Stawell is commonly known as the "Frontier to the Wimmera" and the home of the Easter Gift footrace. But to Frederic Charles Kingston it was known as the gateway to the majestic Grampians Mountains, 25 kilometres to the South.
In 1921 he was granted a Bus license for his Model T Ford which he used on a run between Stawell and St Arnaud via Landsborough and Navarre. A return trip that took 5 hours.
The vehicle was licensed to carry 7 passengers - four inside and three outside standing on the running board.
That same year, he also established a Taxi business and a "sort of" bus run.
He would convey the women workers to the Woollen Mill, home for lunch and back again and home again at 5pm. For this run he used a 1929 Chevrolet truck with bench seats and 4 poles supporting a canvas top.
In 1935 he acquired the Stawell - Halls Gap passenger and mail service which was operating two straight Buick 11 seaters.
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By 1939 these had been replaced with a Reo, a Studebaker and a Chevrolet.
When World War 2 ended, Fred started gearing up for the anticipated rush of holiday makers. After the wartime restrictions on transport and with petrol rationing still in force, people began to break out and catch up on lost holidays.
The tourists travelled to Stawell by train and were taken to Halls Gap by bus. By 1970, business had dwindled and it was converted to a mail run but it also still carried some passengers.
Around then school parties began to replace the adult excursionists and the guesthouses were converted to hostels.
The link with school student travel dated back to 1935 when Kingston's started a school bus with a Reo from Great Western to Stawell.
By 1945 Kingston's had the school bus run between Stawell and Lubeck using a Chevrolet and later a Diamond T.
A little later school runs were established to Barkly, Marnoo and Rupanyup.
In 1972, Kingston's entered into the extended tour business by taking a group of students from the Stawell High School on a camping trip to Alice Springs.
Initially, Bedford buses were used, but these proved to be unsuitable for the harsh conditions of the red centre. In 1973 they bought their first 'proper' coach - a Freighter Moonraker.
As the coach tours side of the business developed, Kingston Coach Tours was formed and moved into the accommodated tour field. Itineraries conveyed passengers to the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys.
Passengers travelled in luxury in Denning and Domino coaches and later on in Volvo, Scania and Mercedes Benz coaches.
F.C. Kingston passed away in 1971 and his son, F.G. Kingston, inherited the business.
Having spent much of his working life on the road, the younger Fred handed management to his son in law, Allan Hanson and he concentrated his expertise on the tour and charter side of the business.
The 83 year long association between Kingston's and public transport ended in May 2004 when the business was sold to Swan Hill Bus Lines.
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