Labor of Love: Liberty Coach #1
EDITOR’S NOTE: While Liberty Coach was incorporated in 1972, the company’s history began years earlier with the travels of Frank (Sr.) and Jeanne Konigseder. The following account is the second in a series excerpted from Jeanne’s unpublished memoir chronicling the couple’s experiences before and after launching Liberty Coach.
I guess you could say Liberty Coach was born in May, 1971 when we purchased a 1958 GM 4104 bus from Greyhound Bus Lines in Chicago. Those beginnings aren’t as humble as they sound. At that point in time, the 4104 was by far the most dominant vehicle in the intercity bus industry, and even today is remembered as the most influential bus of its era. The unit we bought was in reasonably good shape with over 2 million miles, which may sound like a lot but was not unusual for that particular bus.
Our house was located out in the country, adjacent to a 70-acre farm northeast of Libertyville. We parked the bus in the side yard and went to work – Frank, myself, and our friend Bob Johnson. All the seats had been removed, but the rear washroom was still intact. Getting it out was a terrible job. Remember, this was a commercial bus – the air ducts on the side walls of the washroom were crammed with cigarette butts, gum wrappers, pint booze bottles, you name it. Bob spent two weeks in the hospital with a kidney infection after that project.
Of course, it wasn’t all like that. The work was hard, but rewarding. We worked on the coach every evening and all day Saturday and Sunday, all summer long. There were countless trips to Ace Hardware and the lumber yard. Most of the components came from Orr & Orr, back then one of the biggest wholesalers serving the mobile home industry. I made all the drapes by hand.
There was a lot of trial and error involved. For instance, we spent one whole weekend upholstering the ceiling with naugahyde. You had to heat the material with a hair dryer and stretch it around a bowling ball to get it to form, then glue it to the ceiling corners. On the first attempt, we came in the next morning to find the corners on the floor along with flat pieces of material. Turns out naugahyde has a memory!
The boys (Frank Jr. and Kurt, then ages 6 and 4) were self-maintaining, watching us and basically entertaining themselves all that summer. We had an above-ground swimming pool that they weren’t allowed to go into without supervision. So one day they made paper signs, glued them to sticks, and marched through the bus when they wanted to go swimming. That got our attention.
Summer was over by the time we reached the dash area and got ready to apply the finishing touches. We were just about out of ideas and weary of the whole operation at this point. But we managed to find a black spray paint that, when dry, took on the appearance of leather. Liberty Coach #1 was complete.
NEXT IN THE SERIES
The RV community gets its first look at Liberty Coach in “Showtime!”