In 1976, Coastians could take a free ride on Gus the Bus

The slogan written along the side of this Mississippi Coast School Bus says ‘I’m gus the bus-ride me free.’
The slogan written along the side of this Mississippi Coast School Bus says ‘I’m gus the bus-ride me free.’ Photo courtesy of Paul Jermyn

In May 1976, the Mississippi Coast Transit Authority painted one of its buses with a human face and named it Gus the Bus as a promotional campaign, and if you were lucky enough for Gus to pull up to your stop, the ride was free.

This picture shows Gus on the grounds of the MCTA in Gulfport on Oct. 20, 1976. The bus ran on all routes in the system’s service during various times of the week.

The idea of Gus the Bus had been around since the 1950s, when a friendly faced bus called Gus was used by the Atlanta transit system to address safety issues.

Gus was equipped with a tape recorder, and its well-spoken voice gave out safety slogans every time the door opened. Eventually Gus the Buses were used for various themes all over the country.

The concept of safety was carried further in the 1980s, when Gus the Bus appeared as a typical yellow school in North Carolina school districts.

Elementary school children responded with delight to Gus’ big cartoon-like smile splashed across a sign on its front, and the big blue eyes painted on the windshield.

Kids climbed aboard Gus to watch a video showing how to ride the bus safely, how to safely wait for the bus, and many other safety rules and regulations. Eventually, regular-sized school buses were replaced by miniature, remote-controlled 3-foot-tall replicas that visited elementary school classrooms.

They were equipped with all the devices of a real school bus and a friendly voice that enchanted children.

Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast’s distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and phone number to Flashback, Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; call 896-2424; or email