PORTAGE, Mich. — Portage Public Schools Transportation Manager Louk Markham’s passion for vehicles manufactured by Crown Coach Corp. has led to the forthcoming publication of a book written by him on the topic.
Crown Coach Corp.: School Buses, Fire Trucks and Custom Coaches, is 128 pages long and contains approximately 250 to 275 vintage photographs and factory memorabilia, including advertising items, coach emblems and production statistics, Markham told SBF in an interview.
The book chronicles the history of Crown Coach Corp., from its founding in 1904 (then it was known as Crown Carriage Company), through to the early 1990s. In that time, as the title suggests, the company manufactured everything from horse-drawn wagons to school buses.
“It’s a photo archive — the story told with pictures — but it also has a substantial amount of text in it. I think it’s a good mix of both,” Markham said.
Markham informally began working on the book in 1984 when he obtained a large archive of 8x10 black-and-white glossy factory photos from Crown, along with the negatives. (At that time, Crown was moving from Los Angeles to Chino, Calif., and Markham contacted the company’s photographer looking for information about some photos he already had. The photographer then gave him the set of photos.) Since then, his archive grew — he either purchased photos on the Internet or got them from pupil transportation colleagues in California.
Markham said he wrote most of the book about 15 to 20 years ago and added information to it through the years.
“I’d taken tours of the plant in Los Angeles and tours of the plant in Chino. I also talked to Bob Brockway, whose grandfather founded the company in 1904, and interviewed some current and former employees,” he said, adding that another helpful resource was members of the online group Crown Coach Junkies.
Markham finished the book in December 2009 and sent it to publishers that he’d learned of through his interest in antique motor vehicles (he has numerous books on the subject).
When discussing Crown Coach school buses, Markham said he appreciates the quality that was put into their production. “When a vehicle from the 1980s comes from the factory with a 20-year warranty, that’s substantial,” he explained. “It really says something about the life of the vehicle. They were built out of aircraft-quality stainless steel and they didn’t rust. They were built to last.”
In addition to his interest in Crown and antique motor vehicles, Markham has been collecting license plates since 1966. His collection comprises more than 10,000 plates, including plates from all 50 U.S. states, all the states in Mexico, all Canadian provinces and plates from 70 to 80 foreign countries.
Markham began his career in pupil transportation in 1974 at Downey (Calif.) Unified School District as a substitute school bus driver. He worked at several other operations in California before moving to Michigan. He has worked at Portage Public Schools since 1999, where he manages a fleet of 62 school buses.
Crown Coach Corp.: School Buses, Fire Trucks and Custom Coaches is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.com.