Hibbing honors man who created Greyhound shrine

Greyhound-bus-640x480While one iconic American company is celebrating 100 years of bus transportation, the museum dedicated to its past will be dropping “Greyhound” from its name and honoring instead the man who made the shrine possible.

Greyhound Bus Lines can trace its roots back to Hibbing, when an entrepreneur saw a way to make money bringing northeastern Minnesota iron miners to and from work.

By squeezing as many men as he could into an eight-seat “touring car,” Carl Wickman started a business model that essentially turned into the largest intercity passenger bus company in North America.

Greyhound has received worldwide press for reaching the 100th anniversary of bus transportation, even though that 1914 “bus” wasn’t called a greyhound or even owned by the company. You can read a few stories about Greyhound’s celebrations and company history here, here, and here. And an especially thorough one here.

Hibbing, where bus transportation, if not Greyhound Bus Lines, originated, is mentioned in many of these stories and some even call out the Greyhound Bus Origin Museum, located on the edge of town not far from mining activities that forced residents to pack up and move south (several miles, not South), starting in 1919.

But as Greyhound generates press about its long history, the city of Hibbing will be celebrating the man who almost single-handedly brought the museum dedicated to Greyhound travel into existence.

This summer, coinciding with all-class reunion activities, the “town that moved” is re-dedicating the Greyhound Bus Origin Museum “Gene Nicolelli Bus Origin Museum.”

As the story goes, Mr. Nicolelli discovered a plaque from Greyhound honoring the town as the birthplace of the busing industry. This was sometime in the 1960s, and in the 70s, Nicolelli began pursuing the idea of a ‘bus origin’ museum in earnest.

He was the greatest champion of the cause and after years of badgering politicians – and operating out of the Hibbing Memorial Building – finally received funding for the museum. It opened in 1999 and receives somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 visitors each year during its summer operating hours.

One can only imagine the hundreds of hours Nicolelli he put into acquiring the buses, memorabilia and Greyhound ephemera that fill the building and grounds. Or the  many days spent greeting visitors or working on a museum-related project.

It’s fitting that the museum is named after him. As a 16-year city councilor and volunteer for dozens of community nonprofits, Mr. Nicolelli was well-known. The Iron Range Tourism Bureau presented him with a Spirit of Hospitality Hall of Fame award in 2012, just over a year before his death in 2014.

Here’s hoping for a good turnout at the re-dedication, Thursday, July 10. You have to wonder if someone from Greyhound will be there, if not to honor the company’s city of origin, then to acknowledge the man who built a memorial in its name.

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