Greyhound Bus Museum
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 that the region's iron miners would make good mass transit customers. The miners 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.
In the late 1960s, 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 for 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. 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."
In less than ten years the museum outgrew its display space (Gene calls it "Ten pounds of sand in a five-pound bag"). A new facility -- one that allows the buses to be displayed indoors -- opened on the north edge of town in June 1999. It still managed to maintain its functional bus station ambiance.
Update: Gene retired at the end of 2012; the museum responded by cutting its hours in 2013. Although without its hardest worker, the museum has pledged to motor on.