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Bus Girls20yrs*

Minneapolis bus 35D touched their lives

Darlene Pfister

Star Tribune

Published Dec 26 2001

Shelley Selstad worked for the same Minneapolis law firm for 35 years. She liked her job. But when the firm moved to St. Louis Park last summer, she quit.

Not because she wanted to retire. Not because she couldn't imagine negotiating the Lowry Tunnel at rush hour. It was more basic than that.

"It's a lifestyle thing," she said. "I wouldn't see my bus friends."

And that, Selstad said, would be unacceptable.

So she's looking for a new job. The main criterion? It has to be on Route 35D.

The Bus Girls, as they call themselves, are 12 women whose lives connected on Bus 35D. They lived within blocks of one another, but it was during the commute from south Minneapolis to downtown that they built warm and lasting friendships, 20 minutes a day, day by day, year by year.

Over two decades, they've helped each other through pregnancies, through the rigors of raising children and being married to men, through divorces and widowhood and remarriages, through happiness and sorrow.

Bus Girls of 35D

Photo: Darlene Pfister

Star Tribune

This fall, when 50-year-old Ellen Holzschuh lost her husband to cancer, her bus friends rallied around her. Within a day of hearing the news, they assembled and served a buffet for 20 visiting relatives and filled Holzschuh's freezer with meals for a week. It's the kind of support the women have grown to count on.

Sharing lives

Questions about lighting or color? Want to know where to get the best price on just about anything? That's Laura Hawkins' specialty. She works as a member of Target's innovation team, and she knows shopping. In turn, her bus friends have become a sounding board for her marketing ideas. Terry Rivard manages a dermatology office; she's the group's skin expert. Holzschuh, mother of two Eagle Scouts, provides the group's Christmas wreaths. Selstad is their notary.

"I know I could call any one of them at any time," said Rivard, 50, a 35D rider for 24 years.

In those minutes they spent together on a crowded bus, they asked one another for advice on every aspect of living: how to braid a daughter's hair, which dishwasher to buy, how to motivate a son. Each day, they shared details of their lives, from the mundane to the profound.

"I told the woman riding next to me I was pregnant before I told my husband," said Hawkins, 52.

The women are now in their 40s and 50s, except for Amy Forsberg, 29. She came into the group last year, just before her husband received a kidney transplant. At the time, Holzschuh's husband, Herb, had just begun chemotherapy. The challenges of caretaking became the daily topic.

"That's the nice thing about this group," said Holzschuh. "We're all at different stages, and we have a lot of knowledge to share."

But always, year in and year out, the women talked about their marriages.

When EnChi Connors married, her bus friends came to the wedding. When Kyle Brooks got divorced, her bus friends wept; when she remarried a few years later, they rejoiced. Those with long-term marriages (most of them) give at least some credit for that longevity to the group.

"Mostly, we vented about our husbands," said Selstad, who has been married 35 years. "It helped us stay married. At least we know no one has it perfect."

Changing times

For most, riding the bus began as an economic choice. They were young marrieds then; busing was less expensive than a second car.

The sense of community they found kept them riding. The group was at its peak in the 1980s and 1990s, when as many as eight women rode each day.

"We used to be a pretty funny sight," said Lori Wheatcroft, 46. "We'd literally take over the back of the bus."

The back-of-the-bus group eventually gravitated to the front, where Selstad and Rivard had long sat. The familiar faces and voices made them seem like old friends, and the group expanded to take them all in. About six years ago, they began throwing parties at their homes, often bringing along husbands.

The parties are how most of them keep in touch now. Many of the Bus Girls no longer ride the 35D.

For now, only Hawkins, Rivard, Holzschuh and Forsberg ride regularly. Their schedules don't always coincide.

"It's getting pretty lonely on the bus," Hawkins said "Sometimes I have to bring a book."

Darlene Pfister is at dpfister@startribune.com .

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