A great trivia question:  for five points name the Bearbrass member who was born in Bethlehem and rose to become a Brisbane bus driver? 
Answer: Mike Sparkes, 67. To be exact, he was born in Bethlehem Hospital, Caulfield, and took up bus-driving as a hobby after a long career in IT. He can not only drive buses – and he loves that – but he can also drive aeroplanes. He was a Cessna pilot for decades and is still licensed.
Spike is pictured left outside his Docklands tower on August 4. Why the mask? Because  just as his tower manager was taking the photo, a police car drove past and the coppers looked menacing. Spike hastily pulled his mask up and deprived us all of his comely features.
“I found apartment life in Brisbane in 2011 boring and after six months noticed an ad on a bus: “We need YOU to drive this bus”. The Brisbane City Council hired him straight away and although he had never driven a truck before, let alone a bus, they just put him into the bus driver’s seat with a teacher alongside, and he drove it away. “I did that job for a couple of years, 2-3 days a week,” he says.
Wasn’t it stressful with so little traffic clearance and so many bad car drivers and no ability to slam on the brakes?
“Nah, it was the first job in my life where I directly benefitted my customers and I could be friends with them. In the morning rush I got the commuters who were a bit impatient but for the rest of the day, I was making friends with everyone who couldn’t drive, like schoolkids, the disabled and lots of elderly people going to the doctor and suchlike.
There are some grumpy bus drivers but I say to them, ‘Go drive a truck’.”
Wasn’t it a hassle keeping track of fare money? “Nah, some days I’d have a bit over and put it aside for other days when my till was short.”
Spike, as he is always known, says bus driving was the most tranquil, no-stress job he ever had. “If the traffic is slow, you stay patient and drive slow. It turned me into a much better car driver too. I’m tolerant of idiots because I’ve seen so many from the bus.
“I only once had to brake hard and throw my passengers about. A car driver cut right across my front and I missed him by a centimetre. I thought my passengers would be cross but they gave me a clap.”
Spike and his late wife Carol bought six acres at Yandirna on the Sunshine Coast and he switched to part-time driving for Sunbus. They decided to look for a place in Melbourne and bought the cheapest house ever in 2018 for $250,000 at Port Welshpool near Yarram in Gippsland. It was as a base while they home-hunted. There followed a logistical saga with Spike doing return six-day car trips  of 4000km to Yandirna almost monthly. Sadly Carol lost an 18 months struggle with melanoma and Spike moved to a Docklands apartment last January, two days after Australia’s first CORONA-case turned up.  He had expected his interstate friends to use it as a base. But the virus spiked Spike’s plans and now he’s isolated like everyone else.
His IT career, largely with Burroughs/Unisys, took the couple all over the world from the US and UK to Asia. He particularly enjoyed his time with Carol on 40 acres at Bungendore NSW from 1985-99, where Carol was a champion in for the strange sport of endurance horse riding. She would ride through the bush,  80km trips from 4am to 3pm, and 400km trips over several days, without getting bushed. She’d be on the same horse with vet checks en route
Spike has earned the title “Lost Lamb of Bearbrass” because he applied to join on our second meeting in March, just before the Dock Library locked down. Somehow we mislaid his application form and couldn’t maintain contact, while he thought the club had folded. It was only after a determined recent effort by Ray Duncan that he was re-discovered last month and brought back into our flock. He considers us the best club, baa none.
Picture: Spike (below) re-unites with his Bearbrass parent