Generations of Excellence
Using a single flatbed truck and 4 rows of bench seats, Frank Sr. launched what would later become Frank Martz Coach Company, transporting the local workers, coal miners and shoppers. A one-way fare from Wilkes-Barre Public Square to Plymouth would cost a total of 10 cents; 5 cents to get to Division Street in Wilkes-Barre from Public Square and 5 cents to continue to Plymouth. Fares of 5 cents remained into the 1960’s.
After two years of operations, Frank Martz Sr. purchased his first bus. The chassis was purchased from the White Company, and the body from the Singer Sewing Company. This bus now has the distinction of being the oldest operating transit bus in the world, and resides on lease at the Hershey PA Museum of transportation.
Business was booming for the new transportation company and an airline was added in 1928, the first airline in the area. The new airlines routes went from Newark, NJ to Stroudsburg, PA on to Wilkes-Barre continuing to Binghamton, NY and Buffalo, NY with their last stop in Chicago, IL. Each airplane and bus at this time also had a hostess, to ensure the passengers had the most enjoyable experience possible; especially since the drive from Wilkes-Barre to New York took roughly 6 hours with rest stops in Easton, PA, at this time due to lack of interstate highways. Unfortunately the airline service had a short life, suffering from the financial depression in 1929. Shortly after the financial crash, the airline was sold to what is known today as American Airlines.
In 1931 the 239 Old River Road location was purchased with an additional terminal location on Public Square to handle the interstate bus routes to New York and Philadelphia. Stretching the length of a city block, the garage was capable of housing 42 motor coaches inside, a full service wash bay, tire storage, full maintenance facility with an inspection pit and also doubled as a car dealership for Rio Cars. The great depression demonstrated Frank Martz Sr.’s character and his determination to survive. After filing for bankruptcy and re-organizing, Frank Martz Sr. paid back 100% of his debts over the next 27 years with the help of his son Frank Martz Jr.
Frank Sr. first introduced air conditioning to the buses. A large block of ice would be placed on the roof of the bus with a large fan blowing the cool air into the passenger section of the bus. Once the ice had melted, the air-conditioning was over. In 1937, air conditioning became a standard in motor coaches.
On February 5th, 1936 in Chicago Illinois, Frank Martz joined forces with H.W Stewart of Burlington Transportation, A.E. Greenleaf of Missouri-Pacific Stages, A.T Williams of Safeway Line, Inc. and P.O. Dittmar of Santa Fe Trails Transportation Company to form the National Trailways organization. The Trailways organization helped smaller bus operators collaborate and compete against larger and more connected operators such as Greyhound Bus line. The organization was structured by brand uniformity and required safety and operational standards, so passengers could travel seamlessly cross-county by using the Trailways system. Today, the Trailways system collaboratively operates more than 10,000 for hire group transport vehicles, of which 2,000+ are over-the-road, full size motor coaches. Trailways travels over 20 million miles annually and celebrated their 85th anniversary on February 5th, 2021.
Frank Martz Sr. and Fay had been blessed with two children of their own, Frank Martz Jr and Marjorie E. Martz. In 1936, after attending an Army/Navy football game, Frank Martz Sr. was stricken with pneumonia and passed away shortly thereafter. Frank Martz Jr., then a twenty-year-old sophomore at Duke University, left school and rushed home to Plymouth to take the helm of the company and keep if from the bank lawyers that were attempting wrestle control from the family in this time of crisis. At the same time Frank was battling lawyers for the company, the country was fighting in World War II. With the demand for troops all throughout the states, Martz helped provide transportation for troops on the East coast to get to their military base for training. Providing transportation for troops among the East Coast helped the company to retain their operations. Frank Martz Jr., also supported by Marjorie Martz and her husband Leonard D. Henry, returned the company to solvency. Like his father during the depression era, Frank focused on streamlining the company and cutting any services that were not profitable.
Before Frank Jr.’s passing in 1964, Frank Henry, grandson to Frank Martz Sr, had begun his role in the company. During the summertime, Frank Henry would work in the garage cleaning the buses after their daily runs and lend a helping hand wherever needed. Under the mentoring of Frank Martz Jr, Frank Henry learned all he could about the company and found his permanent role in the company’s future. At the time of Frank Martz Jr.’s death, the company was operating 32 buses out of 239 Old River Road, providing local transportation, intrastate and interstate runs to New York, Atlantic City and Philadelphia from Public Square WB, Scranton and Stroudsburg Delaware Water Gap. Following his uncle’s death, Frank Henry took control of the company and began preparing for the future. After the initial shock of his uncles passing, Frank began meeting with the principles of the business, lawyers and friends of the company, learning as much as he could about the immediate ways Frank Martz Jr. led the company. In place were all the major players that had been with the company for many years, allowing Frank to call upon them for their wealth of knowledge.
In 1972, Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding area were hit with flood waters of hurricane Agnes, the costliest flood in United States history at the time. Due to the extensive damage caused by Agnes, the area lost many businesses and jobs that would take years to rebuild. This created a need for transportation to bring in outside support to rebuild, while also creating a need for those who lost their jobs
Over the next several years, Frank began to expand the company through acquisitions. Focusing on large populated areas that were within a day travel of Wilkes-Barre, Frank purchased Gold Line and Gray line sightseeing in Washington DC in 1974. This would serve as a major attraction for local high schools looking to take trips to the nation’s capital, along with many individuals living in Northeastern Pennsylvania wishing to travel to
In 1978 the gaming industry made its way to Atlantic City NJ, bringing a new wave of attractions and casinos to the East Coast. With the opening of the first casino, Chalfonte-Haddon Hall, roughly 200 miles away, Frank began operating one bus a day to Atlantic City. Shortly thereafter Frank received a phone call from Stuart Perlman, who along with his brother has just opened Caesar’s casino in Atlantic City, and saw Martz dropping off full busloads of customers every day at Chalfonte-Haddon Hall. They wanted Martz to come to Caesars as well. Over the next several years Atlantic City
In the early 1980’s Frank “Hank” Henry and Scott Henry, sons of Frank Henry, bought 9 super buses and began running high end trips exclusively to Atlantic City. These buses would sell for $800-$900 a day, 7 days a week for roughly 9 years traveling to Atlantic City. As more casinos began to open it other areas of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, the attraction to Atlantic City started to dwindle as did the demand to travel there. Continuing his expansion in 1983, Frank acquired Gulf
In 1985 the Martz travel agency was established. This served as a full service global air and cruise travel agency for the Martz services. Continuing with expansion, in 1986 First Class Coach was acquired in St. Petersburg, FL, looking to help balance the slow winter month’s business in Pennsylvania. In 1988 Tourtime America was acquired in Richmond, VA not far from Washington DC and the other Martz locations. In 1984 Martz acquired Franklin Motorcoach in Virginia, solidifying the Martz presence on the East Coast. While Frank was the chairman of the company during this time of growth and expansion, he credits the Martz employees for their help to make the company a leader in the transportation industry. With another generation of the family, Scott
Martz has updated their fleet once again to stay at the forefront of comfort in the bus industry.