A century ago, a pair of iron miners in Hibbing, Minnesota, began charging 15 cents for a ride on a seven-passenger Hupmobile from Hibbing to Alice Location. Alice, then a bedroom community for miners and their families, would later become the new townsite when Hibbing was moved to access the ore beneath the ground.
From this inauspicious beginning, a series of expansions and mergers would lead to the creation of the Greyhound Bus Company, an international transportation giant that moves millions of people from coast to coast each year. By WWII, Greyhounds ruled the highways of America, and still remain the most iconic bus fleet in the USA.
Folks here in Hibbing know the story well, or at least are aware of the Greyhound Bus Origin Museum in historic North Hibbing. Founded by the late Gene Nicolelli, who dedicated his life to the museum’s creation and upkeep, the Greyhound Museum still operates on “Greyhound Boulevard,” telling the story of Anderson and Wickman’s famous Hupmobile.
Sadly, Greyhound suspended its service to the town where it was founded nearly 30 years ago, ceding regional routes like this one to smaller carriers. Nevertheless, I have some news that would have brought a smile to Gene’s face.
The other day I heard from my friend Matt Nelson, a Hibbing native now working for the Washington Post. He rides buses often, and, time to time, hops on a Greyhound for longer trips.
The first time he wrote me was to tell me that someone had a personal wi-fi network on the Greyhound Bus named “Hibbing.” How weird was that? Here he is in D.C., from Hibbing, and someone else is on the bus using that name.
He couldn’t access the Hibbing network, but something about it seemed official. He told me he was due to ride a different Greyhound Bus later and would get back to me.
Well, lo and behold, the second bus also had a wi-fi network named “Hibbing.” Whatever it was, it appeared to be standard on Greyhound buses in general. He sent me the information and I agreed to get on the story.
I called Greyhound and talked to Lanesha Gipson, one of the company’s spokespeople. I explained I was from Hibbing (“That’s nice”) where the company was founded (“Yes, of course”) and I wanted to know if there was a wi-fi network on every Greyhound Bus named “Hibbing.” (long pause, “OK”).
She agreed to check it out and get back to me. I half assumed my request would be filed with the crazy people who complain about the drivers being reptilian space lords, but in a couple days Gipson did faithfully return the call.
It turns out that every Greyhound Bus in America has a network called “Hibbing.” It’s not the public wi-fi that passengers use, but the operating network used by the driver for navigation and communication.
“It’s a nod to our beginnings,” said Gipson.
One that not many people would know about. Until now. Sort of.
It’s fitting that a story rooted in the gritty mining origins of the Mesabi Iron Range is now carried forth by both diesel and digital ones and zeroes.
Greyhound might not drive to Hibbing anymore, but it does carry the town’s name to cities and hamlets across the land. That is the lasting legacy of the company’s blue collar founders, and the work of Gene Nicolelli to ensure that people knew the story of that 1914 Hupmobile that drove from Hibbing to Alice.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.