When I was a little girl I longed to ride the school bus. Every day I would watch my older brothers and sister climb the steps of the bus and head to school. I always missed them when they left and couldn’t wait until they got home. When it came near time for the school bus to bring them home, Mom would tell me and my little brother, David, and I would run out to the swing set by the road and sit in the swings and wait. When we saw the school bus coming down the road we got all excited. The bus was always noisy and it just looked like fun to me
Finally the day came for my first day of school. Mom tied the sash of my new dress into a pretty bow and brushed my hair. I was so excited. I was going into the first grade. Our little school had no kindergarten and went from first grade to grade twelve in the same building. I already knew how to read as I pretty much taught myself.
Suddenly my brothers yelled, “The school bus is coming!” and out the door we all went and crossed the gravel road and waited for the bus to stop. The steps were high and I was little and the bus driver looked scary. I climbed the steps and stood there facing strangers staring back at me. I quickly took the very front seat while my brothers and sister went to the back of the bus. Down the road we went. We picked up a little girl whose nanny goat had followed her down her long lane. I learned her name was Jennifer and she sat by me. We soon became friends. We were both in the first grade.
When we got to school, we all piled out and went to our classes. My sister probably took me the first day as I don’t remember how I found my room. The day seemed long and I was homesick and couldn’t wait for the bus to take me home. For the longest time during my first year of school, every time the bus brought me home on Friday I thought I was finished with school. In fact on Sunday nights when Mom would tell me I had to go to bed early because school was tomorrow, I would start to cry. It’s not that I hated school. I just loved being home with my mother so much more. But I would get on the bus on Monday morning and go to school once again.
As I became an old hand at riding the bus, I became more courageous. Now we had a bus driver, Cecil Richmond who ran a tight ship. No one was to change seats and loud talking was not allowed. He carried a switch over his visor and he kept his eye on his passengers at all times. He scared me to death. I never saw him use the switch on anyone, but I wasn’t going to test him. I did forget once and changed seats and he yelled at me. I never did that again! But he wasn’t all bad. Mr. Richmond ran a gas station in our little town and every Christmas, as long as he drove the bus, on the way home from school on the last day before Christmas break, he would drive his bus to his gas station, get out, go inside and come out carrying boxes of candy bars for all his passengers. Back in the 50’s you could buy regular candy bars in a pack of six. That is what he gave each of us. A six pack! We looked forward to it every year.
When Mr. Richmond retired, my best friend’s father drove the bus through my senior year. We all knew each other then. Now I wonder if parents know who is driving their children.
I have fond memories of sitting in the back of the bus and gossiping with my girl friends, learning how to kiss( we used our arms to practice kissing) and when we got older, flirting with boys in cars behind the bus. I had a boyfriend one time we picked up on the way to school and I always couldn’t wait to see him. Yes, I have kissed boys on the bus, including my husband when we went to the same school. Later, during the basketball season I would ride the booster bus to the games in other towns and it was the most fun. We would sing and flirt with the boys and yell cheers for our basketball team. The bus driver had to have had a lot of patience or he wore ear plugs.
Nowadays most children are driven to school by their parents. The big yellow school bus still goes by where I live now and I always think of the fun times I had riding one. My children rode the bus. I said if it went by our house, they were going to ride it. They did until they got older and either caught a ride or had a car of their own. I wonder if kids like riding the bus as much as I did growing up.
Here’s to big yellow school buses and the people who drive them. Bye.