Museum Morsels: Former resident shares fond memories of the invaluable Della bus

Grand old girl: The Della bus in all her restored glory at the Coalfields Museum and Historical Centre. Photo: Supplied.

Grand old girl: The Della bus in all her restored glory at the Coalfields Museum and Historical Centre. Photo: Supplied.

Many older Collie residents have fond memories of Della's bus, recently restored by the Coalfields Museum and Historical Centre.

The bus used to take miners to work, school children to school, and pick up shoppers from the outskirts of town. It also took old-aged pensioners on picnics and mystery tours, so played a vital part in the life of Collie.

A letter sent to Kaye Mavric in 1997 by former resident Jack True detailed his family's memories of the bus.

"I was born in Collie 21.2.26. I have fond memories of Joe Della and his family and his buses. I went to school with his daughter, Mercy, a lovely girl with long black plaits in her hair. She thought I was a bit of a dill - she was probably right.

"When I left school in 1940, the pits were already working night shift, and the bus service was badly needed to serve the new mines being opened up (during the war) further out of town, because few miners had cars or petrol coupons to spare. Joe lived in Throssell Street next to the Golden Crust Bakery - later Tom Booth's - and grew vegetables in his front garden. He was a strict disciplinarian and few boys had the courage to walk Mercy home from school!

"Anyway Joe's bus was a Godsend to the miners who lived in the area, who used to gather in front of our home at 58 Coombe Street, leaving their bicycles at the side fence around 6.30am. Often, on a cold morning - so cold that the ice on the dogs' and chooks' water was 1/2 inch thick - and the frost on the lawn cracked under your feet - mum, (Annie True) who had been up since 6 o'clock - with the ABC news on the old wet-battery Breville wireless getting dad's breakfast, would offer the men a "cuppa" to help warm them up before the bus arrived. 'Leave your cups on the fence on the railing,' she'd say.

"The bus would pick up miners from as far afield as Ewington and then start the school run when all miners had been catered for, then repeat the process in reverse at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Mum was most grateful to Joe Della - and later his son, Frank, I think, took it over - for the local bus service. He would go out to Ewington and pick up mainly elderly shoppers like Mrs Shaw and Mrs Bignell - (this was during the 50s and 60s by the way) and pick up passengers on mum's corner returning them after they'd shopped and paid their bills, from in front of the old Co-op store as can remember (sic).

"Joe also ran "mystery tours" for the Old Age Pensioners' League Club, for which my mother was the "organiser-of-entertainment" and dad, treasurer after old Frank (?) Bentley or Joe Simpson (?) and Mrs Cunningham retired. Joe's Mystery Tours were very popular and well organised - Bunbury and Australind were popular spots, with picnic lunch and sightseeing. So many people depended upon and enjoyed Della's Bus Service - I'll bet you'll get some interesting stories from school kids etc if you publish a few articles like this in the Collie Mail.

"Joe had several buses at the height of his fame as I can recall. Later taken over by Henderson I think? It's a long time ago. Joe was always cheery and courteous to his elderly passengers, helping them on or off the bus and with the heavy bags of shopping. My mother thought he was "wonderful". Buses were always kept clean and in good working order, but I think there was a "prang" - or a major breakdown once.

"I left Collie in June '54 but kept in touch with my parents, visiting whenever possible. When mum got too frail to ride her old bicycle, she depended heavily on Joe's bus!

"Re O.A.P.L.C. Mrs Cunningham was the club secretary and was awarded a medal for her service to Collie, but it was my mother who organised the Della Bus Tours and had a lovely write-up in the Collie Mail after she died in September, 1976, about her involvement in the above.

"I think Joe also took footy club groups to Bunbury when they played Sunday League etc - and other towns no doubt. The C.W.A. may have records of using him when they competed in choir competitions in Perth in the 60s. I knew he was "the" charter bus. How he fitted in his miners, schools, town bus, mystery tours etc is a credit to his ability - Truly "a quiet achiever" - ever shy - never boastful!