McManus Road

On the bus

A Reo bus and its students in 1947

McManus Road is named for Hamilton McManus, who in 1947 established the first bus system to bring rural students into the city to attend secondary school. He also established the McManus subdivision in the early 1950s.

Born near Goderich in 1888, McManus was one of seven children, six of them boys. As the Canadian West beckoned with the promise of good land at reasonable prices, the McManus family answered that call in 1903 and settled near Weyburn, Sask. Hamilton was 15 at the time. Soon after the move, Hamilton McManus Sr. died, but the family persevered through difficult times.

In the south of the province there were severe drought conditions from 1917 to 1926. Then came the "dust bowl" conditions from 1929 to 1937, which gave rise to one of the most destructive prairie drought periods of the 20th century. After 33 years in the West, Hamilton and his brother Peter returned to Ontario and took up farming in Perth County. Turning his attention to the war effort, Hamilton moved to Stratford prior to 1940 and worked at the Stratford spar plant (Imperial Furniture), which was building parts for the Mosquito combat planes during the Second World War. After the war, in 1946, Hamilton McManus bid successfully for the mail contract for street letterbox collection in the city, and his family held that contract for 15 years. For the school-bus contract, McManus began with four REO buses which he operated from his house at 26 West Gore St. The REO Motor Car Co., based in Lansing, Mich., produced automobiles and trucks from 1905 to 1975. For a while, it also manufactured buses on its truck platform.

In 1950, McManus bought 150 acres in North Easthope Township, on the north edge of Stratford, along the east side of Mornington Street. He always preferred living in wide-open spaces, and the McManus family moved into an existing house on that property. Later, he built a garage for the buses. For a short period in 1951-52, he also operated the Stratford city bus system. That venture was not profitable, and the job was returned to the city.

The McManus subdivision was developed in 1952 on part of the the McManus acreage. Lots were sold on McManus Road and on the north side of Vivian Street (today known as Vivian Line). The subdivision was annexed by the city in 1969. Hamilton McManus was 70 when died in 1958. His wife, Ruby Laura (Shaw) was 63 when she died in 1964. But Stratford Coach Lines Ltd. (also known as McManus Coach Lines) continued as a thriving family business. With 36 school buses and 40 employees, the McManus company brought most of the rural secondary school students and all rural separate school students into the city. They also bused some Stratford students to school within the city.

In its fourth decade, the business was owned and operated by the four children of Hamilton and Ruby McManus: Vivian (Mrs. Barry Thompson), for whom Vivian Street is named; Milton, Allan and Barry McManus. Milton, the eldest son, was named for his father, but the name was shortened from Hamilton to Milton. His McManus grandfather and great-grandfather left County Tyrone in Ireland after the potato famine in 1847. McManus Road is one of several street names in Stratford whose origins can be traced back to that famine in Ireland.

There is a lot in a good name. When the company bought Stratford Coach Lines, people asked that the McManus name be put back on the buses, and it was. With notes from Stanford Dingman

A Reo bus may have looked like this.