Last Stop: Minnybus

Near the corner of North Avenue and Easton Road — right by Coleytown Elementary School — stands this little wisp of Westport weirdness:

In “A Stop at Willoughby” — one of Rod Serling’s most famous “Twilight Zone” episodes ever — a New York advertising executive on the train home to Westport finds himself transported to an idyllic town called Willoughby. In the year 1888.

This sign reminds me of that. Perhaps if I stand there long enough, a diesel-powered Mercedes minnybus will lumber by.

I’ll climb on board, ride it all over town, and suddenly it will be the 1970s all over again.

37 responses to “Last Stop: Minnybus

  1. Driving one of those minis is on my resume! I drove school bus #9 for a few years, 1972-1975? (somewhere in that range) and was an occasional substitute driver on the mini routes. All the buses were fun to drive, partially because my ‘greaser’ high school buddies kept them souped up with ‘hot’ gas pedals!

  2. Terry Brannigan

    That’s awesome! The seats over the wheel wells were elevated and particularly toward the end of their useful service (or said differently, 3 years before they were retired) a simple bump could catapult the rider 3 rows! The three most liberating days of my young life were the day I got my minibike, the day I got my drivers license and the day I got my unlimited ride “Minibus Pass”. Precursor to the Metrocard I carry now! Someone needs to dig up more photos. I wonder what Christies could get for that piece of history at auction

  3. They were the best thing to happen for the youth of 1970s Westport. Freedom!

  4. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Classic, precious,and let’s not forget the back windows opened. Never would you see that again.

  5. Oh how I loved that minnybus! The independence of being able to go downtown by myself to go to the smoke shop for candy!

  6. Jack Whittle

    The exact spot where we (Bob Simonton and I) would catch the last Minibus (5:35 departing Jesup Green) home after Coleytown JHS soccer or wresting practice. Until we decided we were too cool for that, and hitched up North Ave. (often ended up walking) to Cross Hwy. I might even have my old minibus pass around here somewhere. I think taxi-moms in town were the secret organizing force behind the minibus.

  7. I used that minibus every day growing up. On a given afternoon we could go to the Y, or to Westport Pizza, or to the beach, or to any friend’s house. As a result, we knew our town inside and out – and there were a lot less cars on the road, schlepping their kids around back then. I say, bring it back!!!

  8. The best memories were the “tick, tick, tick” engine noise plus the wonderful odor of diesel fuel. You could hear it coming and smell it going !

  9. I still recall with happiness the first day of minibus service to the train. Larry Aasen, Mort Kramer, Bobby Chittick and I would ride the bus to the 6:58 train in the morning. Our driver Roland was the best…even dropping off the car keys I took by mistake to our home on Bradley Street. How could I forget my kids meeting the bus at Norwalk and Soundview off the 4:59 in the evening and then walking “big old dad” home Those were indeed the days!!! BTW…I still have the original brochures.

  10. Love!

  11. A hot topic if there ever was one, as one of the last children of the generation in which the mother didn’t drive (this was the 1970s) I had an especially strong dependence on the minibus before I got my driver’s license, and after my senior year car accident also to some degree a dependence on the successor maxitaxi! Now those are some memories.

  12. Master Dude Abides

    “They” say if you remember the 70’s, you probably didn’t live them. And thus, I can not remember the mini-bus transportation whatsever. Bikes were very in vogue for kids in the 50’s (along with your mother driving you) and hitchhiking in the 60’s. Did folks actually use this form of transportation to get around tiny Westport??

    • Richard Lawrence Stein

      Dude, the Minibuses were pretty cool. The office to get your pass is where the Gillespie Center is now and I believe the former eyesore on Jessup Green was built specifically as the hub transit center to switch buses to other parts of Westport Town. After the end of Minibuses the shelters just became a hang out for the trouble makers and less fortunate.

  13. Don Willmott

    Dude, yes indeed. As many have said, mainly to go to Westport Pizzeria for a slice and then to Carmen’s Smoke Shop to buy some candy. Oh, and then to Fine Arts for a matinee of, say, Star Wars. Saturdays in the ’70s. Sigh.

    • Master Dude Abides


    • Victoria Kann

      Hey Don! Did you ever take the minibus when we worked as prep chefs at The Carriage House restaurant? Remember that?

      • Don Willmott

        Remember it? I still have dreams about it! By 1981 I had use of the family car and a license, so no Minnybus then. I did, however, use the Minnybus to get home from my first gig at the old Carriage House when I worked there as an underage busboy in 1979/80.

  14. I grew up in the 50s and graduated from Staples in 1960, so I don’t know much about the minnybuses. Someone referred to getting a pass: how much did it cost and how often could one use it? I know the current Norwalk Transit minibuses down to the train station and Main Street have VERY limited runs and timing. Westport is a big town — what routes did the minnybuses take and did teenagers just walk home from some central roads (North Avenue, Compo Road, Cross Highway, Kings Highway, Turkey Hill or …)? Would it ever be possible to do again?

  15. Two words: Jay Flaxman.

  16. Eric Buchroeder

    I went to Staples during the heyday ’67-’70. But I never once rode a school bus or a minnybus. I walked everywhere or hitchhiked. About six years ago I was back in town after many years of absence and had a blast over the weekend just walking everywhere (fortunately the weather was perfect). It’s still not a bad town to walk in but I can’t explain why I didn’t use the minnybus. Now maybe five years before the minnybus I do remember taking CR&L buses from one end of the Post Rd. to the other. I don’t know why I rode them and didn’t ride the minnybus. Does anyone remember the green and silver “Hillbilly Bus” that was a CR&L bus that brought the commuters out to the north of town from the train station?

  17. I remember getting my own Minnybus pass in 1974. One whole year for only $15!

  18. I loved that Minnybus. I used it to catch it from my house to Jessup Green and then hang out downtown with all my friends. It was cheap and our parents didn’t have to (or wouldn’t) drive us all over town. It gave kids independence. It was well worth the cost. I remember getting excited to have my own Minnybus pass back then. Wish the town I live in now had that.

  19. I used to use the Minnybus. I remember getting all excited when I got my own pass. It allowed me to get anywhere I needed to in town without bugging my mom to drive me. I would head to Jessup Green where the buses met, and Of course you could make connections to the beach or other places in town. It was really innovative back then and fun to ride with your friends. I had a lot of fun taking the bus.

  20. Bring Back The MiniBuses!!!

    I too was an annual pass holder and would grab the “Mini” from Coleytown and go downtown after school to hang at the “Y” with my friends and play bumper pool, air hockey, etc.

    I always liked riding in the “Rocket Seat”.

    Good Times!

  21. Terry Brannigan


    Get the sign on the historical registry to protect it!

  22. There was also a bus that went up the Post Road. I know it went at least between Norwalk and Bridgeport.

  23. Nancy Powers Conklin

    The CR & L line went between Bpt. and Norwalk. The MiniBus really brings back memories!!! It stopped right by our house coming back from the Greens Farms train station every weekday night around 6:30pm. We always heard it and smelled it:) Before the minibus and our drivers license, we had to take the CR & L line from Maple Ave. and Post Road downtown to the dentist. My sister and I would always fight about who would go in to the dentist first! Mentioning the minibus is a blast from the past!!! Thanks, Dan!

  24. Peter Gambaccini

    In the off-year elections of 1974, the Minnybus was a very big deal. For a brief time, it was considerable a model system that other similar-sized communities could emulate. I remember the candidates for Senate and Congress riding on the Minny that year and making sure they got photographed.

  25. My sister’s boys (Tim and Mike van der Veen) rode that bus as elementary school kids — tennis, sailing at Longshore, other lessons, friends’ houses, and downtown. Being new in town in the mid-70s, I remember being pretty impressed at their happy independence. AND the fact that these Minnys with their distinctive sailboat graphics were no ordinary Minnys… they were Mercedes Minnys! Oh Westport! I also remember a dog that used come into town. A Norwegian elkhound, rumor had it that he’d wait for the Minny to come by near where he lived, and catch it downtown most mornings. My office was on upper Main Street, and I can attest that he (and I) were lunchtime regulars at Oscar’s. When he’d had enough, he’d head over toward the library to wait for the Minny home. Many times, now, driving my own kids around, I reminisce about those buses, and how safe everything seemed to be then. And how much less traffic there was (of course we complained anyway!). With that in mind, and a forgotten form at Staples, I hopped on my son’s bike this afternoon to deliver it.

    • I think I’ve gotten the sailboat graphics wrong… or was that later, and I’m on the wrong bus? Helvetica type, red, black & white? Thanks for the pictures, Dan.

  26. I was ten years old when I got my first Minny bus pass in 1974 (and I still have it in a scrapbook somewhere!). It seems unimaginable today to think of letting kids have such freedom and independence… But I felt so safe cruising all over Westport in those groovy red buses, standing out by the side of the road wherever I needed to go and waving down a Minny bus to pick me up. Because I was a little kid, the drivers were all really sweet and protective of me, and as I grew up, they kept a friendly eye on me too. The MaxiTaxis were also awesome for weekend party hopping when we were in Junior High and High School, and saved us from getting into cars with kids who were drinking and driving. Times have changed, but I’m grateful to Dan Woog for being our cultural archivist and posting this bit of nostalgic whimsy for us to enjoy: thanks Dan!

  27. When we were sophomores at Staples, my friend Terry Brannigan and I made up a song about the Minny Bus and Maxi Bus, but alas it can’t be repeated on a PG-rated blog! (It was very sophomoric).

  28. Hi Dan just found this blog – researching the Twilight Zone. This episode was one of the greats for sure.