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The Nelson Photo News



Local Identity Syd Croucher

He was only 23 and he wanted to be a transport operator. Not in a big way, just the owner-driver of a bus plying between Richmond and Nelson, He knew there were obstacles. Money, or the lack of it, was the foremost, and he would have to borrow heavily to buy this first bus. The competition by the five other operators already working this eight-mile route, was another. But he was young and had high hopes and faith in himself, if less than $2 in change,, when he left Richmond that first morning in 1927.

Today, 42 years later, Syd Croucher is thinking of retirement. He feels he's earned it, and the thriving bus company he controls (The Suburban Bus Co) is surely proof of the lifetime of hard work he has put into expanding his business.

Syd completed his education at Nelson College in 1911 and went into the family business in Richmond of J. M. Croucher and Sons, flour millers and bakers—not as a director or favoured son with nothing to do, but as a delivery boy and ordinary workman who was expected to start work at 2 a.m., and for $1 a week and keep. He stayed in the business for 10 years before deciding to branch out on his own. He bought his bus (the old Graham, below, in Trafalgar Street) and began his operations between Richmond and Nelson, Since, at this time, there were no such things as transport licensing laws, Syd found he had lots of competition from the other five operators on this route (Ted Burns, Dave Hughes, Bert Eden and Eddie Russell). And you charged what you wanted to. Very soon, as other operators began to leave or were bought out by Syd, he found he had a city and suburban bus company. "Once I used to start work at 2 a.m. Now I found I was getting home at 2 a.m." said Syd. Then, in 1932, when he was operating four buses, came the Transport Act, and this brought licensing, control of routes, fares, etc. As well the company was now competing against the railways. "My brother-in-law who used to work in the Customs Department once apologised for not travelling with me. He felt he should remain loyal to the railways because it used to wait for him if he was late," Syd said with a grin. Today the company runs 28 buses and at one stage had 33.

Syd has one proud boast. "We've carried millions of passengers and we've never once had an accident in which one of them has been involved. This is probably the greatest safety record of any bus company in New Zealand," he said.


Syd, on the bakery cart he drove before leaving the family business.