Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Driving A School Bus In The Snow

Our forecast for today is one to three inches of snow. No winter storm watch. No high winds blizzard. Just snow. But it did make me think of when I drove a school bus.
I only had a part time job in 1980 and needed another. I had tried waitressing. Um, no. Then I saw an ad for part time school bus drivers. I applied and got the job contingent upon passing the driving test for a commercial license. I borrowed a truck from the Red Star Mill and passed my test on the first try.
I got a lot of opportunities driving a bus as a substitute on almost all the routes. In 1983 I got my own, full time, route. Interestingly it covered many of the same roads and areas as the bus did when I rode it as a high school student.

My route was one of the longer ones. I had to be at the bus barn by 6:45 and on the route before 7 a.m. My first pick up was a little kindergarten girl. I remember feeling so sorry for her that she had to be up and ready for the bus so early. Of course I had to make sure my own two children were awake and getting ready for their own bus pick up before I left home - but they were older. I didn't feel as bad for them. If snow was in the forecast they were awake early anyway, hoping school would be called off for the day.

There was one morning I was certain school would be cancelled. The forecast was for heavy snow and wind. But the powers that be made the decision to go ahead and send the buses out. The first seven miles out of town I was on a north-south highway. As soon as I turned west I could see the gravel road was beginning to drift. I made the first two stops and starts okay and bucked a few smaller drifts. When I made the third pick up I could see the drifts ahead were higher. There was a wind break there for the farm stead and the snow was piling up higher because of it. I got stuck.
We traveled with scoop shovels on the bus when it was snowy. I got out to scoop and the farm father came out to help. Between us we got the bus unstuck and I went on.

Everything went okay until a few miles farther when I had to pull into the driveway to pick up the children and then back around and go back the way I came. With all the snow I couldn't see the edge of the road and didn't back tightly enough. The back wheels on one side of the bus went just enough off the road that I couldn't get it out. I had to call the bus barn. They sent a wrecker out. (We called them wreckers instead of tow trucks.) They pulled the bus out. I finished my route. We were late, but I got all the kids to school. (I wasn't the only bus late that day, others had problems, too.)

THEN the decision was made to call school off early. I think it had stopped snowing by then but was still blowing and drifting. I could remember times from my own school years when buses didn't make it through their home bound routes and kids and driver ended up spending the night with some farm family. I got all my riders delivered and made it back to town. The wind went down, the sun came out. The snow started melting. If they had waited until regular dismissal time, getting the students back home would have been easier.

There were probably other times when driving the school bus was challenging - besides dealing with some of the students, I mean. But this particular day is the one that remains in my memory.

For some reason they decided they wanted ALL school personnel to have their pictures taken that year. So here is the one and only school photo of me post my own school years.

Driving a school bus was a job I enjoyed. I would have gone on driving it for who knows how many more years, but we moved back to the city the summer of '84. My bus driving days were over.


  1. Not sure if we are talking about the same storm or not...but I remember getting to school late one day because of the snow. We were there for only an hour before they sent us home. Could be the same storm....

    1. Preston - Certainly could have been the same one. That was quite the driving day for me! Good old Bus #49.