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Local pioneer motor coach company becomes one of largest bus companies in United States

PHOTO COURTESY OF BOWMAN MUSEUM
 - A Mt. Hood Stages bus waits in the snow at Brothers in 1936.

Myrl Hoover, a for-hire automobile operator and Bend fireman, decided to drive to Portland in June 1929. He stopped at a Redmond service station and found four persons who had missed the bus to The Dalles and faced a day's delay.

He put gas in his new Model A Ford coach and asked them if they wanted to take a chance and travel with him to Portland over the mountainous Barlow Road. At that time, most travel went to The Dalles as a highway had not yet been constructed over the mountains to Central Oregon.

The four agreed to go along with him rather than wait a day for the next bus. The group arrived in Portland an hour ahead of the bus, and they had left an hour later. They had traveled the rugged mountain route in a record seven hours.

Hoover decided that he should start a regular service over the route. He traded in his Model A for a 1926 seven-passenger Cadillac sedan and gave up his job with the Bend fire department. He began his business as the Bend-Portland stage. It was scheduled for alternate days, but it became so popular that he began daily runs. He teamed with his brother, Maurice, and managed to stay in business.

In 1930, they hired their first regular driver. There were other buses running, and their operation was rather small. They were able to compete because they took the more rough road over the mountain and had a quicker service. The Bend-Portland stage line was headquartered in Bend but did not have the finances to have a depot, so they departed from the Cozy Hotel.

In 1931, Hoover's firm merged with the Columbia Gorge Stage line, and the business was operated as Mount Hood Stages Inc. William Niskanen, an accountant for Brooks-Scanlon, kept the first set of books for the new company.

It was a struggle to keep the business operating in the first few years. Niskanen purchased stock in the struggling business. Hoover bought some buildings on Bond Street in Bend and converted part of the building to a depot and made it the company headquarters. Soon, Mount Hood Stages had 10 buses and employed 15 people. Its routes expanded to several cities in the Northwest.

World War II led to increased business. They bought new equipment and modernized the depot. The company next applied for and was granted a franchise to operate from the Interstate Commerce Commission.

In 1945, Mount Hood Stages became affiliated with National Trailways that had a system comprising numerous routes in the U.S. The company was named Pacific Trailways. By 1955, Pacific Trailways was one of the largest independently owned bus systems on the West Coast.

Niskanen bought out the Hoover's interest in the company in 1965. He expanded the stage line and competed with the massive Greyhound Line Inc.

Niskanen filed a suit against Greyhound, claiming unfair practices. After a lengthy court process, Niskanen was awarded $23 million in damages in 1980. In 1981, he sold the Pacific Trailways franchise.

Pacific Trailways continued to operate successfully for many years and was connected to one of the largest interstate bus lines in the United States.

Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.

Contract Publishing

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