Family’s business journey

Albert Graham and his bus the Enterprise. Pictures: CONTRIBUTED

By Lucy Waldron

In the struggles of World War II, the simple act of travelling, even within a small town, posed significant challenges.

With petrol, cars and car parts in short supply, navigating the roads and transporting the soldiers was no easy task.

Recognising the pressing need for reliable transportation, the Graham family embarked on a pioneering venture that would leave an indelible mark on the Southern Downs community.

In 1940, amidst the wartime hardships, the Grahams launched Stanthorpe’s first bus service. Armed with little more than ingenuity and determination, Albert and Kath Graham transformed an old utility truck by installing seats in the back.

Their service ferried country women into town and transported soldiers to the nearby Wallangarra army base, providing a lifeline for many in the community.

As demand for their service grew, so did the Graham’s enterprise. The humble bus route expanded into the Stanthorpe and District Bus Service, with additional buses joining the fleet to meet the needs of the community.

For Ian Graham, son of Albert and Kath, witnessing his parents’ dedication and the impact of their service on the community was nothing short of inspiring.

“Our house was always open,“ Ian reminisced, reflecting on the days when American soldiers would gather in their living room, awaiting transportation to Wallangarra.

In 1946, following the conclusion of the war, the Grahams sold their service, passing it through several hands before it eventually became part of Crisps Coaches, which continues to serve the Southern Downs region to this day.

Ian, deeply influenced by his parents’ legacy, followed in their footsteps. In 1983, he and his wife acquired a bus service comprising seven coaches, connecting destinations as far-reaching as Lightning Ridge and the Gold Coast back to Toowoomba, while also offering tour services.

However, changing times and increasing competition from airlines eventually led to the sale of their business approximately 25 years ago.

For Ian, the journey was not merely about business but a tribute to his parents’ pioneering spirit. He fondly remembers taking his father, Albert, on trips, marvelling at how much the buses had evolved since the early days of their service.

Beyond being a mode of transport, buses symbolise resilience, community spirit, and the enduring connections they forge among people.

The legacy of the Graham family’s bus service serves as a testament to the power of innovation and compassion in the face of adversity.