by Ron and Trudy Ellyson
Howard was the third of three children born to Dilwin and Edith Hampton northwest of Whittier, on Nov. 30, 1907. In Howard’s early years Whittier was becoming a farming community in its own right, and families of the Whittier Friends Meeting were a significant influence in the surrounding community. His parents were birthright members of the meeting, and they instructed their children in Friends discipline. He recalls wanting an air rifle from Sears Roebuck and his mother convincing him to accept an Erector set instead. With this set he learned that he could devise and construct many items, and discovered a set of skills that would serve him throughout his life. He learned to drive his family’s model T Ford at an early age and became adept in automotive mechanics early. A childhood experience with escape from a fast-moving Wapsipinicon River following a heavy rain convinced him of “divine guidance and protection,” and brought a sense of thankfulness.
Howard spent his elementary school years in a one-room schoolhouse called Rose Hill near his home, then Jordan’s Grove school. His family participated with a number of other Friends families in social, farmers, and charitable clubs, such as “home circle.” He attended Scattergood School, where he became better acquainted with Reva Bedell, with whom he had grown up in Whittier. He and Reva were members of the class of 1926, who helped build the gymnasium from trees harvested on site. Howard would later serve in many different roles in support of the Scattergood community.
After “a semester and a half” of studies at the University of Iowa, mostly in “shop and engineering,” he returned to Whittier to work for Neil Block as a mechanic. After that he operated the gas station in Whittier, then began driving a truck for Earl Hodgin who operated the general store. This store supplied grain, feed, coal, dry goods, and groceries to other stores (in “Anamosa, Monticello, Langworthy, Tipton, Bennett, Coggon, and Ryan”). Howard picked up milk in cans from farms and delivered the milk to a dairy in Cedar Rapids. He later purchased two milk routes which he operated with Arnold Hoge. Howard and Reva were married at Whittier Friends Meeting on Aug. 15, 1929.
In 1936 Howard won a contract to transport students to and from Springville Consolidated Schools, for which he purchased four all steel-body school buses and one used wooden one, and built a 36 x 60 cinder block building in Whittier to garage the buses. His contract was successively renewed through 1972. “In 1939, I took the Cedar Rapids Drum and Bugle Corp to Buffalo, NY. That was when I first realized there was such a thing as the ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission). It said I had to have a permit.” To obtain a permit, a charter firm had to have a regular passenger route, so in 1940 Howard acquired partnership in Waite Transportation Co., Cedar Rapids, with a man who was using a car to run a scheduled route. His partner drowned in 1941 and Howard acquired the rest of the business and incorporated “Bee Line Transit Co.” He began then to obtain certificates entitling his businesses to transport passengers in various states. Through gradual expansion, he attained permits for all states.
The Bee Line provided passenger service from Cedar Rapids to Sabula, Savanna, Quincy, Indianola, Fort Madison, Burlington, and McComb, Illinois. He expanded his business to charter bus service in 1948, transporting Coe and Cornell College bands and athletic groups, 4-H and Scout groups, garden clubs, and senior citizen groups. His buses transported the Girl Scouts of Iowa City on annual trips and members of the Linn County Farm Bureau several times a year. The business was named Charter Coaches, Inc., in 1958.
In the late 50s to early 70s Howard drove the Scattergood senior class and sponsors on trips to New York and Washington D.C, including an occasion when snow conditions compelled some travel on secondary roads. Howard operated school routes in Cedar Rapids for a number of years, and operated the city buses in 1966-67. When Howard sold his company in 1972 the fleet consisted of 31 school buses and 8 charter buses.
After Howard sold the business he delivered new coaches from the Motor Coach Industries factory near, Pembina, ND to bus companies from coast to coast. In Howard’s later years he continued to enjoy interacting with others, and crafting things for others. The source of his incentive to care for people may be found in one of the many poems he had memorized as a child (and recited later in life), “The Starless Crown.” Its closing lines contain this intent, “And now while on the earth I stay, my motto this shall be, ‘To live no longer to myself, but Him who died for me.’”