Mahoning Valley Tours

Youngstown & Warren on the GO!

Text Box: EAST OHIO BUS LINES

 

    A brief history of my former company by Ray Fortune.

 

   In 1982 I was driving tri-axel dump and tractor trailer for a construction company. While talking to the owner of a roller skating rink near East Palestine, (who I had worked for at a gas station when I was 17) he mentioned that the fellow who owned and operated the busses bringing youth to the rink was retiring.

 

   I was always fascinated by busses, having rode to Arizona and back at the age of 7. Seeing this as an opportunity to pursue my boyhood dream, I offered to run a bus to the skating rink.

 

   With a desire to do more than just haul youth, I wanted to purchase something a little better than a school bus. With a used college bus I started running for the skate rink and applied in the summer of 1982 to the state for a license to operate as a bus company.  March 1983 the PUCO finally approved the new bus company, and East Ohio Bus Lines was officially open for charters and tours.

 

   The first year I continued my full time job driving truck, drove the bus when I could, and had the help of another driver when I couldn’t.  That year was a dramatic year for the motorcoach industry. The largest insurer in the industry went out of business and began what has been known in the industry as the insurance crisis. Those companies which could find insurance were paying as much as 10X what they had only a year earlier. Many bus companies simply were forced to close. Our insurance co. also discontinued all bus insurance. I found insurance for our one bus, but at a huge increase.  Despite never having a claim, our insurance jumped from $1,200 a year to over $10,000! I was forced to either get out of the bus business, or start doing it full time. I chose to give it a try. My ex-wife Debbie had just had our daughter. We also saw this as an opportunity for her to work at home as she raised Christina. Debbie took over the phones and most of the office work, as she would do either full or part time for the next 20 years.

 

   East Ohio Bus Lines grew to be a respected motorcoach operation with at least 10 full and part time employees receiving paychecks every week. Based out of Salem, Ohio our main markets were both Canton and Youngstown.

 

   Our safety record was second to none, and was recognized by the insurance industry with a national award for being one of America’s safest small coach companies. With a reputation for quality equipment and dependable service, we became the major service supplier for other bus and tour companies in our region. About half of our business was working for other companies when they were over booked or had a coach in the shop.

 

   We entered the new millennium operating 5 motorcoaches with dedicated dependable employees, some being with us many years. Then a number of events took place that eventually changed our company until its sale in March of 2003 to Carnation Tours with its 2 remaining coaches.  The two major events (and there were some others) was the phone company listing the wrong phone number in the phone book for our largest market. Somehow, after years of listing, they managed to change just one number. When people called they got a “this number is not in service”. We even attempted to secure that number, but it was “reserved” by another company. Despite a mailing, we found that most of our charter customers, some who had been with us for years, simply got our number out of the phone book every time they called. They thought we had gone out of business! Some even called telephone information and were given the same wrong number!

 

   Another major event affected the whole country. It is now simply known as 9/11.  Although a boom in business for line run carriers like Greyhound, those of us involved in School and recreational travel saw our busses simply stop moving.  Nationally, hundreds of carriers went out of business in the 2 years following. Nearly half of our work was for other companies. They couldn’t keep there own busses busy, so those trips ended completely. We also suffered a major drop in our own charters.

 

   March 1st, 2003 Carnation Tours of Alliance, OH purchased the remaining operations. Within a few months East Ohio Bus Lines was fully integrated into their operation. How fast things can change in the world of business!

Coach #8

One of two German made Setra coaches in the fleet

One of our MCI Motorcoaches

Coach #9 in Alabama

My daughter Christina and I on Prom night. I drover her coach.

See you later. Thanks for visiting!