Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California

Hastie Bus Restoration Project

Giving new life to Johnnie's bus.

The Restored Hastie Bus At The Mural

(Click on photos to open a larger version.)

Johnnie Hastie at the wheel

John Colin Hastie 1906-1991

This restored 1928 Chevrolet/Eckland bus brings back the colorful stories and history of the Morongo Basin's first public transportation service—the 29 Palms Stage and Express. It was in the depths of the Depression and the late-thirities when Johnnie Hastie first drove into Twentynine Palms. His vehicle was the soon-to-become familiar, 1928 twelve passenger bus complete with wood-burning stove—lovingly called Old Betsy.

Johnnie's Tree in Joshua Tree

"Johnnie's Tree" in Joshua Tree

At the time there were only 150 people in the entire Morongo Basin. The population was composed of miners, ranchers, World War I veterans, homesteaders, and a scattering of children. The Stage ran daily from Twentynine Palms to Banning, making stops in what are now the communities of Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley, and Morongo Valley along the way. To sustain himself and his business, Johnnie offered to deliver anything under ten pounds for ten cents. A bale of hay would be fifty cents over the cost of the hay. Johnnie rode a saddle horse around Twentynine Palms, picking up orders for his daily trips. In Coyote Wells (now Joshua Tree), orders were tied on to an old iron ring that had been hammered into a Joshua tree. At Warren's Well (now Yucca Valley) the orders were originally left on a pincushion at the windmill and in later years at Hardesty's Market and Post Office. For years and years he drove down to Banning and back, seven days a week. Additional scheduled stops were Morongo, 29 Palms Junction, Whitewater, Palm Springs Junction and Cabazon. One round trip per day, and he was loaded with passengers, orders, and money to pay for them, shopping lists, and banking transactions, as there were no banks on the desert.

The Hastie Bus

Ready for the parade,
probably in the late 1950s

Desert Stage bus bench

Original Bus Stop Bench
donated by Pat Rimmington

To preserve this historic precursor to our current Morongo Basin Transit Authority (MBTA), the Twentynine Palms Historical Society has acquired the remains of this bus and restored it. This bus can again drive the streets of the Morongo Basin—this time only for parades—to remind us all of early life on the desert. Thanks to a T.A.G. grant from the Morongo Basin Transit Authority there is now a building to house and display the bus at the Old Schoolhouse Museum.

Forlorn and Forgotten

In Johnnie's backyard, circa 1989

The goal of the Society's Hastie Bus Restoration Project was to restore and display Johnnie Hastie's first bus. We did not intend for the restored bus to be of "show quality" but rather that it be operable and reasonably close to the way it was when Johnnie and the bus carried passengers and cargo between Twentynine Palms and Banning.

Bus - Coach frame

Restoration in progress, Sep. 2010.

This project has been funded entirely by donations and has cost more than $67,000, far exceeding our original estimates. We still need to raise a little over $30,000 to pay those costs.

The restoration of the bus itself is essentially complete and the bus is running and licensed as a historical vehicle. The bulk of the work was accomplished by Kenny Duke with some help from volunteers.

Bus - Restored

After the 2012 Pioneer Days parade.

This restoration required the entire coach including the wooden frame and sheet metal be completely rebuilt. The original chassis, engine, transmission and running gear were disassembled, cleaned, tested, repaired where needed, and then reassembled and painted. The coach is now mounted on the original chassis. A new wiring harness was fabricated and installed.

We still need to have glass cut and installed in the rear window and the curved front corner windows. Additionally we are still in need of a working speedometer cable housing to fit a 1928 Chevrolet and period dome light fixtures.

We're still looking for photographs or reliable information about what the interior looked like.

Why Is It Blue?
Rusty and Forgotten

Rusty and forgotten.
In Johnnie's backyard, circa 1989

In July 1960, while stored in Johnnie's yard, the bus caught fire and was significantly damaged. As one might expect, what was left of the paint was destroyed and rust took over. Consequently the original color(s) of the bus could not be determined.

When local artist, Tim O'Connor, was preparing to create the "Johnnie Hastie & The 29 Palms Stage" mural he searched for photos and records and spoke to many of the old-timers trying to determine what color the bus originally was. He did not find anything in the records and got many different answers from the old-timers. Unable to find a definitive answer and knowing that many of Johnnie's vehicles were blue, he settled on blue for the mural. After much discussion the Hastie Bus restoration committee decided to paint the restored bus blue like the mural.

Since that time we have discovered a poem (quoted below) in the February 14, 1950 edition of the Desert Trail which leads us to believe that the bus was probably some form of red.

Whatever color it may have been, today it is blue and there are no plans to change it.

The Hastie Bus Mural

Mural "Johnnie Hastie & The 29 Palms Stage" by Tim O'Connor. Dedicated Feb. 15, 1997.

The following poem was published in the Desert Trail on February 14, 1950.


(Compliments - to Johnnie Hastie's old red bus, with which he operated his service daily for so many years between Twentynine Palms and Banning).

The little red bus has gone to its rest,
'Tis better that way we know;
Its service was long and hard, it's true—
And she traveled a tough old road.
She carried the tired and the weary at heart,
To this Golden Land of Sun—
For a restful stay, in a friendly place,
Where a battle for health was won.
She carried the boys away to war,
To fight the battle for good,
And she carried them back, with a joyful sound—
Every last one that she could.
You could almost tell by the engine's hum
As she came down into town
How happy she was just to bring them home—
Yes, she sure deserves her crown.
Give her a hand, and give her a cheer,
And tell her she's earned her rest;
For a heart so stout, and a will so strong—
There's none for her but the best.
Let her sit and think of the busy days—
Crowded with cargo she bore,
Each trip that she made, and each joy she gave—
Yes, she's earned it all, and more.
Maybe in time folks will say the same
Of the fine new black one;
But not until she's earned her crown
By a thousand duties well done.
Old friends are best, folks always say,
And familiar things are too;
But all things age along with time,
Although they started new.
So a "cheer" for the old, and a "hail" for the new,
As progress has its way,
May the new one do the same good job
And earn her crown some day.



Won't you please consider joining our team by offering a donation or monthly pledge? This bus once kept our community running, now it's time to return that favor. Big or small, every donation and monthly pledge helps. Then you too can watch her in all her glory running down the road, and say with pride that you helped make it happen.


Bus Restoration

($750 or more)

  • 29 Palms Fairgrounds Association
  • City of 29 Palms
  • Elizabeth Hatch Meyer
  • Les Snodgrass
  • Morongo Basin Transit Authority
  • Lamplighter Foundation
  • Jim Lincoln
  • Moeller Charitable Trust


The following businesses and individuals have contributed goods and/or services to the project:

  • Ace Alternators
  • Dave Bradley
  • Bob Carter
  • Christian Brothers Glass
  • Bob Connors
  • Kenny Duke
  • J.R. Ferguson
  • Steve Flock
  • Jim Kyle
  • McGeez Auto Body
  • Plaza Welding & Steel Supply
  • Don Schilling
  • Les Snodgrass
  • Superior Automotive
  • Thomas Towing


The following individuals have contributed their valuable time toward the project:

  • Bruce Arnett
  • John Burkhard
  • Kenny Duke
  • Marilyn Fernald
  • Bill Holmes
  • Bob Itnyre
  • Elizabeth Hatch Meyer
  • Rick Parker
  • Les Snodgrass
  • Chris Tiffany
  • Lloyd Tiffany
  • Michael Tree
  • Bob Whitt
  • Jim Woolsey


Thanks also to the many others who have donated
and/or participated in various fund-raising campaigns.


29 Palms Stage sign by Steve Flock

Drivers area   Bus - front   inside looking forward
Engine - left side   Engine - right side   Bus - right rear quarter

Hastie helps lady board bus.

Johnnie Hastie assists a passenger board original bus.
Pioneer Days Parade 29 Palms, 1957

Betsy II

MBTA Bus - Betsy II
From left, Dick Moran, president of the Twentynine Palms Historical Society,
Alan Rasmussen, Morongo Basin Transit Authority director, Liz Meyer, Hastie
Bus renovation project chair and Joe Meer, MBTA general manager, show off a
new bus honoring the Basin's first public transportation, Johhnie Hastie's
Betsy. Over the years, Hastie's busses were also known as the Banning Bullet
and Blue Goose, names MBTA also intends to incorporate into their fleet.
Photo & caption courtesy of Hi-Desert Publishing. Published May 2009

See Johnnie's bus move under its own power for the first time in over 40 years.

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The Hastie Bus Exhibit Building

In December 2013 the Morongo Basin Transit Authority (MBTA) awarded us a $5,000 grant to help fund construction of a building to store and exhibit the bus. Work started in January 2014 and the building was dedicated on June 7, 2014. This building was built entirely with volunteer labor (fourteen individuals worked a total of 798 hours). In addition to the $5,000 from MBTA the Society spent $2,413 and we received $2,216 worth of donated materials.

The building is designed so the bus can be viewed at any time, day or night.

Bob Larry Jamie
Bob Carter, Larry Bowden and Jamie Avels
work concrete into the footer.
  Les Kenny Larry
Les Snodgrass, Kenny Duke, and Larry Bowden
working concrete into the sidewalk forms.
Concrete Crew
Kenny Duke, John Steiner, Larry Bowden, Jamie
Avels, Les Snodgrass, Jim Woolsey, and Bob
Carter work to compact and level the slab.
  Jim Woolsey
Jim Woolsey cleans up the slab edges while
the rest of the crew work on the sidewalk.
Bob Broom Finish
Bob Carter puts the final finish on a
portion of the new sidewalk.
  Bob Paul-Job Well Done
Bob Carter and Paul Androshak pose for
a photo after a job well done.
Kenny John Bob
Kenny Duke, John Steiner and Bob Carter at
the end of a day spent putting up sheathing.
  Brandon and Brandon-1
Brandon Androshak and Brandon Rich
check the consistency of the stucco.
Stucco Crew-1
Paul Androshak applies stucco while Brandon
Rich and Brandon Androshak mix another batch.
  Paul John Bob Kenny Les
Bob Carter applies the second coat of stucco.
Paul Brandon and Brandon
Paul Androshak and Larry Bowden
applying stucco
  Bob Stucco
Larry Bowden working on the
second coat of stucco.
Larry Stucco
Putting on the color coat. Paul Androshak,
John Steiner, Bob Carter, Kenny Duke and
Les Snodgrass.
  ColorCoat Bob Kenny
Bob Carter applies color coat and Kenny
Duke keeps him in material.
All finished!
  Ribbon Cutting
The ribbon has been cut. Allen Lentz, Milt
Robbins, Bruce Arnett, Bruce Mallard, Jim
Woolsey, Les Snodgrass, Nicholas Mallard
(behind Les), Jay Corbin, Paul Androshak,
Joe Meer, Ben Sasnett, Kenny Duke, Mike
Lipsitz (behind Kenny), and Joel Klink.


Hastie Bus Exhibit Building

Major funding for the Hastie Bus Exhibit building
was provided by a T.A.G. grant from the
Morongo Basin Transit Authority.


The following businesses and individuals
contributed materials to the Bus Exhibit Building:

  • Elaine Bowden
  • Bob Carter
  • Christian Brothers Glass
  • Desert Hardware
  • Kenny Duke
  • Les Snodgrass


The following individuals contributed their valuable
time toward construction of the Bus Exhibit Building:

  • Brandon Androshak
  • Paul Androshak
  • Bruce Arnett
  • Jamie Avels
  • Larry Bowden
  • Bob Carter
  • Kevin Cole
  • Kenny Duke
  • Alan Lentz
  • Brandon Rich
  • Milt Robbins
  • Les Snodgrass
  • John Steiner
  • Jim Woolsey

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