The joy of catching a bus

WHEN Peter Dougherty and John Pullinger came into The DEX office and invited us for a ride on the Grafton Community Bus, we thought, what better way to find out what the service really is all about?

The journey started at The Daily Examiner office on Fitzroy St and as we drove towards our first pick-up, Peter spotted a woman walking along Prince St.

"That's Kath Mitchell," he said.

"What's she doing down here; I guess she might not be needing us today."

We drove on and together Peter and John shared the story of how the community bus came to be.

Apparently a bloke by the name of Artie Cummerford found an old broken down bus at the back of Grafton Base Hospital about 25 years ago.

He saw a hole in the local transport services and decided the old rust bucket had a job to do.

"So he fixed it up and the Community Bus got on the road," John said.

"It only ran for about six months though, before it broke down and we needed a new one."

As we neared our first destination I asked Peter how old he was and he replied he's about to turn 81.

I therefore asked him, if he too will one day ride on the bus and he laughed.

"Don't worry, we have him booked in," John said.

The first people we picked up, Annie Hayward and John Radley are part of the Karinga Residents Program.

I asked what they would do if there was no bus; how would they get to the community centre?

They replied they would simply walk.

"But this is much better," Annie said.

As she explained, it's getting to know everyone and the friendships along the way which matter more than the actual lift.

Our next pick-up is Phyllis Balderstone.

While she puts on her seatbelt I asked her when she started catching the bus

"That's a good question, I think ever since they started," she replied.

Later we picked up Betty Phelps.

"Nothing interferes with this for me, not doctors appointments or anything else, whatever it is," she said. "I had to give my car away so it's the only way I can really catch up with everyone."

Towards the end of the route we stopped at a home near the viaduct. It was Kath Mitchell's house, but other than a gardener weeding away, there was no one to be seen.

Just as the bus was about to pull away a taxi flew in behind the bus.

Mrs Mitchell jumped out and waved. She had to go to Prince St to get money to pay the gardener but had caught a cab back so as not to miss the bus.

Clearly the Community Bus is not a thing to be missed.

The bus service gets by with no government assistance and is always looking to raise cash.

And it's available to anyone who needs some help. If you wish to donate or book a ride call John Pullinger on 6642 4542 or Peter Dougherty on 6642 1656.

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