A New York bus driver takes a joy ride to Florida

CimillobusnewspapersCollect fares, hand out transfers, navigate traffic—like most jobs, driving a city bus is pretty routine.

That’s why William Cimillo, 37, a married father of two from the Bronx who had been driving a bus for 16 years, became fed up.

“Day in and day out it was the same old grind. He was a slave to a watch and a schedule,” reported the Brooklyn Eagle.

CimillonytBoredom led to daydreaming. Cimillo (left), who strangely looked like Ralph Kramden, wondered what it would be like if he “disobeyed the rules and forgot to look at his watch and did not get to that street corner at the right time,” wrote the Eagle.

One morning in March 1947, something came over him as he pulled away from the garage to start his shift on the BX15 route along Gun Hill Road.

“‘All of a sudden I was telling myself, baby, this is it. I left that town in a hurry. Somehow, I didn’t care where I went. I just turned the wheel to the left, and soon I was on Highway 1, bound for Florida.'”

So began Cimillo’s joy ride. Instead of taking nickels from passengers, he drove across the George Washington Bridge to Hollywood, Florida.

CimillobusheadlineHe parked the bus on a side street, called the bus company to ask them to wire him $50 so he could refuel and return home, and then went to a local racetrack. Police arrested him there and transported him back to New York in his bus (below).

Cimillo was indicted for grand larceny, but instead of throwing him in jail, the bus company seemed to be on his side. They paid his bail, after all.

CimillovideoOnce his busman’s holiday made the newspapers, he generated sympathy from the public. Even his fellow bus drivers held a fundraiser to pay for his legal fees.

Charges were later dropped. He became something of a mini-celebrity, with passengers asking for his autograph and plans for a movie about his adventure announced.

Cimillo continued driving a bus for years. When asked by one newspaper why he took his detour to the Sunshine State, he replied that he “just started out and kept going … the fellows at the bus company will understand, I’m sure.”

[Top iamge: AP; second, New York Times; third: Brooklyn Eagle headline; fourth: British Pathe film clip]

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6 Responses to “A New York bus driver takes a joy ride to Florida”

  1. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    This story is a hoot! I looked up William and found a couple more details – he was born in 1909 and died in 1975. He is buried in the grand Old St. Raymonds Cemetery, noted for its large, elegant entry gateway. There, William shares a granite tombstone bearing the carved names of a host of his family members, all nestled nearby in the family plot. He had a son, Richard Cimillo, who became a firefighter and does not hesitate to tell of his Dad’s adventure.

    This busdriver’s actions sound a bit ‘Walter Mitty-like / with a twist’ as he did what all the fellow 9-to-5 guys yearned to do… So when he returned, they helped him financially. Even more valuable was the gift of ‘understanding’… ONLY IN AMERICA.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Exactly–everyone can relate to him. Who hasn’t had the urge to leave work and just take off? At least a bus driver, or any kind of driver, can actually do that!

  3. mickey2travel Says:

    This is great! I, too, would have been “rooting him on” and would have pitched in for his legal fees. Good for him!

  4. Michael Leddy Says:

    He’s a folk hero, for sure.

    This American Life did his story a couple of years ago in episode 539.

  5. Ricky Says:

    I guess this is truly a “busman’s holiday”.

  6. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    RICKY —
    Hahahahaaaa…you get ’11 points’ / better than a ’10’! Your comment was perfection. Hahahahahaaaa…!

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