1908: The World Debut of a Future Giant in the School Bus Industry

May 18, 1908

Stanley Johnson Marx, who would serve as the head of a leading and influential school bus manufacturer on the west coast of the United States, was born in Oakland, California. In 1927, Marx began working for the California-based Gillig Brothers Company as a mechanic.

This company traced its origins to a carriage and wagon shop established in 1890 by Jacob Gillig. By 1914, his sons Leo and Chester had taken over the business. Instead of repairing horse buggies, the company began focusing on the production of automobile, hearse, truck, and bus bodies. By the time Marx started working for Gillig Brothers, the company had expanded its operations to building such transportation modes as pleasure boats and heavy trucks. Gillig Brothers began manufacturing school buses in 1932, and increasingly focused on that product as the company’s niche and main claim to fame.

Marx rose through the ranks of the company throughout that time, starting a position in the sales department in 1930. When Leo Gillig died and his brother Chester retired in 1953, the company was reorganized as the Gillig Corporation and Marx stepped in to manage its operations. 

The production of the company’s popular chrome yellow school buses continued to grow under Marx’s leadership. He oversaw the purchase of the Kenilworth Truck Company’s Pacific Bus division in 1957 and started incorporating several features of those school buses into the school buses produced by the Gillig Corporation. At that time, the Gillig Corporation was investing just about all of its resources into the production of school buses.

Another key development took place in 1959 when the Gillig Corporation pioneered the diesel-powered, rear-engined transit style school bus. This type of bus, known as the C-series Transit Coach, accounted for three-fourths of the company’s sales within five years. In 1967, the company introduced the 855-D (pictured above). This bus, which could accommodate up to 97 passengers, was the highest-capacity school bus ever produced.  

The Gillig Corporation established a firm foothold on the west coast when it came to school buses, controlling a solid 70 percent of that market in northern California and predominating as well in large parts of Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. The company’s school buses also earned a reputation for being among the safest out on the road.  

Marx retired in 1968, more than four decades after he had started working for the Gillig Brothers Company. He died on December 10, 1984, at the age of 76. The company that had once been led by Marx stopped manufacturing school buses altogether in 1993, but quite a few of those vehicles remain in service today and continue to transport students to and from schools along the west coast.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on Stanley Johnson Marx, please check out http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/g/gillig/gillig.htm

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