|'Manson Before the Storm' ... is the title of this painting by artist Bob Cunningham. He invites viewers of his artwork to "take a ride down Main Street in charming Manson, Iowa, circa 1946, more than three decades before these buildings were lost in a devastating tornado." The blue rumble-seat convertible with three occupants is a 1939 Plymouth Deluxe.
Prints and posters of this image are available for sale here. (posted 2/5/21, permalink)
|Stylish Sampan: A two-tone lavender-over-purple 1939 Plymouth-based Sampan bus can be seen fourth from left in this photo from 1951. Sampans were open-air jitney-style buses based on passenger automobiles and could be found on the streets of Hilo, Hawaii from the 1920s through 1976. The cars in the photo are (L to R): early postwar 1946-48 Plymouth, 1948 Chevrolet, 1939 Buick, 1939 Plymouth, 1947 Cadillac.
The first sampan was built in 1922 by Fukumatsu Kusumoto, who at the time was a taxi driver in Hilo, Hawaii. He was distraught over the increasing fares for taxis, so decided to build a small bus-style vehicle that would seat up to 8 people. He used a Model T Ford for his first Sampan. The car was cut just behind the drivers seat, the back was rebuilt with wooden bench seats along both sides. Mr. Kusumoto founded and owned the Hilo Sampan Co. By the late 1930s, sampan bus fares had dropped from 15 cents to 5 cents as competition increased.
In Hawaiian, sampan buses are called kaa huli aku huli mai, the 'face one another' bus, after the bench seating arrangements. A 1971 article promoting tourism to the big island called them "as anachronistic and beloved as San Francisco's cable cars."
Later Sampans were based on larger - and nicer - passenger cars and had padded bench seats or lounge-style wraparound seats. By the mid-1970s the open Sampans were mostly gone, replaced by air-conditioned, fully-enclosed airport-style mini-buses and the county-owned Hele-On public transit bus service. (posted 3/3/21, permalink)