Retired Driver Charlie Maes Continues 41 Year, Christmas Eve Tradition of Jokes, Facts and Carols
Although he retired in 2000 after 27 years as a bus driver, Charlie Maes still loves to come to the Albuquerque Convention Center every Christmas Eve and jump on two of the Luminaria Tours. And he continues a tradition that has made him famous among tour goers for his jokes, patter and Christmas carol singing.
“I actually wasn’t scheduled to drive the Luminaria Tour during my first year (1973); I was an extra board driver,” said Charlie. “But the scheduled driver called in sick, so I took his place. And I’ve been on the tour ever since, even after retirement.”
His yearly routine for tour goers is based on observations he has made on 40 previous tours. For instance, on his very first tour, he noticed more than a few riders were out-of-towners who wanted to know about the neighborhood they were in or who owned the house they were viewing. For Charlie, an Albuquerque native who always loved history, this played right into his strengths.
“After identifying the out-of-towners, I always start the tour by giving some history of the area,” said Charlie. “Some” includes everything from New Mexico’s Native American tribes to the state flower and bird, Luminaria Tour history, even a mention about the Unser family and how many Indianapolis 500’s they have collectively won.
His routine is even site-specific. Between Old Town and Los Altos neighborhoods, he recites poems and tells jokes. On the way from the Los Altos neighborhood back to Downtown, he leads tour goers in carols of his own design with names like “Jingle Bus.” ““I hope to keep doing it as long as I’m healthy,” said Charlie. “As long as I can still sing and as long as I can still talk…”
“Charlie Maes and Christmas spirit are just part of the magic we try to bring riders every year on the Luminaria Tour,” said Bruce Rizzieri, Director of ABQ RIDE. “And we’re proud to keep alive a Tour that’s now in its sixth decade.”