawn trolley system. Mules pulled small trolley cars along rails located in the median of Spring Hill Avenue. 
1892: J. Howard Wilson, a Kansas transplant, purchases the trolley line and makes plans to erect an electric street railway. With the introduction of electric trolley cars, mules were no longer used.
1920s: Trolley ridership declines as car ownership rises.
1939: J. Howard Wilson dies. The trolley system is replaced with a fleet of buses.
1940: The electric trolley makes its final run in March.
1971: Mobile Transit Authority assumes responsibility of the bus line.
1995: Mobile Transit Authority collapses. The City of Mobile takes over bus operations, renamed “Metro Transit.”
2005: Metro Transit is renamed “The Wave.”

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