RIDING THE BUS IN SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

As development swung into full gear in what would be the future Hoffman Estates, many of the new, young homeowners realized that a one-car existence in this remote area was going to be difficult.  If the husband took the car to work, the wife was left at home all day without transportation.  If the wife took the husband to the train station in Roselle, she would have to drop everything to take him there and pick him up.  And let’s not forget, it wasn’t the easiest ride.  Roselle Road, at the time, was a very narrow two-lane road with steep ditches on either side.

It became obvious to local businessman, Walter Fiene, that what the area needed was a commuter bus service to get the husbands to and from the Roselle train station.  Fortunately, he had the means to do it.

He was used to making the rounds in the Schaumburg Township area.  In 1941 he purchased some trucks and trailers and began a grain-hauling business.  He also purchased a couple of corn shellers.  The first one was portable and the second one such as the one pictured here, was mounted on a truck.  He then traveled from farm to farm shelling corn and hauling it either to the Cargill elevator on Torrance Avenue in Chicago or, usually, to Lockport for shipment down the Mississippi.

In 1947 he relocated his business from rural Palatine Township to Schaumburg Township.  The business was located on four acres at, what was later, 133 N. Roselle Road, where the Olde Schaumburg townhouse development is now.  He built a Quonset hut on the property around that same time that acted as his garage for repairing the trucks.

It was 1952 that proved to be a pivotal year for Mr. Fiene.  Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 approached him and asked if he would be interested in expanding his transporation business to include buses.  After consideration and some degree of hesitation, Mr. Fiene agreed and purchased two, used, yellow buses from Claude Bailey, an Oneida bus dealer in Pontiac, IL.   He set up the routes that would bring 75 children from all over the township to the two one-room schools still in existence in Schaumburg Township.  These were the District 51 school on Higgins Road and the District 54 school in the center of the township at Schaumburg and Roselle Roads.  Drivers were Mr. Fiene and Albert Straub.  Albert’s wife, Viola began driving on a part-time basis the same year and later moving to full-time in 1954.

A mere four years later, in 1956, Mr. Fiene saw more potential for growth as the area began to boom and those husbands needed an easier way to get into the city.  He also planned to provide morning and afternoon service to the ladies of the area who needed to do some shopping in the two towns.  So, with subsidized monies from F & S Construction Co., he sent a petition to the Illinois Commerce Commission requesting permission to operate a bus service between the Roselle and Palatine train stations, via Hoffman Estates.  Temporary permission was granted and soon Mr. Fiene was traveling the streets and picking up riders in Parcel A and B in Hoffman Estates.

Things did not go smoothly because the subsidy ran out and the demand was not as intense as expected.  All bus service was suspended after the school year on June 5, 1957.  “One thing he said he couldn’t understand was why the driving wives follow his bus to the railroad station, sit there until hubby arrives, and then follow his bus back to Hoffman Estates.”  (Daily Herald 5/23/1957)

Operations began again in September after school opened and a contract was signed with Palatine High School.  By 1961 the train and shopping service was still going, having added a route to Rolling Meadows.  In addition, a charter service was added.  It was around this time that he moved this portion of his business into the Northwest Transit Corp.

With the continued growth and development of the area however, the handwriting was on the wall for the grain portion of his business.  In 1965 Mr. Fiene sold the trucking business to O’Hare Grain of Bensenville and decided to devote his full attention to the bus business.

At the time he was running a fleet of 44 buses from his Roselle Road location.  Ken Freitag served as his chief mechanic, welder and shuttle route driver.  His sons Nowell and Delbert also served in a number of capacities over the years.  These three men were also fill-in drivers when necessary.

The commuter/shopping service continued to operate, albeit, at a loss.  They even tried a tentative route to Woodfield in 1971 after it was built.  This lasted for almost a year.  By the mid to late 1970s the commuter service had seen its better days and was shut down.  In 1978/79 they moved part of the business to Central Road in Roselle on the current day site of the Roselle Post Office.  The school bus service continued to operate and eventually expanded its fleet to 280 buses.  School districts served besides District 54 were Bloomingdale Elementary District 13, Keeneyville Elementary District 20, Itasca Elementary District 10, Roselle Elementary District 12, Medinah Elementary District 11 and Lake Park High School.

In a discussion with Mr. Fiene’s son, he spoke about how, when negotiating with the school districts, they would work towards getting a 3-year contract with a 2-year extension as part of the deal.  Liability was always a concern so insurance was another large part of their budget.  In an unpleasant surprise one year the premium went up  200% so they were forced to renegotiate the contracts.  Another concern was the price of fuel.  Any potential increases had to be built into the budget.  Getting caught short was not an option considering the buses were used not only for school district runs but also on weekends for charter service.

In 1989 Mr. Fiene’s health began to fail and he decided to sell his business to Laidlaw Transportation Co.  He passed away a year later in 1990, having served both the farming community and the suburban community of Schaumburg Township for over forty years.  Mr. Fiene’s son said in an August 24, 1990 article in the Daily Herald, “He was very dedicated to working.  I think his hobby was working on the buses.”

This blog posting was written with the help of articles from the Daily Herald, comments from our oral histories and a conversation with Mr. Fiene’s son. 

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
         

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2 Responses to “RIDING THE BUS IN SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP”

  1. LaVonne Presley Says:

    I have fond memories of the long bus ride to Palatine Township High School 1954-1958. Students were unhappy when the snow came and Walter Fiene’s buses always came and always got us to school and back. If the bus got stuck in a snow drift, a young man would be sent to the nearest farm house to call Walter. He would come with a big grain truck and log chain to pull the bus out of the drift and send us on our way to school. Thanks for the memory.

  2. Jim Johnston Says:

    I drove for the Fiene’s from 1969 through 1975 and the Fiene’s were great folks to work for. I was a part time driver during this period and drove many School routes and Charter Coaches for them that covered all of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. I had to give up the job because I worked for United Airlines and transferred to Denver Colorado. In 1980 I moved back to Schaumburg with United and went back part time with the Fiene’s from 1980 until 1985. I have met a lot of friend’s with Schaumburg Trans. & Laidlaw and I will never forget the times that Butch would grab a bus and take a bunch of drivers for a weekend trip to Wis.
    Jim Johnston

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