Anyone who has worked in the bus industry will know that every town and city has its ‘characters’, ones whose name or description every driver in the canteen will recognise. National Express West Midlands (NXWM) did its part in helping celebrate the 90th birthday of a well-known local resident with a surprise “flypast” from a vintage bus at her lockdown birthday party.
Pauline Mason has lived at the terminus of the numbers 7 and 65 bus routes in Birmingham’s Perry Common for 65 years, and turned 90 over the May bank holiday weekend. Over the years, thousands of bus drivers must have waved to Pauline while waiting time on her street before turning round to do their return journey back into Birmingham city centre.
Her daughter, Jane Mason, had organised a proper celebration for her mum’s landmark birthday, but when the coronavirus pandemic hit, meaning she had to cancel most of the planned festivities. So to make the day special while keeping to the lockdown rules, Jane created a socially distanced celebration, with her mum sitting in the front garden so people could ‘visit’ while keeping their distance. She wrote to NXWM asking whether the drivers on the 7 and the 65 could give Pauline ‘an extra-special wave’ that day. “You are only 90 once!” she said.
Service Delivery Officer Tony Hunter heard about this request and remembered some photos of an old Birmingham Corporation bus at the terminus by Pauline’s house back in the 1960s. National Express West Midlands still has one of those 1954 double deckers, and as one of the few people qualified to drive the bus, Tony offered to take it to Pauline’s street for the birthday party.
Jane was over the moon: “I nearly cried when National Express called to say did we want the vintage bus to come to Mum’s party. I wanted so much to make her birthday special despite the lockdown, and this was even more than I’d hoped for.”
Pauline said she was delighted when the iconic navy and cream Birmingham bus turned up outside her house during her birthday party. National Express’ Tony was only supposed to drive it there and have it “pose” for some photos, but when Pauline asked if she could ride in the back for a little trip round the block, what could he say? You’re only 90 once!