A gold nugget, a chat on the bus and a handshake deal started a nine-decade journey for a Border transport business.
Martin's Albury began when builder Richard (Dick) Martin bought the Albury-North Albury-Lavington bus service in 1931.
"The story goes he went to Beechworth to do some prospecting and found a nugget worth 250 pounds," his grandson David Martin told The Border Mail this week.
Travelling on the North Albury bus, Dick struck up a conversation with the owner-driver, who was desperate to sell up.
"He basically did a deal there and then for the 250 pounds that he'd buy the bus and the run at the same time," Mr Martin said.
"And the 11th of the 11th, 1931, is when it actually hitthe Albury Banner to say that Martin's have taken over the run."
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Martin's vehicles have been involved in Border milestones like the launch of Border Shoppingtown, Lavington, in 1979, the Queen's 1988 visit and the 2007 Hume Freeway opening.
Further afield came tours to see the Pope, the Bicentennial Tall Ships, Brisbane Expo, outback Australia, driving for the Sydney Olympics and countless excursions to capital city theatre shows and sporting contests.
And many Border students, past and present, have sat on a Martin's bus to get to school each day.
One constant has been the family connection - David and his mother Rosalie still run the business founded by Dick and continued by his son Frank, Rosalie's late husband.
Mrs Martin said Frank's sudden heart attack and death in 1984, aged 44, left her in charge of many aspects she hadn't previously encountered.
"I'd be up until ungodly hours of the morning learning things," she said.
"I had so many drivers and they needed employment so it was just sheer determination I think that I continued it on.
"There was a job to be done and I did it."
You can't go through 90 years without having tough times and the people who were with us during those tough times basically stuck with usDavid Martin
David, then a teenager with older siblings Narelle and Richard, had always been interested in the buses and ended up joining the staff.
His career has coincided with his marriage to Cheryl and the birth of their three daughters, Ella, Nicole and Amy.
A significant mentor was former general manager Lionel Gillman, who arrived at Martin's in 1985 and stayed until his retirement 25 years later.
Loyal, long-serving employees have featured in the company's history - John Birchmeier's 2013 book Martin's Albury: Driving Through The Decades notes Dick Martin introduced a staff superannuation and insurance scheme uncommon in the 1950s and many of his workers stayed for 20 years or more.
Today, a number of current personnel have clocked up decades, including officer administrator Janene Voss (40 years) and mechanic Gerry Breewel (34 years).
Mr Martin paid tribute to everyone who had worked with Martin's throughout its existence.
"You can't go through 90 years without having tough times and the people who were with us during those tough times basically stuck with us," he said.
Mrs Martin took charge of Martin's Travel and Tours and, after putting together so many itineraries for other people, eventually decided to escort many trips herself.
"You build up a rapport and we have so many repeat travellers," she said.
The Albury-Wodonga business Hall of Fame member (inducted 2014) and 2015 Albury Woman of the Year remembers taking six buses to the Melbourne Cup one year.
"We did all the chicken and champagne lunches, it was enormous in those days," she said.
On an office wall sits a photo gallery of many past buses with their wide mix of sizes, colours and styles.
"We went to Sydney for the Pope's visit and there were 400 coaches in the coach park," Mrs Martin recalled.
"There was a photo taken of all the coaches and you could point out our black coach."
Despite pandemic disruptions, she remains committed to tours, with the business now promoting 2022 destinations like Eyre Peninsula, Great Ocean Road, Blue Mountains, central Australia and Toowoomba, as well as compiling international group tours.
Mr Martin said although the essential school runs and route services remained "when the pandemic first hit there was almost nobody on every bus, they just drove around almost empty for a couple of weeks in March last year".
"Slowly they're coming back but it's going to take another year or two, I think, before they're back to pre-COVID numbers," he added.
Now aiming for a century ("No doubt!") the Martins want to keep driving ahead.
"If you stand still, you sort of die, so we're trying to grow," Mr Martin said.
Helping the community has always been a focus; Dick often let children from struggling families travel for free during the Depression and also supplied free buses for the annual convent picnic and orphanage outings.
The modern business continues this trend in its assistance with events and causes like Anzac Day, Nail Can Hill Run, the Festival of Sport, Murray Art Museum Albury, the Border's cancer centre and Hilltop cancer accommodation.
"We've tried to support the city and we've grown with the city in a way," Mrs Martin said.
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