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Once on the roads of Crete ...

by Erno » 21 Jan 2018, 12:36

Once on the roads of Crete ... - 21 January, 2018
Bus drivers and ticket collectors talk about the old days


Times ago, when crossing the mountains, leaving for the south of Crete, was a small adventure. Even the route to Heraklion.

And even for the visitor the hassle could have had its pleasant aspects, but for the permanent resident it was his everyday life. That is why the role of the bus drivers and ticket collectors of that time was more than great. Their work was more social, something that is clearly revealed in their narratives. People who have lived on buses over the past decades confess to what they have experienced.


"We were the link between the city and the villages"

"I took the wheel for the first time in 1971. My father had a bus and I just left from the army at the age of 21 and I started working", says Michalis Psathogiannakis, a longtime driver at KTEL Chania-Rethymnon [bus company]. The first route was also difficult. "My friend, the chief, Markos Kanitsakis, sent me in winter, in March to Therisso. Then the road was very bad, it was a cobbled street, very narrow. A difficult path for a new driver. Those days for the drivers the worst routes were those to Therisso, to Meskla, Selino, and Sfakia. In the early 1970s the streets were in a miserable state. Even to Heraklion you had to go on the old road, there was no current national road yet. Then you needed 2 hours for Rethymno and another 2.5 hours for Heraklion. For me, this was the liveliest route. I had a 32-seater bus, a Japanese, old vehicle. Many mechanical problems, you did never know if you would reach your destination. Of 10 trips you would definitely stay with a stuck clutch on one of them, with mechanical problems.

And of course, no reason for airconditioning and heating. What to compare with today. In summer, the place was boiling, in winter all frozen", remembers Mr Psathogiannakis. He also remembers the love of all the passengers and their good relations with the drivers. Despite the problems ... "I was going to Heraklion and at the height of Damastas one Sunday afternoon a man was drunk. He shouted, he was raving, he started to touch the women. Great disruption! I had to stop at a point, where the police were to take him out because it was impossible to go on. But people loved buses, there were no private cars, they needed us. People were more relaxed at that time. The best passengers were the ones in Lasithi because I also made many trips to these places", he says. In the remarkable period of the time that the drivers were considered a good match, and had their successes on the female sheets.

In 1977, said Mr. Psathogiannakis, the first 50-mile bus was released and then began an effort to upgrade the transport. And Mr Psathogiannakis stresses the social role of the bus and driver. "The bus drivers and ticket collectors were the people who connected the town with the villages. After 1977, the KTEL began to modernize.



In 1965 Mr. Prokopis Tomatakis was the collector, and he stayed for many years in the so-called KTEL buses that made the lines: Chania, Rodovani, Sougia, Koustogerako three days a week and three more days Chania, Rodovani, Temenia, Paleochora.

Particularly dear to the inhabitants of the province and not only, Prokopis was for many years perhaps more important than the rural doctor! "To get to Koustogerako from Chania it took 4 hours! Inside the bus we had galoshes, shovels, in stacks, because in various places stones and debris had fallen, or in winter the road had been closed by the snow. Countless times we stopped to remove soil, stones or snow. I remember once we went from Rodovani to Sougia that we had reached a point that had one and a half meters of mud. We took down the passengers and uprooted 3 trenches to put on the mud for the bus to pass!", remembers our former collector. In another incident when he went again, to Selino, while it was snowing, and the windshield wiper was cut. "It was snowing heavily. With 30 passengers inside what we could do, we would be stuck on the road. So I went out and sat down on the hood of the bus and with my hands cleaned the windshield until we made 6 km and reached Agia Ireni. When we got there, my hands were like wooden sticks, I had been out so often and I do not know how many kilograms of snow I wiped away! One hour they struggled to come back to life!"



Especially every time it was snowing the problems multiplied. "We were starting from Chania for Anastasia in Selino and they were telling us that we better not go because it was snowing. We said, the driver Giorgos Pradalakis, a very good old lad, and me that we wanted to do the fight. With 30 passengers, we passed Semprona and 1.5 km later the snow starts. We could not go neither back or forth! We wanted to leave the bus to get everyone to Semprona, but there was also a woman who had left the hospital and went to her house in Prine! She could not walk! So I took her on the back for 1.5 km to the village. But the woman did not feel good, she was in poor condition and was getting worse. So we called an ambulance that could not go above Prasse. With three other passengers we took her back on our backs and got her to Prasse where she took her ambulance and went back to the hospital", remembers our ticket collector.

In another incident, a woman got a stroke in the bus between N. Roumata and Prasse. "We had a wireless and I was looking for help. A doctor came to the KTEL office, and from there through my radio they gave me information about what we had to do to keep her alive until the ambulance came in. And this woman is still alive, as in the hospital they said that if we did not give her the first aid she would have died. And not only this! How many times have I not injected patients in Livada, Sougia? Near the Monastery at Lambousakis a man had tripped over at the end of the road and had broken his leg. From the knee to the pelvis! They stopped the bus if there was someone in to help. I go downstairs, I find three pieces of wood there of 50 cm each and I tied it to his leg with a rope. We put him on a bed and put this on a farmer's truck which brought him to Chania. How many times did we not carry on our backs people coming out of the hospital, enetering the bus to their village, and could not go home! I did not do these things on my own, but I always had drivers, Papafilipakis, Andreas Koutsoperiakis, Giorgos Pradalakis ... ".


At that time the buses did not only transport the inhabitants of the villages but sometimes also their ... live stock. "We had racks at the back for all of this. Even a live cow we had brought from Asphentille! Sometimes we stopped at the bakery at Skine from where we loaded 12 loafs of bread for Eastern Selino, and delivered them from Revnochori to Koustogerako. I also got a loaf and I sliced it and offered them to the passengers. Among them, in summer also tourists, few in the beginning, more afterwards! You should have seen their enthusiasm ...", recalls Mr. Prokopis.



When the tourism began more massively, the ticket collectors were among the first to come in contact with the visitors. How was the conversation? "With a few English, two words of French, and German, I managed it. When we were going to leave the station, I called "All tourists, come to Sougia, good drinks, good food". The tourists were laughing, applauding, creating a pleasant climate. Once a German tourist fell in the bus. I had a emergency kit with a blood pressure gauge. Therefore, I took her pressure and went to Sougia. There she stayed for 20 days, and every day we went there she waited for me to embrace me. And I do not know who this woman was, but she wrote this story in a big magazine in Germany with a photo of me on the bus! They saw it here and did not believe it!

Our work was primarily social but we also transported medicines and syringes. There was no day that we did not have a drug transfer. At Koustagerakos, I put them on a table in the square and shouted the names one by one and distributed them to people. And of course we often got bags and baskets that they sent to their children in the city who were pupils or students. From my pocket I paid the transfer and they for reward gave me milk.

Unfortunately, they are now going to eliminate the ticket collectors and this is unfortunate because the collector helps, he is needed to transport many things!"

The bus driver to the mountains of Kissamos

The bus was a family business also for Mr. Christos Maronikolakis, who continued his father's work. For many years after the war he made the route Kasteli Kissamos, Elos, Chrisoskalitissa. "I started as a collector on my father's bus and then as a driver. The asphalt then in the early 1950s stopped in ... Tavronitis. Just dirt roads! To go through the mountains of Kissamos, to get to Chrysoskalitissa, the road was ... a nightmare. Of course there was no traffic, no other cars you saw! No connection with today, as you know in Elafonisi what is going on all summer", says Christos.

At that time engine trouble was ... a daily phenomenon. "We might not have a bus for 2-3 days until the damage was restored. When the belt was cut that held the differential, what would you do? Then, after the war, we replaced all the engines, and the craftsmen used belts that were very resistant to cuts, so they would not stop again."

For the Nine Villages (Innohori) the bus was more than useful given the difficulty of access. "How many times did we wake up at night to bring a wounded man, a sick man to Chania because he needed it? And we had to go back to there next morning to do the job the next morning because we could not not do it. Those were the needs you could not ignore. Our work was more social than transport. To bring to Chania the baskets sent by the parents to the students, with the noodles, the eggs. Great poverty, if not the bus, they might not have had to eat. There were times when there was dissatisfaction because we were delayed on the trip, we did not arrive on time at the destination or at the stop. But what coulkd we do when the engine troubles were frequent and you had to stop every minute. We've got new tires, we got them on credit, and on the first route we hit a stone, and had to replace them again. But the majority of the people recognized our work. My father told me that "you must have a big stomach in this job. Take care of the people, do not throw anyone out when he is in the bus. If someone orders you to take them, take them as soon as you can, because it can cost their lives". I always adhere to these words", remembers Christos!

Chora Sfakion bus square, 1957


While the years passed, the KTEL bus company was initially unified and then split in two, and Mr. Maronikolakis was also engaged in other routes. "For me the most difficult route was to Heraklion on the old national road.

Rarely we did not get an accident, because the road was narrow, slippery too! I did not like this route at all, especially in the winter. The route to Nine Villages I knew by heart, I did it with my eyes closed. We took the tourists who wanted to go to Elafonisi and saw them shrink into each other and sweat every time we passed a dangerous turn and they saw the cliffs below. As soon as we arrived at Elafonisi, I remember that they were applauding and plucking their dictionaries and reading out loud: "Congratulations, you are a good driver!" The kids were afraid, what would they do?"

It's been years now that Mr. Christos is retired but there are many people who remember him as a driver. "I go to services, even on the street people tell me who meet me "welcome Mr. Christos. I'm the one who went with you to that village." So, if I had to do my life over again, I would again be a bus driver! So much I liked this job", he concludes.

From: http://www.haniotika-nea.gr/kapote-stou ... is-kritis/
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Re: Once on the roads of Crete ...

by Jean » 22 Jan 2018, 08:12

Wonderful stories, and what a great sense of service those drivers had!

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