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MAN SURPRISES WIFE WITH BUS FOR BIRTHDAY

On the evening of her 54th birthday, Linda Lubke received a double-decker shock.

First, the planned quiet dinner with her husband, Leo Lubke, turned into a surprise party with 20 of their friends.

Second, she became owner of a 50-year-old double-decker London "jo-jo" bus that for more than a decade after World War II carried British residents in and out of London-town.

Jo-jo bus?

"A bus with an open back end from which passengers could jump on and jump off," Lubke explained. "We have put on a door so there no longer will be jumping on and off."

By next spring "Delores" -- as the London Transport Service originally christened it and it was rechristened Thursday night -- will be driven in parades, festivals and other Western New York celebrations, calling attention to historic Springville and Linda's Choo Choo Candy and Gift Shop.

But Mrs. Lubke, an assistant principal at Springville-Griffith Institute & Central School, and her birthday guests had their first ride in Delores Friday night when it carried them to Orsini's Restaurant north of Springville for a party dinner.

"I'm still speechless," Mrs. Lubke said after the surprise had been sprung Friday night. "I didn't have a clue."

Once she rediscovered her ability to speak, Mrs. Lubke raved about the ride to Orsini's.

"The view from the top level was incredible," she said. "We were all practicing our royal waves."

The bus originally seated 54 people -- 28 on the upper deck and 26 on the lower one -- plus standing room for as many who could crowd on to the jo-jo platform. The birthday celebrants sat on temporary plywood benches. Cushioned seating will be installed, Lubke said.

Restoring old structures is nothing new for Lubke, who earns his living as a computer instructor and consultant.

He spotted the bus in the yard of Concord Mechanical just off Route 391 north of Springville.

"I do not know when it was brought to the United States, but it was operated by Artpark for a year or two and then auctioned. It has been sitting in the Concord Mechanical yard for five or six years and Doug Andrews, the yard owner and a fine mechanic, and his two brothers have undertaken to put it in mint condition."

"I am looking for a place where they can work over the winter. I need a building that can take a 14 1/2 foot tall bus," Lubke said.

Lubke declined to say how much he paid for his birthday present, but said the restoration budget is eight times the purchase price.

The bus, powered by a diesel engine, runs smoothly at a 35 mph clip. It is licensed, has passed inspection and is insured. It steers manually, has a stick shift transmission and air-powered brakes. It also has destination lettering and interior slots for product ads.

It needs seats, a new interior and the tired red paint replaced by something matching its mint condition green.

"Yes, I expect that Linda will drive it," Lubke said.

Mrs. Lubke, though, got in the last word: "I've always said Leo was an incredible husband."

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