By: Fabian Cotter

FOLLOWING 66 YEARS’ involvement in the local bus industry in and around the Bellingen Valley, on the Mid-North Coast of NSW, Ken Joyce - the youngest of the Joyce Family - retires after 48 years of operating and driving buses, the last 15 years with Busways at Raleigh.

Jim Joyce, Ken Joyce, George Joyce

Typifying the heart and soul of many in the Australasian bus community, whether of the past or perhaps even in the future, Ken Joyce’s retirement brings the curtain down on a career that mirrors that of many in the industry.

Asked his views on the current state of the bus industry, nationally and locally, or what needs to improve or changed, Joyce answered: "The bus industry is fine. This is especially so when the company owner is a part of the local community. It is so lovely to be standing in the local pub and have an adult tap you on the shoulder and say fondly, "You took me to school," said Joyce. "It’s even nicer to then be told that you are taking their children to school," he added.

Moving from Gordonville, NSW, into a caravan at the back of the Orara Street Urunga bus depot, young Ken Joyce was introduced to an urban environment to travel by bus between Urunga and Bellingen to attend high school. Little did he know that one day he would retire after driving some of those buses for many, many years.

His venture into operating buses came about when his father, Terry Joyce, retired, which enabled him to join his brothers Jim and George in the operation of Joyces’ Bus Service.

Being a butcher it was an unlikely trade background to come from to take on mechanical repairs on buses, he says, but he evolved into an excellent bus operator, applying his ability to develop mechanical skills with responsible driving.

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During those years with his brothers, Joyce experienced the full gambit of bus operating, from repair work on Bedfords, Leyland double-deckers, Mercedes-Benz, Motor Coaches, Isuzus and Hinos, to conducting school excursions and fishing tours.

Deeply saddened by the loss in recent years of his lovely wife, Bernadette, he retained his demeanour, earning the respect of passengers - from "the naughtiest school child to mobility-challenged shoppers," his family says.

Joyce recently celebrated his retirement with close family and friends at a private backyard function arranged by his eldest daughter, Amanda, and son, Matthew, and respective families. His brothers, Jim and George, travelled from Queensland to wish him a long and happy retirement. His other daughter, Louise, lives in England, whom he’ll soon visit now he has some spare time. And he might do a bit of fishing, he says.

A highlight was, no doubt, the Cakes To A T-designed chocolate mud cake bus, modelled on pics sent of a Leyland Atlantean double-decker, which his grandkids would have especially enjoyed.

After all those years in buses, Ken Joyce’s life lessons are simple: "If your thermos falls over you’re driving too fast (if doctors hurry, they make mistakes)", "It costs a lot of money to be lucky", and "If the bus is dirty it is making money. There are good problems and there are bad problems. Triple booking a bus is a good problem," he said.

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