Hamilton

Maurice Powell has been a Hamilton bus driver for 50 years

"They call me boss," says Maurice Powell, who's driven pretty much every route over the years.

'They call me boss,' says Maurice Powell. 'They say, 'Hi, boss''

Maurice Powell has driven Hamilton city buses for 50 years. He's the first bus driver to reach the 50-year employment mark, and only the second city employee in general. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Maurice Powell became Hamilton's longest-serving bus driver this week, but as a "humble, quiet, patient" man, he didn't have too much to say about reaching the milestone of 50 years driving an HSR bus.

Powell, 77, is a west Mountain resident, and a father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He moved to Hamilton from Jamaica in 1968, and was hired by HSR a year later. He's been there ever since.

Powell drives on the 27 Upper James and 35 College routes now, but over the years, he's driven pretty much all of them. Each work day starts at 4:30 a.m. The city will celebrate him at an event Monday, and council gave him a certificate Friday. Powell says he has no plans to retire.

His daughter, Judith Powell, said her dad isn't one to sing his own praises, but he deserves them.

"He's a very humble, quiet, patient man," she said. "He taught me the joy of driving."

Debbie Dalle Vedove, head of HSR, says there are a few drivers who have been on the job 40 years or more, but Powell is the first to hit 50 years.

CBC News asked Powell to reflect on his career. Here's what he had to say.

Do you remember when you got the job?

Oh yeah. It was August 1969.

What happened? Did you just walk in and apply?

I went down to HSR and applied. Then I went back to Jamaica on holiday. In between those times, my sister called me down there and said, "HSR wants you to come in." But I still didn't come in until two weeks after. (When I returned), I went straight down and I was hired right on the spot. 

HSR has a number of employees who have been there 40 years, but Maurice Powell is the first to hit 50. (HSR)

Why were you interested in being a bus driver?

I just thought it was a good job. The pay was good. 

Do you remember your first day? 

No, no, no, no.

What was it like when you first started driving? Was there anything about it that was unexpectedly hard?

Some of it was hard. You'd have to drive this bus without power steering. You have to collect money, sell tickets, make change without stopping. The bus was hot. The seat was plastic, so your back was wet in the summer. When people wanted to get off the bus, they just walked to the door. They didn't press the button or nothing. They just walked to the door.

What is it like dealing with the traffic?

I'm used to driving a car, so I know about the traffic, but the bus is different. It's slower taking off. It's bigger. We don't have much view on one side. 

Maurice Powell poses with, from left, Eric Tuck, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107; Mark Williams, HSR manager of operations; his daughter Judith, and Debbie Dalle Vedove, head of HSR. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

How does the traffic compare to 50 years ago?

It's worse. The streets are the same size, but there are more cars.

Is there anything you would like to tell motorists who are driving around buses?

No, not really.

Have you ever had anything strange happen to you on the job?

I was on the King (route) and there was a Tiger-Cats game. I had a couple of guys come (and stand) in front of the bus, and they wouldn't move. And one time, I was driving Upper James and a woman ran right in front of the bus, turned around and said "If I get hit, my family will get the money."

What were the men doing outside the Tiger-Cats game?

Celebrating. 

What did you do? Yell at them out the window?

I sat there until they moved. 

What do you like about this job?

The people are pretty good. They say good morning. They call me "boss." They say, "Hi, boss."

If you were talking to a young person and they said they wanted to drive a bus, what would you tell them?

"Yeah, go ahead."
 

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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