The Bus Trip
NEWARK, N.J. - An abandoned 54 Devine St. bus that was noticed by police today appears to have been the object of a PLO hijacking sometime in the late 1970s. Inside were the badly decomposed bodies (pictures in the late edition) of 17 passengers, 4 hijackers, 3 dogs, and 2 live bag ladies. What drew the attention of the police was a fire started by one of the bag ladies in her attempt to protest the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater. Her companion stated that she was a firm Johnson supporter and obsessed with the idea that right wing extremists, led by Jerry Falwell - though still a mere lad - would take over the nation and impose THEIR values on us all. As an honors graduate of Radclife and a certified Liberal Democrat she felt the need to speak out in a manner that would capture the imagination of the public. So she set fire to herself. The fire had burned through six layers of newspaper and crud before the Newark Fire Dept. managed to storm the bus and put her out. Defiantly waving a single finger at the cameras and shouting "Extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice" she promised to do it again as medical attendants took her away. When our reporter pointed out that this was 1988 and the election the poor woman was concerned about was long over her companion said, "She doesn't give up old ideas easily. We're Liberal Democrats, you know."
Police then entered the bus and discovered the passengers, the hijackers, and the dogs. One of the hijackers left a diary of his ordeal, from which it is possible to piece together the story of what happened on the bus. It seems that after boarding the bus at 18th Ave. (without the correct change, which caused a brief altercation with the driver, who tried to refuse them entrance despite the weapons they carried) they immediately shot two of the passengers but couldn't get the rest to notice their presence. They then proceeded to divert the bus from its formal route and yelling slogans and scattering leaflets they shot at passers-by as they went - expecting to get the attention of the authorities and media coverage. But to their total amazement, nothing happened except for some desultory return fire from armed passers-by and being cut off in traffic by a couple of taxi cabs and a school bus. Finally they noticed a Newark Police cruiser in traffic ahead of them and shot out the rear window which caused the cruiser to speed up and quickly turn off at the next intersection and pull into a White Castle, where the two officers went inside and sat at the counter and looked the other way as the bus crawled by outside.
The first of many nights they spent under a traffic bridge down at Port Newark trying to understand what was happening to them and fighting off attacks by organized gangs attempting to jack up the bus and steal the tires and engine. The passengers still did not acknowledge their presence.
Dawn rose on the second day and they were full of hope and revolutionary zeal. The driver kept writing on his trip sheet, which they at first thought might be an attempt to drop a note out calling for help, which led to a discussion as to should they look the other way in order to finally get some attention, but it turned out he was only making note of his overtime.
As they passed through the streets of Newark again, slowing down from time to time in the traffic, they noticed people would beat on the doors and shout curses at them, giving rise to the hope they were discovered and just down the street would be a police roadblock and a showdown before the cameras. They finally realized the these people were trying to get ONt he bus and were angry they wouldn't stop and open the doors.
Soon there arose a supply problem as the food they brought with them was only meant to last a few hours - a day at most - and then they had counted on the authorities to supply them and their hostages with everything. By now the passengers had noticed them since one of them (a Mr. Rosenberg) was a tort lawyer and had passed his card around to everyone and assured them that they could sue the bus driver, the bus company, the city, the state, the nation and perhaps get something from God for all their suffering and inconvenience. And he'd take the standard cut in such cases. The hijackers felt they were making progress since they now could get the passengers to acknowledge they existed. They pulled into the parking lot of a Burger King "Busses Welcome" and ordered a Mr. Polochck, married to Mrs. Polochck (who sat beside him) for 32 years to go inside and order 45 hamburgers, 10 Whalers, 27 large fries, 20 cokes, and 14 hot apple pies or they would blow off Mrs. Polochck's head. He marched into the store as they held a gun to Mrs. Polochck's head in plain view and ordered 1 hamburger, 1 large fries and 1 coke, turned and smiled, waved good bye to his wife, shot a bird at the hijackers and sat down at a table to eat. Totally nonplused, the hijackers neglected to shoot a raging Mrs. Polochck and ordered the driver to move on.
(At this point the diary starts to become incoherent.)
They finally managed to obtain a food supply by letting on passengers, usually little old ladies, with shopping bags waiting in front of food marts.
After several days of failing to attract anyone's attention outside the bus the hijackers decided to give up and go back to training camp with this new wrinkle in Urban Warfare Against the Oppressor. However, it seems that the passengers, led by Mr. Rosenberg and aided by the driver who had been promised he would not be sued but could join their suit, wouldn't LET THEM OFF THE BUS. Their thinking was, the longer the ordeal lasted the greater ammount in damages the passengers could collect. The hijackers were low in ammunition, at a loss as to what to do next and throughly cowed by the demands of the passengers that they continue the hijacking. After a feeble attempt to debark the bus, beat back largely by Mrs. Polochck who lived for revenge against her husband, the hijackers were disarmed and herded to the back of the bus. (They were found in a pathetic pile under the rear seat.)
It is not known for how long the bus actually managed to roam the streets of Newark or how all on it came to their grim end. There seems to have been some kind of falling out among the passengers. Some had on white arm bands and some had on red. In any case the bus came to rest on the side of Rt22 leading out of Newark heading towards Springfield and was not investigated by the authorities until the fire. How the dogs entered the picture is the big mystery!
We asked the Chief of Police how it could be that a bus load of people could disappear and no one notice. He said that it was not unusual, there were any number of buses missing from the public garages and the records from the late '70s themselves were missing after an attempt to investigate charges that the Public Transport Dept. was involved in selling city busses to Long Island fishing industry officials for use as artificial reefs off shore. It would seem that none of the passengers, either the original 17 or the little old ladies picked up later, were ever missed by anyone. The driver was carried on the books as being owed over $3 million in back wages, although it cannot be determined when he went missing as his union brothers kept punching his time card in and out up until the day of the fire.
Mr. Polochck was unavailable for comment, being on his honeymoon in Bermuda with his third (teenage) wife.
The PLO has no record of a hijack team missing in Newark, NJ.
However there is a record of a lost dog in 1980 that seems to fit the remains o f one of the three dogs found on the bus. A man is on his way to view the remains and we will bring you an interview with him about this potentially heart warming story if a positive identification is made.
© 1997 William Geoffrey Shotts. Last update: Sunday, November 16, 1997