In October 2013 the Stewart family celebrated 65 years of operation in Bundaberg - making them one of the longest consecutively owned bus companies in Australia. Although their business in Bundaberg commenced during October 1948, their family’s involvement in buses extends back even earlier to Cairns in North Queensland, where Matthew and Evelyn Stewart purchased the ‘Wattle Bus Service’ circa 1937. Originally cane farmers, the Stewarts purchased the one-bus operation which operated a mixed town and schools run servicing Digger, Sheridan and Lake Streets in the city during the week with hourly services to the picture theatre on Saturday nights and church runs on Sunday nights. An International, which came with the business, was fleetingly used until the delivery of a 27-seat Watt Brothers bodied Maple Leaf during 1937.
The business was operated for approximately two years until it was sold to a Mr Watkins – as Matthew returned to contract building. The Stewarts remained in Cairns until relocating further south to Brisbane during March 1942, due to the imminent threat of a Japanese invasion during World War II.
Upon their arrival in Brisbane, Matthew secured employment building railcars at Evan Deakin – while eldest son Ray undertook an apprenticeship watchmaking and youngest son Les remained in school. Around 1944, the Stewarts bought back into buses with the purchase of the Yeronga Fire Station to Oxley Meatworks run from a Mr E. Parker.