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Coach & Equipment Sales
Coach & Equipment Sales Corp., 1948-1980; Coach & Equipment Mfg. Corp.; Coach Bus Sales Inc., 1980-present; Penn Yan, New York
 
Associated Firms
Shepard Bros.
     

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries a  number of transportation-related industries sprung up on the shores of Keuka Lake, one of New York's eleven Finger Lakes. Aviator Glenn H. Curtiss created bicycles, motorcycles, airplanes and motorcars out of his small factory on the southern tip of the lake in Hammondsport. At the Lake's northern end, the city of Penn Yan was the home of a number of horse-drawn vehicle manufacturers, one of whom successfully made the transition to motive power and after several corporate evolutions remains in business some 140 years after the founding of its antecedent, Beebe, Whitfield & Co. That firm is the Coach & Equipment Manufacturing Corp., New York State's sole remaining manufacturers of Type A school buses and medium-duty airport shuttles and limousines.

The early history of Penn Yan's carriage building was covered by Yates County historian  Frank L. Swann in the April 19, 1956 edition of the Penn Yan Chronicle-Express which is excerpted below:

“Some of the large shops centered in Penn Yan was that of Timothy Brigden (and later son, Albert) who started in 1831 at the head of the street (Head street) and later built at the corner of what is now East Elm and Central Avenue. Here his extensive group of buildings extended nearly to Canal (now Seneca) street.

“His operations were extensive and successful until two major fires discouraged him and he left the business permanently. The first fire, like many in that day, incendiary, that of April 14, 1856, entirely destroyed his buildings. The so-called great fire of April 30, 1872, again burned all his plant. This time he did not rebuild.

“Parks Shops on Head Street

“Many of the older residents will remember the Parks Carriage establishment on Head street (now North Ave.). This was operated in 1855 or earlier. Marvin Parks had associated with him at various times. H.S. Easton, Allen T. Farwell, John D, Applegate and J.M. Williams. This concern at one time operated on both side of Head street.

“Evidently because of financial difficulties, in April 1876 the Head street plant was taken over by a group of men under the name of the Union Carriage Works. Included in the venture were Erastus B. Semple, George S. Hyatt, John J. Walsh and James G. Kellam. Each of these men was skilled in a particular phase of carriage building and theoretically at least was responsible for that branch of production. Their operations were moved to Jacob street in 1880 and the building they erected became the site of the Whitfield Carriage and Bus operations.

“Following the great fire of 1872, in May of that year, George Beebe and John Cornwell, operating as George Beebe and Co., purchased 100 feet frontage on the south side of Jacob street, a part of the former Brigden Carriage works lot, and there constructed a carriage factory.”

It was George Beebe (b.1836 – d. 1904), that first recognized the talent of William H. Whitfield, the man who several decades later founded the firm that made the transition to the manufacture of motor bodies, W.H. Whitfield & Son.

Beebe, born in 1836 in Albany County, New York, became a resident of Penn Yan at the ae of 24 when he started his carriage building career in the shop of Timothy Brigden. In March, 1857, at Mohawk, NY, Beebe married Ann Eliza Woolever (b. 1837 – d. 1874), by whom he had two sons, one of which was George Beebe, Jr. (b.1859-d.1947). Ann E. Beebe died in 1874 and in 1879 he married for a second time to Susan M. Nelson (b. 1843 – d. 1923) of Little Falls, NY, the union producing one offspring.

In 1862 George Beebe enlisted in Company B, 148th NY Volunteer Infantry, and served three years, after which he returned to the employ of Timothy Brigden at Penn Yan. William H. Whitfield, another Civil War veteran, had also taken a postion at the Brigden works at the end of hostilites and the two men became friends, and several years later, business partners.

William Henry Whitfield was born on January 13, 1843 in Elizabeth, Essex County, New Jersey to Charles H. and Margaret Whitfield. His father worked as a carriage trimmer in Newark's carriage industry and in 1855 relocated his family to Skaneateles, New York, where he took a position as head of the trimming department of George Packwood's carriage works. William followed in his father's footsteps, becoming an apprentice trimmer at the Packwood factory.

Like many of his fellow craftsmen, Whitfield served in the Civil War as a member of Company G, 149th New York Volunteer Infantry, enlisting on August 20, 1861 and serving as a private until he was wounded for which he received a medical discharge on January 30, 1863. While returning to Skaneateles he caught a view of Penn Yan from the railcar window, and resolved himself on settling there someday, a goal he achieved in 1866 when he took a position as a carriage trimmer in the works of Timothy Brigden.

On January 13, 1868 Whitfield married Mrs. Harriet Wheeler, the widow of Charles Wheeler, of Penn Yan, and a daughter of John and Huldah Underdunk, natives of Holland and Penn Yan respectively. To the blessed union were born two children, Charles H. (b. Nov. 1869) and Mary H. (aka Mamie, b.1874) Whitfield.

On April 30, 1872 a massive fire destroyed several blocks of businesses in downtown Penn Yan, including the carriage factory of Timothy Bridgen. In May of 1872 the charred property (100 feet of land fronting on the south side of Jacob street at East Elm Street) was purchased by John Cornwell of the Cornwell & Waddell planing mill. He subsequently erected a new carriage factory where the Brigden Carriage works had stood weeks earlier, in partnership with George Beebe, who started working under the style of George Beebe and Co.

In August of 1872 Beebe hired Whitfield to head his trimming department, making him a junior partner in the firm which was now doing business as Beebe, Whitfield & Co. - Whitfield handling the painting and trimming and Beebe in charge of woodworking and blacksmithing. The firm's most popular product was the 'Dandy Speeding Cart', abd itsshops were enlarged in 1873. In 1876 Whitfield became a full partner, the firm being renamed Beebe & Whitfield to reflect the change, but after several years Whitfield left the partnership, the October 1, 1883 issue of The Hub reporting on the firm's dissolution:

“Dissolution of Co-partnership - The firm of Beebe & Whitfield carriage builders of Penn Yan, N.Y. was dissolved by mutual consent on Sept. 11th. The business will be continued by George Beebe.”

For several months Whitfield served as manager of the C.C. Hayes carriage works. During that period the loosely organized Union Carriage Company withdrew from business, and in 1884 their building (located on Jacob street near Main) was purchased by Whitfield, McCormick and Hayes, a new firm founded by William H. Whitfield, Michael McCormick, and Charles C. Hayes. In May of 1888 Hayes withdrew from the firm and it was reorganized as Whitfield & McCormick, with Whitfield in charge of the office and business management, and McCormick manager of the works, which manufactured fine carriages, carts, cutters, etc., together with general repair work.

Several years later Whitfield purchased McCormick's share in the firm which in 1899 became a family institution when his son, Charles H., became associated with the firmin the style of W.H. Whitfield & Son. In 1902 the company incorporated under the name W.H. Whitfield & Sons, Inc. The firm's 'Peerless' grape wagons and marketing slogan ‘Whitfield Wagons Wear Well’ were long-time fixtures in and around the wineries that continue to fill the horizon south of Penn Yan on the east and west sides of Keuka Lake.

Until his death in 1904 Whitfield's original partner, George Beebe, continued in the old quarters on Jacob St., his efforts concentrated on the Beebe racing sulky. Beebe's obituary appeared in the June, 1904 issue of the Carriage Monthly:

“George Beebe

“George Beebe, Penn Yan, N.Y., died May 22d after an illness of two years. He was born February 24, 1836 at Albany, N.Y. He served throughout the Civil War being one of five brothers who went through that service. He was a prominent carriage builder, and was member of the firm of Beebe, Whitfield & Co. during the existence of that company. Mr. Beebe's family history runs far back into Colonial times, his ancestors being patriots and fighters in the Revolutionary War. He was a prominent citizen, filled various posts of honor, though not of profit, and was highly regarded as a man of high integrity and genuine honesty.”

Beebe's factory was subsequently torn down, becoming the home of Penn Yan's first automobile dealer, H. Allen Wagener.

Although he was a highly-regarded member of the carriage building trade, William H. Whitfield's real passion lay with sailing, a taste developed while haunting the docks of Skaneateles Lake with his younger brother after the family moved to Skaneateles in 1855. His favorite was The Julia, a tall-masted yacht owned by Nicholas Roosevelt, the great-grand-uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt. Whitfield fondly recalled the time when the Julia's skipper, Captain Freeman, let the eager lads sail her to her anchorage, making every possible tack to prolong their pleasure. In return, they were to make all secure, furling sails and placing covers, before rowing ashore.

More than carriages were built in Whitfield’s Penn Yan shop. In 1891 Whitfield built his own shallow-draw 41 foot yacht, 'Juno' which during each subsequent off-season was rebuilt and improved. Not only was the Juno the largest and fastest sail boat on Keuka Lake, it was also the best known and its designer, 'Skipper' Whitfield, was instrumental in establishing a permanent home for the Keuka Yacht Club, which was announced in a 1906 issue of The Motor Boat:

“Penn Yan, NY. — The first annual meeting of the Lake Keuka Yacht Club, which was organized last September, was held on May 8, at Penn Yan, when the following officers were elected: Commodore, W.H. Whitfield; vice-commodore, H.A. Wagener; captain, Joseph T. Cox; secretary, N. Winton Palmer; treasurer, E.D. Rose; directors, E.L. Horton, C.T. Birkett, Edson Potter, Henry Cornwell. The club has 184 members, and is planning to build a club house on the lake.

“Lake Keuka is the handsomest interior lake of Central New York, and has more summer residents and visitors than any other of this famous chain. There are about fifty motorboats and half as many sails already on the lake. A number of new, speedy boats are to be launched this season, and the yacht club will be able to offer some very interesting events. Among these will be a 25-footer with 4 feet beam. built by the Gas Engine and Power Co. and Chas. L. Seabury & Co., Consolidated, of New York City. which is reputed to be the fastest boat of its length ever launched by this firm. It has been christened Daisy, and is for Mr. Clay W. Holmes of The Elms on Keuka Lake. The Daisy will be heard from in the Keuka Yacht Club races.”

Over the years Whitfield's 'Juno' evolved from a deep vee, to shallow vee, and finally to a skimmer, which at the time was the ultimate in racing hull design. He also took great joy in sharing the beauty of sailing with eager young sailors, which included his four grandchildren. In 1973 one of the latter, William R. (Bob) Whitfield, recalled his memories of riding aboard the Juno for the Keuka Yacht Club historian:

“One school picnic found more than 40 people aboard, and let anyone give a friendly wave from shore, then we put in or called for a party to row out to the boat. They came by launch, buggy, and trolley on pleasant Sundays. So many came on the cars that the Keuka Park and Branchport trolley company elected Gramp to a directorship, entitling some of our family to ride on passes. Most every car stopped at our cottage, and Gramp kept an eye on the porch rail to see if a red blanket were hung out. This would mean sailing to our dock where there would be eager folks waiting for their turn. Sometimes a few would drop off, but usually there would be seats for all, up to 35 adults.

“How the Skipper enjoyed reassuring the timid ones. He would explain the safety of sailing, and had the skittish ones soothed until they would come back many times, as did quite a percentage of the more than 8,000 people carried.

“Starting from scratch, Juno could out-point and out-foot any of the racing shells, the Class A Scows. This was by virtue of her higher rig. The peak of the gaff was 50 feet above the water, and Juno’s jib alone (the one that cost $10.50 from the sailmaker) lacked only 80 square feet of the total area of the scows’ mainsail. The later Marconi rigged scows might have outpointed Juno, but there were only gaff rigged boats among her contemporaries.

“Juno measured 41 feet 8 inches overall, with an 8-foot bowsprit and a boom that extended 5 feet beyond the transom. With the coming of aerodynamics, it was determined that height of sails made for better speed, rather than fore and aft dimension. But the early experimenters had no wind tunnel to guide them, and anyway a tall mast was hard to stay until the radio towers came in with the upper parts stayed against the lower part of the mast, otherwise it would take even more beam than Juno’s 11 feet 6 inches to get the proper bearing of stays.

“Racing rules handicapped boats on a formula of length of boat on the waterline, and sail area. Thus the Juno was a half hour late in starting and the fleet would make nearly a lap before the nod came to start her. At that, many finishes were close, and Gramp won several cups which have long since dropped out of sight.

“There were never dull times aboard. Some of the regulars who sailed were wits and clowns. On a calm day Juno drifted to the sound of singing, and knot tying was interesting.

“In a west wind, Juno could keep ahead of the steamer Mary Bell and Harry Morse would lean from the pilot house and shout, 'There is an unlucky number aboard, skipper.' So Gramp would yell for someone to jump overboard, at which two of the crew who had dressed for it would drop over the side, while Skipper sailed on without a backward glance. There would be 'Oooh’s' and 'Aah’s' a-plenty from those on board the Mary Bell.

“My own specialty in entertainment was to toss a decoy duck overboard slyly, and while seeming to soak my feet from the stern deck, I would jog the weighted line. The bird looked rather lifelike astern, and Gramp would spin a yarn about how the duck always tried but could never quite catch up with us.

“Juno could spin on a dime with the long fore and aft sail arrangement. This led to some tricky sailing when Skipper gave my dad on the jib a high sign. We would bear down on a party in a rowboat, with everyone asked to ignore the people in it. Skipper would apparently look away from the rowers right in our path, and as their efforts grew frantic to get out of the way, Juno would gradually change course to intercept. At the last second, Dad would spill the jib, and our bow wave would wash the little boat. Such simple little tricks, but they provided all the merriment needed in those days.

“Gramp had great timing, so that when he had a favorite trick he could count on the regulars. Three cushions were tossed overboard and Juno tacked back and ran them down to leeward. Three men about ten feet apart took them up: the bow man let 2 go by, then the others took their cushion in turn. It never failed to please the folks aboard.

“Gramp wasn’t averse to showing off his grandkids. Brother Sid and I when ten or twelve would get orders to ‘Climee uppa da mast, lika da monk!’ At this we would each take a turn climbing on the mast hoops (long before sail tracks) as far as the jaws of the gaff. Gramp had spent many hours training us to like sailing, and overcoming fear of the water. So it is, after many years, life aboard the Juno is one of my fondest memories, and one that I relive often.”

William R. (Bob) Whitfield's father, Charles Henry Whitfield, was born on November 4, 1869 in Penn Yan, Town of Milo, Yates County, New York to William H. and Harriet (Underdunk Wheeler) Whitfield. After a public education, 14 yo Charles went to work in his father's carriage factory, becoming  a partner in the works upon his 30th birthday (W. H. Whitfield & Son, founded 1899).

On June 6, 1895, Charles married Florence Thomas, the daughter of William H. and Emily Thomas, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. To the blessed union were born four sons: William Robert (b. Apr. 7, 1897); Charles Sidney (b. Jul. 1, 1900); Jack Thurston (b. Oct. 18, 1903); and Philip Ashton (b. Nov. 27, 1911) Whitfield.

Incorporated in 1904, William H. and Charles H. Whitfield's carriage business commenced the construction of motor bodies in 1912. According to his grandson William R. (Bob) Whitfield, his grandfather was reluctant to enter the auto business, despite the encouragement of several contemporaries  - fellow carriage builder William C. Durant (Durant-Dort Carriage Co.), advised him to go into gas buggies long before the creation of General Motors and Elmira, New York  Oakland dealer John N. Willys warned Whitfield that the automobile was here to stay - several years before either industrialist had begun manufacturing their own motor-powered conveyances.

'Skipper' Whitfield passed away on March 13,1914, and soon after his son Charles H. brought his four sons - Robert, C. Sidney, Jack and Phillip Whitfield - into the business. The firm's listing in Walter Wolcott's 'Penn Yan, New York' (pub. 1915) being:

“W. H. Whitfield & Son

“W. H. Whitfield & Son at 135-137 Jacob Street are among the few remaining old time carriage makers, in fact, they are the only firm in Western New York that manufactures vehicles complete. They employ eight to ten men, making their hand-made-made! upon-honor buggies in the old fashioned way. As a majority of people have realized the cost of repairing a factory-made buggy after a year or two of wear so this firm enjoys a growing trade as people realize the advantage in buying the class of work made and sold by them. They are the makers of the famous ‘Whitfield's Peerless Grape Wagons.’ Fruit dealers justly claim the fruit arrives in market in better condition when drawn on one of these wagons. This firm does all kinds of repairing — wagon as well as automobile — repairing all parts of an auto but the engine; makes auto tops, curtains, storm curtains, fore doors, etc. They have mechanics who can repair a broken frame or spring. Their slogan is ‘Whitfield's Wagons Wear Well.’”

Whitfield & Son's early truck body business is not well-documented however it's known they shipped one batch of delivery truck bodies destined for South America, knocked down, in crates, so that they could be carried over the Andes Mountains on the backs of pack animals. The following item in the August 1922 issue of Bus Transportation lead one to believe the firm had been manufacturing bus bodies for at least several years:

“Stream Line Front on Small Bus

“New type of bus body seating fifteen passengers is the product of W.H. Whitfield & Son, Penn Yan, NY. The ‘Whitfield-speed’ coach shown on page 442 is mounted directly on the chassis frame. The hardwood floor runs crosswise and rests full length on the chassis frame. The floor is of spring-cradle construction. This floor construction lowers the body by the depth of the usual crossbars, the weight is decreased and step and door opening devices are eliminated. The only step necessary is provided by the running board of the chassis.

“The distinctive feature of the body is the V-shaped front, which is said greatly to reduce wind resistance. The peculiar shaped front also protects the driver against reflection. A pair of Smith windshields make for better vision. The body is 70 in. wide, it has a 68 in. headroom and the length over all is 13 ft. 6 in. The weight is 1,400 lb. The interior is finished in gray enamel with a lighter gray on the inside of the roof. All fittings are nickel plated. The sash are set in rubber and raise 9 in. in felt-lined steel channels; this is said to make a rattle-proof and weather-tight body.

“The fifteen passengers are carried in two pairs of cross-seats, these holding two and one persons each, on the left and right sides of the body respectively; two longitudinal seats each carrying two passengers, are mounted over the wheel housings; at the rear is a full width cross-seat for five passengers. The seats are 6 in. deep and are upholstered in gray Fabrikoid over double coil springs.

“The body is supplied complete with advertising card racks, electric lights mounted on pillars, emergency door at the rear end, red and green running lights at the front above the driver, battery compartment under driver's seat, tool box on right hand running board, and carrier for spare tire. A Perfection heater can be installed for winter service.”

Originally located on East Elm Street, the firm erected a new modern 50 by 200 foot factory at 29-35 Champlain Ave. in 1924. Whitfield & Sons, Inc., celebrated its grand opening on August 5, 1924. Its first slate of directors included C.H. Whitfield, W.R. Whitfield, C.S. Whitfield, Dr. E.C. Foster, C.R. Andrews, C.M. Bigelow and O.E. Ketcham. Officers selected were C.H. Whitfield, president; W.R. Whitifeld, vice president, and O.E. Ketcham, secretary-treasurer.

Charles H. Whitfield's four sons: William Robert (b. April 7, 1897); Charles Sidney (b. July 1, 1900); Jack Thurston (b. October 18, 1903) and Philip Ashton (b. November 27, 1911) Whitfield - all graduates of Penn Yan Academy - were all associated with Whitfield & Sons, Inc.

The quality of the firm's coachwork is evident from a series of photographs taken of the Flordellen, a luxury touring coach constructed in 1927 for Elmira, New York's Leonard C. Whittier. Built on a Brockway chassis, the coach featured the handiwork of master woodcarver Charles L. Hall, who later found fame as a Master Carver at Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft Studios in East Aurora, New York. The Flordellen was featured in a Chris Burlace-penned article in Motorhome Monthly's (UK) 'Pioneers Of The MotorHome World' series:

“A mid-twenties Land Yacht was the 1927, all electric, self-contained motorhome built by Whitfield & Sons, Inc.

“In 1927 Leonard S. Whittier, of Elmira, New York, had a custom built recreation vehicle, long before it became part of the American way of life. The traveling home was christened "Flordellen" using the name of his wife, Florence, son David Lane and his own. Although none of the pictures obtained thus far show any the carved interior it is believed that Charles S. Hall did the interior woodwork in this vehicle. The data collected does indicate carved panels on the desk and other "fancy" woodwork. Further investigation will be necessary to conclude that, in fact, Charles Hall did the carving in this vehicle. Till that time I offer you the information that I do have in hopes that someone knows the location (if it still exists) of this deluxe land yacht.

“Leonard S. Whittier was born in Chicago, June 16, 1883, the son of David Lane and Mary Wishard Whittier. David Lane Whittier established the Eclipse Bicycle Co. at Indianapolis. He transferred that business to Elmira Heights by invitation of the Elmira Industrial Association in 1895. Upon graduation from Mercersburg Academy, Leonard joined the Eclipse Machine Co. He rose to secretary and treasurer and was secretary when he retired in June 1924. He was one of four principal owners of the Eclipse Machine Company which manufactured the Bendix starter drive and other mechanical devices for automobiles, motorcycles and bicycles. He purchased this motor home, built to his specifications, for many trips to New York City, to Churchill Downs, Kentucky, to Florida for the winter and other places and cities. This motor home, or land yacht, was built by Whitfield & Sons, Inc., a maker of bus bodies in Penn Yan, NY. Of 'parlor car' construction, it was equipped with the finest conveniences including carved wood work and even its own engraved stationery.

“The car was 31 feet long, 9 feet 2 inches high and 7 feet 6 inches wide, practical for state roads and over head bridges of the time. Built on a Brockway model "H" bus chassis with a 200-inch wheelbase and a frame extension to take the long body, measuring over 30 feet from front bumper to observation platform. It had an automatic Kohler Electric Plant, a Model D, of 1,500-2,000 watt capacity which furnished light and power for all the appliances found in a modern home of the nineteen thirties. It had electric heaters, a Frigidaire electric refrigerator (the only electric refrigerator made at the time), and an electric stove and oven. Air pressure operated the water fed bathroom and kitchenette fans and forced draft through aerating ventilators on the roof over the kitchen and toilet. A six volt lighting and ventilating system was installed for convenience as an auxiliary to the 100 volt circuit.

“The master quarters had accommodations for two with a Pullman style bed, wicker chairs, wardrobe, bookcases, built-in radio system, spinet desk with hand-carved panel and ample storage space in the lockers and cupboard. The interior trim was in gray-green leather with crepe-mohair drapes of orange, green and brown stripes. The woodwork was done in mahogany.

“The Frigidaire refrigerator and the sink were on one side of the kitchen, with the electric stove and water heater opposite. On the right side of the vehicle was a complete bathroom, finished in cream-colored tile with green trim. There was a shower bath, complete with a curtain and rubber tiled floor, and a chemical toilet with a large septic tank beneath the floor. Bronze pendant light fixtures with a shaving mirror and medicine chest hung over the white porcelain lavatory bowl.

“The driver's compartments contained accommodations for two people. Lounging chairs, a modified form of Morris chairs, used during the day became single beds at night. Bronze screens at the windows and ventilator openings added to comfort on the road. Protex wire glass was used on all windows. Marine instruments for weather forecast, ships clock, chart board, cigarette lighters and mirrors were included and added to the 'land yacht' aspect of the vehicle.

“The traveling home was designed to afford the utmost comfort. The chauffeur's luggage, tent and bedding were carried on the roof, nestled in the canoe which was inverted. The outside body was paneled in aluminum, finished in green and cream with mouldings in light tan. A chime whistle added to the trim of the vehicle. There was an observation platform, at the rear of the vehicle, with four metal chairs, and trimmed with awning strips. This was reached through the back door of the owner's salon, and lends a finishing touch to the body. Aboard the elegant cruiser are, from left to right, Dick Hall, Leah Hall, Leonard Whittier, and Florence Whittier.”

Although Whitfield specialized in school buses, some transit coaches were constructed including a fleet of buses to the City of Fredonia Transit Corporation in 1928 and a fleet of interstate coaches mounted on Mack chassis that were delivered to the Buffalo and Erie Coach Corp. in January of 1933.

The 1930 Penn Yan directory lists the firm as follows:

“Whitfield & Sons Inc., Automobile Body Builders. 29-31 Champlin Av., pres.-gen. mgr., Charles H. Whitfield; v-pres., W. Robert Whitfield; sec.-treas., C. Sidney Whitfield.”

Unfortunately a devastating fire struck the Whitfield plant on December 26, 1932, destroyed most of the plant's machinery, stock and inventory.

With a significant number of orders remaining on the books, Whitfield leased a portion of the old Penn Yan Boat Co. plant at the Liberty street bridge in an attempt to keep the firm operational. Unfortunately, they were unable to recover from the loss of the fire and on June 7, 1933 were forced to file for bankruptcy protection. The receiver arranged for a skeleton crew of former employees to use the stock on hand to complete what orders remained (10 bakery truck bodies for the Cobaco bakery and several Brockway buses), and at the last minute Willett W. Wetmore, the president of the Lincoln Niagara Corp., a cast iron radiator and boiler manufacturer located in North Tonawanda, NY, made an offer for the business. The Federal bankruptcy judge approved the terms of the sale and in early August 1933 Wetmore called back a dozen key former employees (including Charles H. Whitfield, salesman; Sidney Whitfield, engineer and W. Robert Whitfield, pur. agt.) and commenced the construction of school buses under the Penn Yan Bus Bodies Inc. moniker.

Under Wetmore, Penn Yan Bus Bodies concentrated on motor coach bodies for regional school bus operators and municipalities, although custom work was accepted to help break up the monontany. One of the project was the conversion of a 1930 Packard Model 740 7-Passenger Touring Phaeton into a fire truck. Seen to the right, the rare piece of apparatus saw service at Packard's proving grounds at Utica, Michigan for many years. At the end of the Second World War it was acquired by the Romulus, Michigan Volunteer Fire Department after which it passed through several colectors' hands until being being acquired and restored by the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum, where it resides today.

At its height, the plant's 80 employees constructed a reported 80% of the school buses sold in upstate New York. A 1939 Penn Yan bus brochure lists Champion, Metro, Challenger and Scout models.

A listing of Penn Yan Bus Bodies’ staff was included in the 1941 Penn Yan directory:

Penn Yan Buses, 112 Liberty Street
Willett Wetmore, prop,
James H. Alkenburg, upholst.
Leslie O. Baldwin, elec. fore.
Louis J. Batz, mechanic
Kenneth Berg, woodwork
Frank J. Bilograck, hammer oper.
Rollo B. Bishop, paint fore.
Elizabeth J. Boyd, stenographer
Frank C. Brown, upholst. fore.
Howard K. Brown, steel work
Carlton Christensen, painter
Arthur C. Clark, steel work
Lincoln R. Clement, upholst.
John Clifford, welder
Joseph W. Collier, plant mgr.
Walter M. Conklin, upholst.
Earle W. Conley, steel fore.
Frank W. Conley, steel work
Kenneth J. Corey, mechanic
Grover C. Crone, wood work
William S. Disbrow, blacksmith
Glen E. Francisco, electrician
Ford C. Hammond, wood work
Stanley G. Hansen, wood work
Wilfred C. Harley, mechanic
Glen R. Horton, assembler
Ronald L. James, Painter
F. Roger Johnson, electrician
Henry Johnstone, watchman
Charles J. Kelly, assembler
Edsall L. Kennedy, janitor
Aaron I. Knapp, janitor
Carl Kreutziger, sales mgr.
Alfred N. Lacy, mechanic
Kenneth J. Austerman, lettering by contract
Michael A. LaRocco, upholst.
Sidney McDermott, steel work
Albert S. McDonald, wood work
Leo J. McLaughlin, steel worker
Otto C. Miller, foreman
Jay M. Moon, painter
Richard J. Morgan, salesman
Jack W. Morrow, stock clerk
Vernon E. Morse, assembler
Harry J. Olds, wood work
James H. Perkins, wood work
Howard T. Petersen, steel work
Marius N. Petersen, steel work
Gerald E. Potter, welder
Webster P. Randall, hammer help
Charles J. Ribble, wood work
Dennie M. Scofield, watchman
Cornelius B. Snedeker, accountant
Eugene E. Snyder, steel work
George M. Spencer, steel work
Walter W. Sutherland, wood work
Howard H. Sutton, wood work
Ernest L. Thomas, painter
George T. Wagstaff, mechanic
William M. Walrath, wood work
Elwood N. Whitbeck, assembler
Royal D. Whitbeck, serv. mgr.
Charles C.H. Whitfield, salesman
Sidney Whitfield, engineer
W. Robert Whitfield, pur. agt.
Carl Wilcox, wood work
Harvey E. Wilcox, wood work
Paul Yeager, upholst.
John H. Zimmerman, painter

In 1941, the Penn Yan Bus Bodies Inc. building was seriously damaged in a fire that also damaged equipment and inventory, but the loss was covered by insurance and the plant was soon up and running. World War II intervened and the firm commenced the manufacture of cargo bodies for 2 1/2-ton 6 x 6 trucks, the September 28, 1944 edition of the Chronicle Express mentioning that:

“The Penn Yan Bus Bodies plant for some time has been at work on cargo bodies for the Army's large transport trucks to be used in Foreign Service.”

Penn Yan Bus Bodies' staff of 150 constructed approximately 13,000 military trucks bodies during the war. In 1946 Willett Wetmore' successor, Edwin C. Andrews, another Buffalo businessman, began looking for a buyer as the firm was unprepared to  successfully compete against the 'big six' school bus builders (Carpenter, Wayne Works, Blue Bird, Hicks, Thomas and Ward) at the end of the War without  a massive recapitilzation. On Sept. 26, 1945 Penn Yan Bus Bodies' assets were purchased by Mercury Aircraft, Inc. and removed to Hammondsport, its hometown.

Penn Yan Bus Bodies officials at the time of the sale were Edwin C. Andrews of Buffalo, president; Carl Kreutziger, assistant to president; Clarence Andrews, vice president and treasurer; Joseph W. Collier, plant manager and vice-president; C.B. Snedeker, in charge of personnel and assistant treasurer and secretary; its directors being Edwin C. Andrews, Clarence R. Andrews, and Richard J. Morgan.

Mercury Aircraft dates from 1921, when five local Hammondsport men purchased a wood barrel factory just south of the present D.W. Putnam Wine Company, and named it the Aerial Service Corporation. Two of these man, Henry Kleckler, the President and William Chadeayne, Vice President, were formerly with the Curtiss Company, founded by Glenn Hammond Curtiss - a pioneer of aviation. The new enterprise started in a building of approximately 8,000 square feet of floor space. The purpose of this Corporation was to sell surplus World War I JN-4 (Jenny) airplane parts to the early pilots who were barn-storming the country at the that time. Soon the parts were used up and it became necessary to turn to other fields. Early radios, two dirigibles and one complete airplane had been built by 1924, when a night airmail airplane contract from the Post Office Department was received. It immediately became necessary to expand the engineering and production departments and it was at this time that Joseph F. Meade, Sr. and Harvey Mummert joined the Company.

Soon after the Post Office Department contract was completed, a number of wood type aircraft were produced bearing the trademark "Mercury". Among other projects worked on were the outfitting of the Chamberlin, New York to Berlin Flight and Byrd's Arctic Expedition and, in 1928, the first single wing all metal "Mercury Chic", a two place training airplane came off the assembly line. About this time, the original five owners sold the company to a Chicago organization headed by J.W. Wentworth and R.W. Schroder. It is of interest to note that Mr. Schroder, an early pilot, at one time held the world's altitude record of 32,000 feet.

Early in 1929, the name was changed from Aerial Service Corporation to Mercury Aircraft, Inc. The adverse business conditions of the early 1930's resulted in the sale of the Company by Wentworth and Schroder to J.F. Meade Sr. and H.C. Mummert in 1931.

From 1931 to 1937, Mercury worked on development contracts for the U.S. Air Force. Typical projects included wind tunnel models, airport equipment, dirigible gondolas, sub-cloud cars, racing planes, maps, bombing trainers, oil separators and wheel skis.

1938 saw the beginning of the P-40 tail assembly and gasoline tank production prompting the purchase of the Grape Street (Plant No. 2). During the War a new Plant No. 1 was built around and over the old factory and, when completed, the old buildings were torn out without loss of a single day's production of the much needed aircraft assemblies.

Complete tail assemblies, fuel and oil tanks for the P-40 Fighter, A-25 and SB2C Dive Bombers, wing spars, wing tanks and pedal assemblies for C-46 Cargo Aircraft were produced by Mercury from 1940 to 1945. At the end of the War a complete transition from manufacturing aircraft to a more varied line of products commenced, which prompted the acquisition of Penn Yan Bus Bodies for which a new facility was consturcted in Hammondsport to house the new bus-building division. Between 1946 and 1948 approximately 250 -300 school buses were constructed utilizing techniques borrowed from the aircraft industry. Mercury school buses featured aluminum frames and skins incorporating chassis supplied by Brockway, Mack, Dodge, Ford, and International. A detailed Ľ scale model of a Mercury Bus resides in the Glen Curtiss museum in Hammondsport.

In 1948, Mercury decided to sell the Penn Yan Buses Division. Carl Kreutziger (b. January 1, 1904 – d. July 18, 2000), who had been the sales manager of Mercury Buses, bought the division in 1948 to full fill Mercury's contract for 100 unfinished school buses. From this purchase he formed Coach and Equipment Sales which was subsequently relocated to 39 Champlin Ave., Penn Yan, New York.

Alfred Carl Kreutziger was born on January 24, 1904 in Greenwood, St Clair County, Michigan to two Canadian born immigrants of German descent, Simon Haeberle (aka Zimmie) and Dorothy Elizabeth (aka Lizzie; surname Jacobs) Kreutziger. His father was a carpenter and Mennonite minister. Carl’s siblings included: Irma E. (b. 1903); Phoebe A. (b. 1908); Orville R. (b. 1910); Irma Lucille (b. 1914); Francis M. (b. 1914); Beulah V. (b. 1905); Dorothy Anita (b.1920); and Ervin Lamond (b.1922) Kreutziger.

He attended the public schools of Port Huron, St Clair County, Michigan when his father accepted a temporary position with a congregation in Pontiac, Michigan in 1920, Carl became a trimmer’s apprentice at the Oakland Automobile plant, a position confirmed by his listing in the 1922 Pontiac directory. He subsequently worked for the Anderson Electric Car Co., manufacturers of the Detroit Electric, attending night courses in engineering at Detroit’s City College.

In 1926 he took a position with Locke & Company at its new body plant in Rochester, NY which specialized in building open bodies - cabriolets, phaeton’s, dual-cowl phaetons, convertible sedans, convertible Victorias, roadsters and sport tourings for Chrysler, Duesenberg, Franklin, Graham, Lincoln, Marmon, Packard, Pierce-Arrow, Ruxton and Stutz.

While working at Locke, Kreutziger became enamored with a college student named Dora L. Duncan (b. Mar. 31, 1906-d. Jan 8, 1997) a daughter of George H. and Fannie F. Duncan of Newfane, NY. On March 15, 1927 they married, and to the blessed union were born three children: Richard Lloyd (b. Sep. 24, 1929-d. Jul. 1, 1997) Kreutziger. The 1930 US Census lists the Kreutzigers as residents of the Birds & Worms, an old resort hotel located on Irondequoit Bay, in a northern suburb of Rochester, Carl’s occupation as ‘trimmer’ in an ‘automobile’ factory.

When the flow of new factory body orders evaporated in 1932, Locke’s owner, Manhattan attorney Charles M. Fleischmann, closed down the Rochester plant and Kreutziger moved to Penn Yan, taking a position with W.H. Whitfield & Sons, Inc., as head of its trimming department.

Coming to Penn Yan in 1932 he had charge of the trim shop for the first year. When the concern became financially involved he was one of the group of about a dozen former workmen that contracted with the Cobaco bakery to finish 10 special bakery truck bodies that were on order and to build several buses for the Brockway Motor Truck corporation. The group voluntarily cancelled their arrangement when Mr. Wetmore made this offer for the business. When operations were resumed under the name Penn Yan Buses, Inc. Mr. Kreutziger became plant superintendent.

When the business was sold to Mercury he continued with that concern in charge of sales. When Mercury Aircraft abandoned this part of their business in 1947, with unfilled orders for 100 buses, Mr. Kreutziger organized the Coach and Equipment Sales Corporation, a service and sales organization

The Champlin Ave. plant, scene of the new activities, was repaired in the meantime and after serving as an adjunct to the Liberty Street plant and for two years as a radio cabinet plant operated by Walkerbilt Cabinets, Inc., since 1919 has been used by Coach and Equipment Sales corporation for repairing old buses and servicing new.

The 1951 Penn Yan directory lists:

Coach & Equipment Sales Inc., A. Carl Kreutziger, president and treasurer; Dora L. Kreutziger, vice president; Blanche N. Yonge, secretary. School Bus Sales and Service, 2 Main St.; Factory, 39 Champlin.

(Also listed is Richard L. Kreutziger. On October 11, 1952 Richard married Patricia - aka Patsy - Howard Snyder, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Benson Howard, in Penn Yann, NY. After attending the Tennessee Military Institute, Richard enrolled at Geneseo Jr. College, and upon graduation enlisted in the US Air Force. He attained the rank of Sergeant, and after his December, 1953 discharge, went to work for his father.)

Coach & Equipment also distributed funeral coaches and ambulances made by third party builders, the delivery of  a new Barnette coach was detailed in the January 1, 1954 edition of the Chronicle Express:

Caption – “When Seconds Count this equipment acquired by Glenn Oughterson of Dundee from the Coach and Equipment Sales Corporation of Penn Yan can make the difference between life and death. Richard Kreutziger, junior partner in the Penn Yan automotive custom body work firm, left, and Mr. Oughterson, funeral director of Dundee, are examining the first aid equipment and inhalator that are an integral part of the 19-foot long Chevrolet ‘Barnette’ ambulance built by Henney-Packard of Freeport, Ill., and completely reconditioned and painted by the Penn Yan firm in accordance with requirements suggested by the new owner.

“Penn Yan Coach Firm Furnishes New Ambulance for Dundee Undertaker

“One of the oldest undertaking establishments In the urea, Sargent and Oughterson of Dundee, a firm that under various managements has been in business for nearly 100 years, now has added to its service one of the most modern and' fully appointed ambulances available today. The oversize car that accommodates two cots was purchased through the Coach and Sales Corporation of Penn Yan, who also installed the Scott Demand Inhalator, medicine chests, und first aid equipment, including thermos containers of hot and cold water.

“Save Your Breath

“The Inhalator is so designed that the patient can safely get all the oxygen he needs without danger of gelling too much. It is used to relieve shock, aid victims of swimming and auto accidents, reduce pain and aid victims of heart ailments and relieve effects of smoke or poisonous fumes, The ambulance was painted a light green by the Penn Yan firm with the Sargent and Oughterson name in gold leaf, the ambulance lettering in reflecting red. It is equipped with warning lights and siren and an extra heavy duty generator to enable all lights to work at one time. The generator alone is so powerful it would be possible to weld by it.

“A 100-Year Old Firm

“Glenn Oughterson, a native of Dundee, became associated with Cecil Sargent 17 years ago in the business that now bears their names. Mr. Oughterson became a partner in 1948 and has been owner of the business since Mr. Sargent's death in 1952. The Oughtersons have two sons, Jack, 12, and Clark, 8, in Dundee schools, and a daughter, Linda, 3 years old. Glenn Oughterson's father, Ellis Oughterson, is a resident of Penn Yan.

“The Penn Yan Coach and Sales corporation was established in 1948 by Carl Kreutziger, who had been with Penn Yan Bus Bodies from 1929 to 1944. Both Mr. Kreutziger and Fred Hurley, a mechanic with the corporation, have been In the coach building and repair business for 35 years. The plant is located on Champlin Avenue at the former location of the Penn Yan body business and is completely equipped to do any kind of automotive custom body building, repair and painting work.

“Richard Kreutziger entered the business in 1951 after three years of service In the US Air force. In addition to father and son and Mr. Harley, there are Ernest Thomas, also at the plant, and three salesmen, Harold Janville of Penfield, Walter Gibler of Wellsville and William Tuttle of Hammondsport, who cover New York State as representatives of the Penn Yan firm.

“The corporation maintains its office in the Knapp hotel, with Mrs. Blanche Yonge in charge. Coach and Sales Corporation also is a distributor for Monobullt school coaches and Oneida Safely school bodies. The firm serviced and supplied the body for the new school bus purchased by the Penn Yan Central school district from Martin Tones of Penn Yan.”

In 1956 Coach and Equipment partnered with Blue Bird buses, establishing a satellite assembly plant in Penn Yan, the April 18, 1956 edition of the Syracuse Herald-Journal reporting:

“Penn Yan Has New School Bus Firm

“Penn Yan — This week a new industry opened in Penn Yan, the manufacture of school buses. The announcement was made today jointly by A. Carl Kreutziger, president of the Coach and Equipment Sales Corporation of Penn Yan, and A.L. Luce, president of the Blue Bird Body Company of Fort Valley, Ga., who are combining their efforts in the new project. The decision to manufacture buses at Penn Yan was prompted by the increasing sales and wide acceptance of the Blue Bird buses for pupil transportation in New York State and the northeast.

“Coach and Equipment Sales Corporation of Penn Yan has been one of the leading distributors of school buses in New York State for many years and has a large and well equipped service department together with a plant of sufficient size to carry on the manufacturing business. The plant is on Champlin Ave., and has a floor space of some 12,000 square feet. It has been used exclusively as a service shop until this time. When the construction line gets In full swing, Kreutziger and Luce expect to employ between 50 and 75 men.

“About 15 years ago this same building was occupied by Penn Yan Bodies, builder of school bus bodies. Kreutziger acquired the plant in 1948 when he moved his sales and service headquarters to Penn Yan.

“Currently the Blue Bird school buses are being sold through Kreutziger’s organization to schools in 10 states.

“‘Manufacturing these buses at Penn Yan will insure both prompt delivery of buses to the area we serve and speedier service on repairs and replacements,’ Kreutziger said. The name Penn Yan has long been associated with the production of school buses. Penn Yan Bodies begun that business in 1921. Many workers skilled in bus body production live in the Penn Yan area, another reason for opening the bus plant here.”

The next day's (April 19, 1956) edition of the Chronicle-Express (Penn Yan) announced the good news to the city's inhabitants:

“Coach and Equipment Corporation Will Expand Penn Yan Bus Building Now Joins with Georgia Body Company

“Increased Employment Seen Here

“For generations Penn Yan has furnished means of transportation for people—more especially for little people of the school world. It was one of the first villages in New York state to transport rural pupils to village schools. Thanks in great part to the local Coach and Equipment corporation the name Penn Yan has become almost synonymous with school bus safety and service. Now this business approaches full cycle with the announcement that Carl Kreutziger, president of the firm, that it will again, and in a greatly expanded manner, manufacture as well as sell bus bodies. This rebirth of the coach building trade in the very heart of Penn Yan, where once carriage building flourished, carries important implications beyond the individual fortunes of the company. Work for Skilled Hands It will mean work for upwards of 75 more skilled workers in the Lake Keuka community—it means work for craftsmen in a special trade that in this village has been a kind of family inheritance. And it also means the reversal of a trend by northern manufacturers to take their business southward. Now the Coach and Equipment corporation will bring southern made coach parts to the north for adaptation and assembling. For in this cooperative enterprise the Blue Bird Body company of Fort Valley, Ga., and the Coach and Equipment corporation of Penn Yan have already begun, production of school buses from the local plant near Jacob's brook. The Blue Bird Body company is one of the leading manufacturers of school bus bodies in the United States today. Using its basic materials and parts, the local company will produce a full line of modern school buses, including the streamlined, conventional bus and transit type of bus, with the motor in the front or rear. A Constructive Union These buses are designed especially for. use in New York, state and other northeastern states. The buses are a union of Blue Bird's advanced metal fabrication and the engineering experience of the Penn Yan corporation gained in years of selling and operating school buses in the north. The importance of this association is indicated by a major factor in the construction of all metal parts furnished by the Blue Bird company. In a complicated six-step process the metal is chemically washed, treated and coated, to make it impervious to the -salt sea-air of coastal states. Salt-Free Bodies It also means that the bodies will not dissolve away on the salt-sanded winter roads of New York state. In addition, splash areas of the buses now built in Penn Yan are fashioned of stainless steel to prevent costly corrosion. Because of the size and scope of Blue Bird operations — in its immense factories where all parts are automatically and mass produced—it will be possible for the Penn Yan company to construct the kind of superior school bus Mr. Kreutziger has long envisioned. It will enable him to build a superior bus that will more than meet all the stringent requirements of the state and that also can compete fairly in the bidding market.

“From Ground Up

“A craftsman of long experience, himself. Mr. Kreutziger is a top level designer and organizer. He established the Penn Yan Coach and Equipment Company in 1948, after having been associated with body building in Penn Yan and Hammondsport for a score of years. He pioneered the development of the transit (or snub-nose) type of school bus in New York State, which because of its high road visibility is an outstandingly safe vehicle to drive. Of recent years the Penn Yan organization was largely concerned with coach sales and equipment installation, though it continued to build a small 12-passenger bus in the Champlin avenue plant. Mr. Kreutziger pioneered in the engineering and building of the transit type school bus, which with its blunt nose and high driver’s seat gives 100 per cent road visibility, a major safety factor.

“The first two buses of this kind that he planned he had built in Kalamazoo, Mich. Since then they have been assembled in numbers in New York state and the Coach and Equipment corporation will have available a Blue Bird made transit type bus, front or rear driven Bernard Kreutziger, his son, will be in charge of assembly at the new plant, entered the business in 1951 after three years of service in the US Air Force.

“Including salesmen on the road, office personnel in the Knapp hotel headquarters, the mechanics engaged in custom work, the corporation has been employing some 20 persons. Under the new arrangement, a force of 100 will eventually be needed.

“Production Line

“The increasing sales and wide acceptance of Blue Bird buses in the schools of New York State led to the location of the new manufacturing and assembly plant in Penn Yan. Here where the Coach and Equipment Company has 20,000 square feet of floor space, is being established Penn Yan's first extensive, automotive assembly line from here will go buses to all of New York State, New England, Northern Pennsylvania, Michigan and to Canada. From all over the country — from the famous truck factories of America will come the chassis and motors to the Champlin avenue factory. Here will also come on huge truck transports the various house parts furnished by Blue Bird, floor plates, ribs, rails, body skin, sent frames, windows and doors. Custom Work, Ton With their ability to adapt these parts in multiple ways, the Coach and Equipment corporation can build any conceivable type of bus from 12 to 73 passengers. It can perform such custom jobs as the one It is doing for the Monroe County Muscular Dystrophy chapter — building a bus that has a rear gate automatically lowered by an electric motor so that a wheel-chair invalid can ride onto the gate, wait for the gate to be raised level with the coach floor and then ride forward into the bus. In the production line, six basic steps will be followed. There is the platform assembly, where the floor plates are placed together and all seams are calked with waterproof compound before they are riveted fast. Step two is for the erection of the panel work, the riveting and bolting together of ribs and struts that hold the sides and top. In step three the ‘skin’ is applied the inside and outside of the bus are plated. For northern climates this includes the insulating with glass fibre, against the cold of winter and the heat of summer. In a special steel curtained room, the bus is painted, the fourth step, and then the body is lifted by hoists from the dollies, to working platforms, onto the chassis. Final assembly includes installation of the seats and windows, and the last step includes the water and road tests. The finished product faces a small Niagara of water to prove that It can take moisture in the form of rain, sleet and snow, and come through high and dry. And to prove that no poisonous gases can get into the Interior of the conveyance in which the children of today ride.

“Central Schools Spur Record Bus Construction

“At least 24,000 new school buses will be put into national service this year, industry sources estimate. If they are right, 1956 will rank as the biggest year to date for this fast-growing industry.

“Last year some 32,360,000 pupils were transported in 137,552 buses, making this a $312,730,000 industry. It is estimated that the total will rise to 43 million pupils by 1960 and to 48 million by 1965.

“That's a tremendous increase for an industry that required but 85,000 buses to haul 4,852,000 pupils in 1947.

“This growth was foreseen several years ago in the trend toward consolidated school districts and was spurred by rulings in several states that no child who lived more than a mile from school should be made to walk.

“Safety Specifications

“New York State has 5,856 school buses – 4.3 per cent of the national fleet. It also demands modified specifications of the national safety requirements in both body and chassis.

“Most of these modifications called for in New York specifications have to be made in the dealer's place of business or equipment shop. They are not practical to make on the assembly line.

“It is claimed that the national average of cost per pupil, per year in all other states is $34 while in New York State it is $38 and in California it is $55. Per mile of travel, the national average is .263 cents. In New York it is .308 cents and in California it is .407 cents.

“School Bus Body Building Comes Back To Penn Yan

“Birds Eye View of Thriving Factory

“Bus body plant grows… This aerial view shows how the Coach and Equipment corporation body plant on Champlin Avenue is developing. Completed in 1924, the plant was rebuilt after a fire in 1932 and as the roof lines indicate has twice been enlarged, once during the past war when the company built over 13,000 cargo bodies for the government. At one time 80 per cent of the school buses sold in New York State were manufactured here. Not visible is a warehouse, in the left or north of this building, where Coach and equipment car store parts. Transports from the south drive up to the north entrance at the start of the assembly line. The bodies are put together as they move along and finally emerge from the far end of the building, nearest in East Elm Street. The new Jacob’s Brook parking area is just across Champlin avenue from this building.

“How To Make A Bus Bed

“From the floor up . . . Here the platform, or floor, of a bus body is being put together. The floor panels come in various widths, so that by selecting a certain sequence it is possible to build in increments of an inch and three quarters, any length bus desired. Rear left is Edward Johnson; left foreground, Paul Howles, and right, Ernest Thomas. Starting with such a platform, the local company can build almost any type of bus that a school district might demand, from 12 to 72 passengers. The floor is constructed on a dolly, which can be moved along the assembly line for successive steps in the building of the conveyance. With bus parts already rolling in from the south, the men are building buses even while the new assembly line itself is in the process of being established.

“It Is Made Of Ribs and Skin

“Back tapping . . . That's what the mechanics call it. With the ribs already in place, Dick Kreutziger, left, and James Busbee from Georgia, a Blue Bird body man, rivet on the body plates – or skin of the bus. All these heavy sheet metal parts are specially coated at the factory to make them resistant to salt deterioration. As this plant begins to hum with activity again it is reminiscent of the time when 150 men were employed here. Struts and skin seen in the picture are rolled, formed, drilled and coated in one continuous, automatic process in the Fort Valley, Georgia factory of the Blue Bird Body company that is now supplying Couch and Equipment corporation in Penn Yan with parts for its expanded body building activities.

“There Is A School Bus Ahead

“Ready To Roll… A completed school bus, ready for its cargo of three score children, emerges from the Coach and Equipment plant in Champlin Avenue. This nuclear group of workmen will be augmented by dozens more as the assembly line becomes a reality and Penn Yan built buses again travel .the length and breadth of New York State and throughout the northeast. Here, proud of their job, from left to right, are Ernest Thomas, Charles Killian, Edward Johnson, Paul Hawkes, Douglas McMinn and Richard Kreutziger, who is in charge of production at the plant that overlooks Jacob's Brook. He joined the business in 1951 after three years in the US Air Force. His father, Carl Kreutziger, has been associated with bus building in this community for a quarter of a century.

“The Sum of Its Parts

“From Georgia to Penn Yan . . . Workers at the bus building plant here unload one of the huge tractor-trailers from the deep south (note license plate) that is now bringing in prefabricated parts from the Blue Bird Body company. In its immense factories, Blue Bird fashions basic bus parts and impregnates them against salt corrosion. Transported to Coach and Equipment Corporation in Penn Yan, they will be assembled according to the high safety regulations of New York state and distributed through northern Pennsylvania, New England and parts of Canada. Chassis such as those produced by Ford and Dodge companies are of course driven under their own power to the Penn Yan plant to await mounting of the assembled body.

“They Are Raising the Boom

“Easy does it ... The way to establish an assembly line is to start building. Even while they are sorting parts and creating places for them, Coach and Equipment men have been putting the first of the new bus bodies together. Here Ernest Thomas, left; James Busbee, center, and Edward Johnson, right, are lifting an assembled body from a dolly to lower it onto a chassis. Then after it is painted and windows are installed, it's ready for the road. In the background another bus is taking shape, with Charles Killian at work on it. The basic parts are supplied by Blue Bird of Georgia, but the local firm can and does adapt them to the design required by the purchaser. They recently engineered a special job for the Monroe County Muscular Dystrophy chapter, installing an automatic tail gate that can lift a wheel chair patient up into the interior of the bus.”

The sudden need for additional space to park the newly manufactured coaches was covered in the August 16, 1956 editiion of the Chronicle Express:

“Booming Bus Business Accentuates Parking Problem in Village of Penn Yan

“Buses are rolling off the production line in such overwhelming profusion at the newly organized Coach and Equipment corporation on Champlin avenue in Penn Yan that the Jacobs brook area which had a rather neglected air only this past winter now looks like a little Detroit. It is startling to see the transformation that has been affected down behind the Main street stores within the past few months. Surrounding the Coach and Equipment building and overflowing into the large parking areas between Champlin avenue and the brook were more than one hundred bright yellow school buses and bus chassis by actual count this week. For though it would seem the Kreutziger body building concern has scarcely had time to fully establish its production line since it made its contract with the Blue Bird Bus company of Georgia only last April, it is now turning out two completed school buses every day. These are the full-size buses, up to 72-passengers, for which the southern firm supplies the prefabricated parts.

“Production Spurts

“The Coach and Equipment corporation is still turning out its own converted station-wagon style 12-passenger bus, as well. At the outset the local firm anticipated that it would do well to make 50 large buses in its first year of production. It has already manufactured nearly 40 in the first quarter of its expansion program, and is having difficulty keeping up with the backlog of orders, reveals Karl Kreutziger, head of the firm. The plant is humming with an unbroken line of chassis going in at the rear of the shop and emerging as commodious and shining school buses at the front of the long one story structure. The company was frankly amazed not only by the demand for their buses but by the ability of their employees to tool for and establish a production line so readily and to produce the many vehicles that have already, rolled from the plant.

“Where To Put Them All?

“If it had not been for the high level 'type' of workmen available here the firm just would not have been able to accomplish this development in so short a time, the head of the local bus company affirmed. He admitted they were both surprised and pleased to find that there was enough skilled and enthusiastic help at hand co make this amazing achievement possible. Whereas there were only a half dozen workers engaged in the plant last March, there are now 51 employees engaged in a maze of activity, and it is becoming hard to find space anywhere on the several acres of ground extending along Jacob's brook for the large yellow vehicles mushrooming all over the place. The problems of making more room not only for buses and cars of workers at the plant but for parking for people who shop and work in Penn Yon is being given cooperative attention 'by both village and Coach and Equipment officials. The immediate solution appears to be to store the buses in less centralized areas and such sites are being studied. For it was only last March that Penn Yan merchants through their Chamber of Commerce sponsored a program whereby parkers were awarded prizes for making use of the too little frequented Jacob's brook parking, areas. The village had graded and graveled space there for several hundred cars and the campaign was undertaken to acquaint people with the advantages of off-street parking.

“More Space Sought

“Major Herbert Fitch reveals that village officials are making surveys of other areas for off-street parking to overcome the problem the fortuitous growth of the local film has accentuated. There is a kind of practical justice in the predicament that the relatively unsung parking area should now be humming vibrantly just because vehicles are being tinned out wholesale right where vehicles once had to be persuaded to park. The village recently resurfaced East Elm street from Main to the railroad and is scheduled to improve Champlin avenue as well this year. Far-sighted village planners have long urged the development of additional parking areas directly behind the Main street stores on the west side of Jacob's brook. With the bus business booming, it appears their plan was far from visionary, for the future on wheels, appears to be catching up very fast with the past in Penn Yan.”

At that time Blue Bird was the fourth-largest school bus company in the nation, battling for market share with five others; Carpenter, Superior (Pathfinder), Thomas, Ward and Wayne Works. Several competitors - Hicks, Oneida, Hackney and Marmon-Herrington - had already withdrawn from the field.

Recent changes in state regulactions prompted a temporary delay in the delivery of new  Blue Bird school buses, the September 20, 1956 edition of the Chronicle Express reporting:

“Coach Company Deliveries Delayed By State Changes

“While the Coach and Equipment corporation in Penn Yan has been producing buses at an unprecedented rate it nevertheless has been unable to keep abreast of orders. Drastic changes in New York state regulations added to the difficulties of the newly organized firm. The changes required by special New York state regulations are essentially good, emphasizes Carl Kreutziger, head of the local firm, but such regulations usually are evolutionary. This year in New York many major changes were imposed upon the industry. Capacity of front axles, for instance, was changed from two and one-half to six tons on 60 passenger vehicles—gauge of body steel was increased from 20 to 14. Chassis manufacturers held up production for New York since its requirements necessitated major production line changes. Hence the local bus assembly firm was starved for chassis in the assembling of bodies before the arrival of the chassis. At the same time Coach and Equipment was facing the herculean task of establishing a new production line of its own here—adding 50 workers to its nuclear 12-man crew. The peak load for school bus builders comes in the three summer months, since this is the traditional time for school districts to plan their purchases. Some 25,000 new buses must be created in America by the industry each year. It is clear that if districts wait until almost the opening of school to order buses delivery cannot be possibly made in time for the opening bell. The Penn Yan district is one handicapped by insufficient number of buses—many of its students have been leaving home soon after 7 a.m. and returning at 5:30 p.m.

“The local coach firm is associated with the Blue Bird Body Company of Georgia, one of the largest producers of prefabricated bus body parts in the world, and has had the fullest support and cooperation of the southern firm in its efforts to provide enough of the right kind of buses for the children crowding to school today.”

The grand opening of the firm's new 15,000 sq. ft. plant addition was announced in the June 12, 1968 edition of the Syracuse Post Standard:

“Moylan Speaks At Dedication of Penn Yan Plant

“Penn Yan — Neal L. Moylan, first deputy commissioner, State Department of Commerce, officiated Tuesday at dedication ceremonies of Coach & Equipment Sales Corp.'s new plant here. The plant, partially financed by a New York Job Development Authority loan, increases the company's production facilities by almost 15,000 sq. ft. and its employment by 28. Moylan lauded the Penn Yan Industrial Development Corp. for the excellent spadework it did in arranging a loan from the authority for the project. He said ‘This type of local-state cooperation is imperative if we are to continue to attract new industry to the state.’ He noted the department ‘can entice the prospect — but only the community can make that final sale.’”

Carl Kreutziger is given credit as being the first individual to convert forward control Ford and Chevrolet vans into school buses, creating the nation’s first Type A buses. After his death his son Richard continued to run C&E. This van school bus later copied by Superior and Ward Bus. Mid Bus bought the Van Bus when Superior closed. All of this lead to the cutaway bus that you knew today.

Shepard Bros., Inc. and Coach and Equipment Manufacturing Corporation

For over twenty years Shepard Bros., Inc. and Coach and Equipment Manufacturing Corporation have worked together to provide the mid size bus market with a solid, dependable, value-oriented vehicle.

In 2000, Coach & Equipment moved into a new, 85,000 square foot building in Horizon Business Park just off of Rt 14A, just south of Penn Yan. Designed specifically for the production of small and mid-sized buses at 130 Horizon Park Dr, Penn Yan, NY. This relieved production bottlenecks and more than doubled our capacity.

The addition of computer-guided laser torch and press brakes will help propel this manufacturer into the 21st Century. We cordially invite you to take the factory tour to experience this new and exciting facility!

At the same time, we replaced or upgraded all machinery and equipment, designed new work stations and productions flows, and organized better material handling and housekeeping. We now cut metal to tolerances of 0.002" on a laser cutter, bend the metal in a computer controlled press break, weld in close tolerance fixtures, and paint in down draft paint booths with baking capabilities.

The quality and productivity improvements have been enormous. We are taking the next step by training all our employees in "lean manufacturing" techniques, in which the responsibility for quality and productivity improvements are shared by the entire team. These efforts have been recognized by our customers in a doubling of orders in the past 48 months, some of them on RFP's where quality, delivery, and service count as much in the evaluation as does price.

Shepard Bros., Inc. unique relationship with Coach & Equipment Mfg. Corp. offers our customers a direct line to the manufacture of their new vehicle. Our intimate association with our automobile and truck division assures our customers that they will receive only the highest quality service and parts.

P.O. Box 36 • 130 Horizon Park Drive • Penn Yan, NY 14527
Phone: 315-536-2321 • Fax: 315-536-0460

© 2015 Mark Theobald for Coachbuilt.com

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References

Walter Wolcott - Penn Yan, New York (pub 1915):

Frances Dumas - Penn Yan and How it Got That Way, pub. 2012

L.C. Aldrich - History of Yates Co., NY published 1892 

Home on the Road, the Motor Home in America, by Roger B. White, ISBN 1-56098-914-9

"Sumptuous Residence on Wheels Installed with Kohler Electric Plant," Kohler of Kohler News, (December, 1927): 11, 13

Chris Burlace - 1927 Motor Coach, Flordellen - Pioneers Of The Motor Home World, Motorhome Monthly (UK)

The Chemung Historical Journal, Vol. 37, No. 1, September, 1991, pp 4077-4080, obtained from the Chemung County Historical Society, Elmira, NY.

Robert Rust, for the initial photograph showing the motor coach with the notation "Interior Carved by Hall" written on the bottom.

Richard S. MacAlpine - Yates County Chronicles, pub. 2014

"Deluxe Traveling Home Has Ideal Arrangements,"Motor Vehicle Monthly (October 1927): 28, 37

http://www.coachandequipment.com/

http://www.coachbussales.com/

http://www.mercurycorp.com/

http://www.ms-t-inc.com/c-hall/flordellen.html

http://keukayc.org/KYC-history.html

http://www.shepardbrosinc.com/

   
 
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