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'Faith in the future of Medford'

Transportation excitement comes in many sizes.

If you think 1,000 people showing up for a free preview at Medford's new airport terminal earlier this month wassomething, try 5,000 people crowding into a new bus station in March 1949.

Even on a Wednesday afternoon, who could resist the Eve Prentice Accordion Band or live appearances by Medford Mayor Diamond Flynn, the three county commissioners and every other local politician who had ever kissed a baby?

Master of ceremonies was Commander A.W. Scott, Hollywood radio personality and former British flyer, who for 13 yearshad hosted "Romance of the Highways," a Sunday morning radio program sponsored by Pacific Greyhound Lines.

The bus company had purchased the lot on the northeast corner of Fifth and Bartlett streets in 1946 from Gertrude Bowmer, second wife of Oregon Shakespeare Festival Founder Angus Bowmer. Her father, Harry Butler, had built the family home on the lot shortly after bringing basketball to the Rogue Valley in 1901.

Construction of the concrete terminal and nearby bus garage was delayed for nearly three years because of a national shortage of building equipment and supplies following World War II.

Greyhound hired local architect Robert Keeney, a longtime partner of noted Rogue Valley architect Frank Clark to design the facilities. In addition to the expected large waiting area, lounge and corner restaurant, Keeney also included an unusual second-floor dormitory where bus drivers could spend the night before heading out on their next highway run.

"This modern terminal is a tangible expression of our faith in the future of Medford," said Greyhound president F. W. Ackerman. "Your city occupies a strategic position as a division point for bus routes between California and Oregon."

After dedication speeches, the open house began. In a darkened corner, visitorswatched Greyhound's Technicolor travel movie, "The Shortest Way Home," after kicking the biggest tire they had ever seen.

The used tire, taken from a Greyhound bus operating in Oregon, was part of a contest in which more than 2,500 visitors estimated how many miles the tire had run. First prize, two roundtrip bus tickets to anywhere in Oregon, was won by Mrs. Ina Steinmetz of Medford, who was closest to the 71,652 actual miles.

Parents and their children lined up to tour a shiny new Greyhound fluted-aluminum Silversides Super-Coach, the very latest in luxury highway travel. Air-conditioned and able to seat 37 passengers in air-suspension comfort, the Silversides changed the bus industry for nearly 40 years.

Former bus driver Grady Morgan said it handled like a dream on the highway, but because it didn't have power steering, "it took two men and a boy to turn it on city streets "¦ and the slower you were going, the harder it was to turn the steering wheel."

The next morning the buses began to roll, and until last September only snow or heavy fog could keep them away.

Abandoned for a new Front Street bus stop, the old station was stripped of its identity. A tiny Greyhound logo, high on a rough concrete wall, is all the excitement that's left.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.

The Medford Greyhound Bus Station left one lone dog on a concrete wall when it closed late last year. - Bill Miller