“I think you always have fond memories just being around the people.”


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WILLIE GLYMPH
Position:
Bus driver, Transportation and Parking
(now retired)
Length of service:
39 years
(four with Hard Surface Maintenance, 35 with T&P)
Other stuff:
Now that he has the time, he would like to do the cross-country trip thing again.
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Photo by Daniel R. Burke

You know you’re someone special when they name a bus for you.

And the Penn men’s and women’s crew teams did just that for their longtime bus driver Willie Glymph. From now on, Penn’s rowers will travel in style on the “Sir Willie Glymph” (“It just sounded good,” Transportation Services Manager Ron Ward said about the “Sir” tacked on to the name), named in his honor when he retired from the University after 39 years of service March 30.

After 35 years of taking good care of his patrons on both the crew bus and the PennBus shuttle through University City, it was the least they could do.

Q. What was our shuttle bus operation like when you started?
A.
When we first started, we had started out with one bus. And it was a stick shift. We started going to West Philly first, and then later on we started moving into town. And then they added another bus. So we had two buses from then on.

Q. I heard the crew team gave you some really nice presents on your retirement.
A.
Oh, yeah. They gave me this jacket [a custom-made red and blue leather jacket], with the P here [points to split-P logo on the front], and the P on the back, and “Pennsylvania” on the back. And the girls team gave me a watch. And then they gave me an oar cut in half with an inscription on it. And they gave me a gold plaque that you hang on the wall with two oars on it. So…it was pretty nice. I’m so proud.

Q. Did your PennBus passengers do anything special for you on your last day?
A.
Yes, they did. As a matter of fact, they gave me a big card on the 4:50 trip. I opened the card and never looked at the top. So the guy [who gave me the card on behalf of the passengers], he told me to look at the top and see what was there. So he gave me [pulls out crisp bill] a $100 bill.

Q. What’s the furthest you traveled with the crew team?
A.
I think the furthest I went [was] whenever we were hauling boat shells. I went to Massachusetts — I think that’s as far as I went. And then during the off-season, when they went to San Diego once, me and a guy drove all the way to San Diego.

Q. Did you see the Grand Canyon?
A.
Yes, we did. We went into Flagstaff on the way down. And I thought I never would — I had said, It’s a big hole. [I didn’t think] I would enjoy it, but after I got up there, we spent two hours.

Q. How long ago was this trip?
A.
It must have been at least — about 27 years.

Q. What were some of the places you enjoyed most in San Diego?
A.
When we got there, we didn’t have a lot of running around that we could do. We were only supposed to be there for the weekend. There was a restaurant not too far from [where we stayed], run by a gentleman named Morrie, and it had home cooking, hot bread in the morning — I enjoyed those little places.
But on the way — as a matter of fact, we met a girl — she was walking the beach the first morning we were there. And I was just relating to the guy and said, Look, man, I’ve never been out here, I don’t know nobody out here. And all at once two girls came down the beach. And one of the girls ran up and grabbed me around the neck, and I said, Oooh! Then I looked up and said, Oh, yeah, Mary Watson! So she said, Yeah. I said, You were manager of the rowing team. I was just talking about you when you were walking down the beach. She said, Why don’t you come out after the race and come over to our house and stay? We’re having a party and if you ain’t got nowhere better, just stay here for the night. So I said, OK, we’ll see. But the coach wanted us to go back and take the boat shells on the side, so we never made it out. But it was nice.

Q. You still hear from her?
A.
No, but everyplace I go I run into someone that had graduated, somebody that’s coaching with another place. Like there was a guy from years ago — he’s a coach at Miami now and he’ll send me a hat up from Miami every once in a while just to show me that he’s still around.

Q. Have any other former crew team members come back as alums to talk to you?
A.
Oh, yeah. They were back Class Day. We’d sit down, talk, they were having their little celebration. They were nice when they were giving me the jacket and all that for Class Day. And it was very good. Most of them remember you; some of them you know the faces but forget the names. It was nice.

 

Originally published on April 20, 2000