Education

Readers share favorite memories of their days riding the big yellow bus

Bill MirabellaBlufftonThere were numerous students in our area who had round-trip bus service each day from our church to our high school. One afternoon we experienced an enormous rain storm dropping several inches of rain in a relatively short period of time. Not unusual for that time of the year in northwest Indiana, but because of the amount of rain, there were numerous flooded streets. That’s where the adventure begins.

On our way home, our bus driver decided to drive under a railroad viaduct. Why, I do not know, being that there was only a few feet of visible clearance between the water and the railroad bridge overhead. Once she hit the flooded street, a huge wave of water came splashing over the top of the bus and we started to drift towards the viaduct. People started to panic as the water began rapidly rising towards the ceiling. Considering I was in my favorite seat in the back, I was fortunate enough to be able to force open the rear emergency door. It was amazing how difficult it was with only a few feet of water up against it. With the door finally open, everyone was able to evacuate the bus.

What I did not realize was how far we had drifted and how deep the muddy water actually was. When I leapt from the bus, I was completely submerged into the water. Thankfully everyone made it out safely, including the bus driver — who we had to float back to dry ground because she was unable to swim.

Considering no people were hurt, you have to look at the lighter side of something so traumatic: We all had excuses for not finishing our homework! “Sorry sir, but forget about the dog eating my homework — I lost it and my books trying to swim to safety!”

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Joan Mustard Hilton Head Island

A new school year was, for me, just that. My family moved so frequently that nearly every year I was starting a new school. Riding the school bus was sheer torment, especially the first few days. Longtime friends had established their cliques and chosen their preferred seats, and woe to the newcomer who mistakenly sat in the wrong place. Although I was adept at pretending I didn’t mind being ignored and really didn’t want their friendship, my insides were churning. I was also adept at sensing who the bullies were and staying as far away from them as possible. That is probably one of the few benefits of having to adapt to ever-changing surroundings, at least in childhood.

My teen years were the worst, though. I attended four high schools in four years. There is none more acutely sensitive than the high school sophomore — age 15 — who must ride the bus, lacking a parent to chauffeur, an older friend who drove, or, best of all, a boyfriend with a car. And being the new kid every year meant that on the first day of school, the latter two opportunities weren’t available.

So I suffered through my first day of school in Biloxi, Miss., and as the bus approached my street that afternoon, I couldn’t get off it fast enough. Literally. I stepped off the bus before it had stopped rolling. I ended up flat on my face on Highway 90. You can imagine the hoots and laughter resounding from the bus as it drove away and I picked myself up from the asphalt (in a skirt, of course, to add to the humiliation), brushing the gravel off my skinned knees and hands. I limped home wishing I could disappear.

My mother was sitting on the sofa when I entered, and her cheerful, “Did you have a nice day at school?” fueled my misery. I stormed down the hall and slammed my bedroom door, leaving her to shake her head at the moodiness of girls of a certain age.

As with all teen traumas and dramas, this one receded ... or so I thought. Later in the year, I was riding with a boyfriend (in a car!) when he suddenly asked, “Hey, weren’t you the girl who fell off the bus?”

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Esther Blume Truesdale Seabrook

In 1946, Esther Blume, with nervous excitement, stepped on the school bus in Smithville, Ind. The high school students were already on board. My first day of school was wonderful. I loved everything about first grade.

Several miles into our afternoon ride, some older boys began taunting me. “Oh, there’s Miss Bloomers!” “Hi, Miss Bloomers!” “Did you wear your bloomers today?” “How many bloomers do you have?”

I had never encountered such statements of embarrassment and disgrace in my nearly six years. My tear ducts overflowed. The sight of tears only encouraged more taunting from these wicked boys.

Mother noticed my red eyes and smudged tears as I embarked from the bus. It took quite a while before she could comprehend why I was so broken-hearted.

Her advice: “Esther, there will always be people like those boys. The next time they tease you, be strong. Try to smile and pretend it doesn’t bother you. If they can’t upset you they will stop and give their attention to someone, or something, else.”

Though difficult, the next day I bravely pretended their taunting did not bother me. Mother’s advice worked. The boys stopped bullying me.

Through the years this lesson has given me courage. And, as an educator, the story about my “school bus lesson” has often helped children smile and attempt to be courageous.

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Judith Hills Hilton Head Island

The time was 1958. The place was rural southern New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia. Doo-wop music reigned supreme. There were no iPods. Transistor radios, newly invented, had not made their way to the teenage population. The 45-minute bus ride could get pretty boring. Then someone would start: “Shoo-doop-shoo-bee-do ...” Thus would begin our anthem, “In the Still of the Night” by the Five Satins. This song had high parts, low parts, the melody and of course the “shoo-doops.” Everyone selected a part and joined in. Another favorite was “Little Darlin’” by the Diamonds. “Bum-de-wa-de-wa-de ...” Anyone else remember?

Daisy Eugene

A 19-year bus driver who covers routes north of the Broad

The first thing I tell them is listen to me. The second thing I tell them — you got to keep your hands to yourself. The rules are simple. Some of them think its hard because they want to do it their way. Most kids listen.

On my bus I got boys toward the front and girls in the back. I have a sign up on my bus that says, “This is where girls boys stop and girls start.” It helps you. You can tell who is getting ready to fight and who is getting ready to start a fight.

My son, when he was in school, wanted me to be a bus driver. I was a housewife. He was in sixth grade and he came home one day and he said, “Why don’t you be a bus driver?” I said, “No, I don’t want to be a bus driver.” He said, “Go take the test.” I took the test and I said, “I’ll drive until your sister finish school.” After they finished school I had another little child going through, and I’m still here.

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Daniel Hoyt Daniels Beaufort

I can give you a school bus story, and it’s the truth. I kissed a girl in the back of the school bus. So what, you say. Well, in those days things were different.I was an Army brat, an 8-year-old third grader, living on a small isolated post up north. Our school bus was an army minivan that took about a dozen of us kids to the elementary school six miles away.

Sally and I liked to sit in the back. She was the most gorgeous creature you ever saw, with two pigtails and braces that gave her the most sparkling smile imaginable. Even before I knew what love was, I was in love with Sally, and one morning when I could no longer resist the temptation I gave her a little kiss to show my affection and admiration.

A fraction of a second of ecstasy, but a big mistake.

You see, public kissing in those days before the war was tolerated at about the same level as frontal nudity on Broadway is today. Our Holier than Thou driver, one Sergeant Fournier (pronounced: “Four-knee-her”) somehow must have spotted me in his rearview mirror, pulled over and stopped the bus, and gave me a round and most embarrassing chewing out in front of my friends and schoolmates.

And as if that weren’t enough, he (without due authority, I might say) suspended me from riding on the bus for a month, which meant my father had to drive me to school, which meant my father was then ten or fifteen minutes late for work, which meant he was not at all pleased with me, and he let me know that too.Now, isn’t that enough? Well, it’s not the end of the story.

As luck (bad luck, that is) would have it, I fell ill a few months later with rheumatic fever, the effects of which lingered for some years before gradually tapering off. One of its effects was that I became the laughing stock among the annual summer gathering of my cousins, who had the bright idea of associating my illness with my adventure with Sally, describing my problem as “romantic fever,” stemming from my unrequited love.

“He met Sally and got romantic fever,” was the taunt, which now sounds laughable but then cut deeply into the heart of a 10-year-old.

Dear Sally,

You would be 81 now, and I don’t know if or where you are today, but in spite of what I suffered from knowing you, the memory of our one kiss, my first and best, was worth it all.

Very truly yours,

Daniel H. Daniels

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Anne I. Mitchell Beaufort

My favorite school bus story happened some 25 years ago to a good friend of mine at the time.

The first day of school arrived for her first born, a son named Josh. Reluctantly, my friend put her son on the school bus that morning and sent him on his way to his first day of kindergarten. After worrying all morning, my friend was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the school bus later that day. Panic began to build as she watched child after child get off the bus, but there was no Josh.

She ran to the door of the bus and questioned the driver who could not seem to remember if Josh had gotten on the bus at the end of the school day. She climbed onto the bus calling Josh’s name — there was no answer.

She rushed off the bus and ran to her car thinking poor Josh had been left all alone on his first day of school. Just as the school bus was about to pull away, a child put his head out the window and yelled to my friend, “Hey, lady, there is a kid back here asleep!!”

My friend ran back onto the bus only to find her precious little boy curled up, sound asleep on one of the seats towards the back of the bus!

Josh was obviously all tuckered out from his first day of school and oblivious to the commotion and concern his falling asleep on the bus had caused.

Once the crisis was over, we all had a good laugh — one I have never forgotten.

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John E. McKenzie Jr. Hilton Head Island

Want a good bus story? I have one, it was football season in 1956 and Ridgeland High School was playing Moultrer High School in Mt. Pleasant. Our team and cheerleaders were traveling from Ridgeland and had to cross over the old Cooper River Bridge in Charleston. We were in the school’s old activity bus that was built about 1940 and was pushed on by an engine with a power of maybe 40 horsepower and a top speed of about 40 mph. We called the bus “Old Forty.”

It was a night game and we hit the bridge traffic at just the wrong time. “Old Forty” just barely got up the first steep grade and about half way up the second steep grade, “Old Forty” just gave out.

By this time, traffic was backed up behind us for miles with angry drivers getting out of their cars shouting and cussing. At that point our coach told everybody to get out of the bus and start pushing. What a sight.

The football players were pushing the bus and the cheerleaders, all decked out in their cute cheerleader outfits, were wailing behind us, cheering us on with a “Push that bus boys, push that bus!”

We got to the field just before the kickoff, won the game and found a different route home.

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