I think it was New Years Eve in about 1983. We had been to Mandate in St Kilda. We left and went to the car to drive home. 'Where are the keys?, R asked. 'In the boot,' I replied. I can't recall how we got home and I expect I received a gobful of abuse, The next day, badly hungover, I caught what was the then 377 bus from our house in East Malvern to St Kilda with the spare car keys. The 377 bus covered most of a couple of tram routes on Sundays.The route is long ago history now, thank goodness. The tram routes were 3 and 77, hence 377.
It was a brand new bus, and to my knowledge, one of the first series, if not the first, air conditioned bus in regular service in Melbourne. The seats were horribly hard, almost without padding, but the bus was blissfully cool on a hot Melbourne New Year's day.
There were plenty of these buses still running when we moved to the Highrise. In about 1982 or 83 the government took over the Melbourne Brighton Bus Lines. Their vehicles had been very poorly maintained and many were unroadworthy. The government quickly bought new buses and nearly thirty years later, some can still be seen in service. As well as being airconditioned, they had automatic gear boxes. Oddly they only seemed to have two gears. One to start off with and one to run at higher speed in.
It is a long time since I have seen one pass the Highrise and I certainly haven't caught one of late. I can't say for sure that they have all gone from Melbourne Buslink, but they must nearly have reached the ends of their lives. The newer buses are quieter and have better padding on their seats, but their aircon just does not seem to cool as effectively as those very old buses. I remember them fondly.