Greyhound Bus Origin Center
To be blunt, not many people care about buses. Not even the man who built America's only bus museum cares about buses.
What's that? A bus MUSEUM? In middle-of-nowhere north-central Minnesota? Well, now, THAT's something worth caring about....
Hibbing is the birthplace of the American bus industry. It sprang from the business acumen of Carl Wickman and Andrew "Bus Andy" Anderson -- who opened the first bus line (with one bus) between the towns of Hibbing and Alice in 1914. They figured the region's iron miners would make good mass transit customers. Thy did, the bus line grew to become Greyhound, and Wickman and Anderson retired as millionaires.
Creating a museum to preserve their story was the dream of Gene Nicolelli, who has never been a Greyhound employee and who frankly admits, "I have no interest in buses at all." But he was intrigued by the "fortitude, foresight, and guts" of Wickman and Anderson. "It just fascinated the living daylights out of me," he tells us, his eyes shining.
About thirty years ago, Gene found a plaque on the wall of the abandoned Hibbing bus depot honoring the town as the birthplace of the bus industry. He was instantly fascinated and took it to the Hibbing library -- which showed such little interest that it promptly misplaced it. When it turned up again in 1973, Gene swore to take matters in his own hands. He was Hibbing's bicentennial coordinator, which gave him direct access to the governor. For the next three years -- and then for the next dozen years after that -- Gene bugged a succession of governors to get funding for a Greyhound museum. Finally, on the umpteenth appeal, as the two men sat in front of a fireplace, the governor said, "Oh. Now I see it."
The museum, which finally opened in 1989, occupies a small wedge of the Hibbing Municipal Building (it has since moved to a larger, building). On its vast, empty, weed-pocked parking lot (no parking problems here) stand a half-dozen buses, including the 1914 Hupmoble that started it all. Inside are display cases jammed with badges, uniforms, and more than enough miniature models.
The "U-B-the-Greyhound-driver" photo op is good, as is the giant size-28 Greyhound driver hat worn by Mickey Mouse at Disney World, the 1961 Golden Steering Wheel Award for safe driving, a stuffed doll that looks like Hibbing native Bob Dylan in a Greyhound driver suit (but is actually -- according to Gene, anyway -- a local driver named Bob Schultz), and a 1987 multi-image video, "Go Greyhound," which you view from actual bus seats in a narrow room painted to resemble the interior of a bus. It praises Greyhound as "a clean, sleek company."
Although less than a decade old, the museum has already outgrown its display space. Gene calls it "Ten pounds of sand in a five-pound bag." A new facility -- one that will allow the buses to be displayed indoors -- is under construction and will open down the road in the autumn of 1999. Gene pulls out a hefty roll of blueprints and floor plans and steers us to the model. But, to be blunt, we have to be on our way....