Sunday, March 28, 2010

Memoirs of a bus driver

                     Busing in the 50's and 60'
Having no new bus stories I thought I would recall some of my own busing experiences in the 50's and 60's. 
My first bus driver was Roe Herrick. The bus was an early 50's Ford with a flathead V-8, manual four speed and no power steering. I think the flashing lighting system were exactly the same as they are today except the stop arm and door would have been mechanically operated. No one ever saw Roe smile. We threw some candy kisses on his dash board one day as we got off. Maybe he smiled later when he ate them but no one knows for sure.
In Etna we attended a four room school house with two grades to each room. An ice rink was dug next to the school and filled with water each winter. Our recesses and noon hours were filled with skating on the ice. Later a new elementary school was built in Etna and the bus would pick us up from the four room school which had been changed to a junior high and then go pick up the elementary students. We had wonderful teachers in those days but none that were particularly distractive because of their good looks. That was, of course, until Miss Gee came to town. I'm not sure where she came from or how long she stayed in Star Valley.  I do know that some of us boys found it necessary get over on the school side of the bus as it stopped at the elementary school just so we could stare at Miss Gee as she walked her students to the bus.
                       The Etna Rebellion
It was decided by the school board one year that all the junior highs would be shut down and students would be bused to Afton. A group of parents in Etna [ the furtherest school from Afton] lead by Floyd Bagley decided that they would not be sending their students to Afton. We began that year holding school in the Etna church and were taught by some of the sisters in the ward. It may have been the only church school ever in Star Valley. This rebellion only lasted a week or so and we were indeed bused to Afton.
                          The Grover Years
The only other bus driver I remember for the rest of my schooling was Ervin Johnson. Making a living in Star Valley was not easy. Erv had a small farm, milked cows. drove bus and was cattle range rider in the summer. Everyone in Star Valley was Mormon. You were either active Mormon, inactive Mormon , or Non Mormon. Erv was the inactive kind who smoked. One time the stake hired him to take some of us to the Idaho Falls temple to do baptisms. I'm sure that was a long three hours for him till he got us off the bus and could go have a smoke. John and I were usually out doing morning chores before school  started on the Grover ranch and Dad kept us out to the last minute. We knew our reprieve had come when we could see the bus coming several miles away across the valley. We would make a dash for the house, hopefully inhale a little breakfast and be out ready to catch the bus
                      Owner Drivers / Feeder Routes
In those days except for a few buses owned by the district all of the drivers owned their own buses and were were paid for the routes they drove. Since it was not practical to run the big buses up all the dirt roads for a few students the district paid parent who had students in these out of the way places if they would buy a station wagon and pick their students as well as other along the way. These station wagons would then meet the big buses in route or  take the students directly to the schools. Otis Eggleston, our sometimes hired man drove one of these feeder routes. Otis & family lived up Willow Creek in the humblest of circumstances. In addition to a small farm they milked a few cows by hand, separated the cream, and hauled it to Idaho Falls every few weeks to sell it to the ice cream factory. Unfortunatley, they hauled the cream in the station wagon which always had the smell of spilt souring milk.
                        Heating the Bus
There were two heaters on the bus. One was up by the driver and another one was midway back under a seat. With lots of glass and thin metal walls a bus is not the ideal vehicle to try to heat in Star Valley winters with morning temperatures sometimes at "0" degrees. Unless you were very near one of the heaters the only difference between being inside the bus and outside was that the wind as not blowing. My cousin Dean Bagley [twenty years my senior] rode to school in a wooden camper shell built on the back of a pickup truck with the exhaust pipe running though the camper for heat. One has to think of the possible bad things that could have happened with this heating arrangement..
                    Walking boy/girl friend to the Bus
One of the tender scenes after each day at high school was the walking of ones girl/ boy friend to the bus. If you lived in Afton you didn't ride a bus so you were free to walk your "love" to the bus and just stand there waving good-by as the bus drove away. If both parties rode the bus then you had to decide who's bus you walked to first and then maybe wave to each other as the buses drove off. My time of having an Afton girlfriend walk me to the bus lasted only two weeks. I actually had an Afton girlfriend longer than that but she thought it was silly to walk me to the bus. Eventually she must have thought it was silly to have me as a boyfriend.
                             Field Trips
One time the band  followed the basketball team to Kemmerer Wyo. for a game. The trip one way was over three hours. On the way back [with no rest stops or convenience stores] cries were going up to the driver that miles traveled had exceeded the square root of bladder capacity x two. I'm not sure how we would have handled a rest stop late at night with a mixed group on a rural road but we were willing to give it a try. We never got the chance.  The driver just kept on driving back to Afton.
Girls often wore multiple petticoats to school. In sitting position these tended to take up most of bus seat. If two full petticoated girls sat together it would have been the same as a primitive air bag. This level of underclothing was more that just decorative. It could help retain body heat on a cold bus.
                           Forty Five Year Gap
In 1962 I rode a school bus for the last time. Forty five years later I started riding again. The color of the bus is  the same, but my bus has a turbo charged Mercedes Benz diesel engine, five speed automatic, air conditioning, air brakes, and an air ride seat. It has a satellite tracking system that tells dispatch where I am, how fast I am going, and what time I made each stop. A camera is filming the driver and passengers at all times. The C-B radio keeps me in touch with dispatch and eighty five other drivers.                
If Roe Herrick is looking down on all of this perhaps even he is now smiling.  Mr. "B"

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