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On the buses with Pat

Retirement Living Stories

At IRT we are celebrating our 50th anniversary and are sharing our residents’ and customers’ stories from 5o years ago.

01 November 2019
IRT Birch Villa resident Pat Bowman.
IRT Birch Villa resident Pat Bowman worked as a bus clippy.

A job as a clippy on Sydney’s buses was a memorable one for IRT Birch Villa’s Pat Bowman in 1969.

“The driver said jump so I did and jumped off the bus and he jumped out the cabin.”
Pat Bowman

Having to hang on with her hip, buses losing their brakes and leaning out the back to enjoy the southerly buster are just some of Pat Bowman’s memories of working on Sydney’s buses in 1969.

Pat and her then husband John had arrived in Australia in 1968, emigrating from London, and were living in Mosman in northern Sydney.

She remembers looking for work and spreading The Sydney Morning Herald out on the floor and having a Gregory’s street directory next to the paper, as they weren’t too familiar with Sydney. “We did lots of different occupations,” Pat says.

Pat had a stint selling bonded brick veneer door-to-door. “It was hard work for no money. I lasted three weeks and made no sales.”

Meanwhile John was building units. “He was a navvy [labourer],” she says. “Building units near the water.”

Pat says life in 1969 was quite cheap.

Where they lived Pat cleaned and John looked after the gardens, so they paid $8 a week board.

Bus tickets
Pat holding some old bus tickets.

While settling into life in a new city Pat was curious about how the buses operated. She remembers trying to catch a bus by sticking her arm out and the bus never stopping. “When waiting at a designated bus stop I stuck my left arm out for the driver to know I wanted to get on, like we did in London, but no buses stopped.”

She also didn’t understand why so many buses had the word ‘special’ displayed in the top window.

“The Herald  had a regular ad in for drivers and bus conductors or conductresses, clippies as they were called, so I thought, well here we go, I’ll apply for a job and hopefully find out what this ‘special’ on the buses means.”

So Pat got a job as a clippy and worked on the Albion double-decker buses. She was based close to home, at Neutral Bay Bus Depot, and her job was to collect bus fares and issue (clip) tickets. “I had to hang on with my hip, I couldn’t use my hands,” she laughs.

“I was rostered on the North Shore line buses and did split shifts. Some of this included queue conducting, which is taking the money outside the bus to help the driver collect the fare, as he had no clippy onboard. These were express buses that went straight through to a destination and this is when the ‘special’ went into the top window.”

Pat has plenty of fond memories of this time. She remembers the bus route from St Leonards to Musgrave Street Wharf where 54 people got on and she had four minutes to collect the 5c fare and issue tickets to everyone.

There was another time when a driver lost the brakes and the bus ended up in the water at Musgrave Street Wharf. “The driver said jump so I did and jumped off the bus and he jumped out the cabin.” Luckily Pat and the driver were the only ones onboard and both walked away.

In the summer Pat enjoyed hanging out the back of the bus when the southerly buster came through, which provided some much-welcomed relief from the hot conditions on the bus.

Pat recollects watching the moon landing at the Big Bear shopping centre at Neutral Bay and that all the TVs in the centre were showing the landing. “I thought the moon landing was out of this world.”

Pat enjoyed working on the buses for five years before going back to administration work.

Thanks to Dion’s Bus Service for allowing The Good Life to take photos at their depot.

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