I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.
Sometimes I Wish That I Could
Stop. Just stop. And live an entire day or two doing nothing. Not thinking. Not talking to anyone. Just living and enjoying (probably) one of my favorite places on earth: automobile junk yards where I have viewed a few abandoned school buses.
Frankly, this is not a real hub, but a cold, honest narrative about how much I miss riding the school bus and how much (these days) that I appreciate them. I am not a fool. Nor a silly individual, just someone who has come to embrace my personal feelings and how that over the years, I have ignored these feelings and of course that was very unwise, but now with the words of THIS narrative, I feel so much better. Just because of a school bus? Yes, a school bus.
Now follow me. I dare say that all school children who ride a school bus do not know or take the time to know just how much a school bus means to them. And I understand this. As former Country Music group, Alabama, said in one of their songs, “I Was Young Once Too,” now, in the present tense, I fully-realize and comprehend what a school bus “really” meant when I was in school, but then again, I never thought like my friends or family. At the age of seven, in my first day of the first grade, another pupil asked if I wanted to play baseball, and without knowing what baseball meant, I agreed. The reason that I did not about baseball is because I did not have a television in our home and my dad’s cheap Western Auto radio would not pick-up the long-distance games, so there you have it. I was stupid, but due to extenuating circumstances.
I asked an older pupil, Russell Lynch, what I should do and he quickly advised me to sit down behind the batter, Bobby Stovall, another wise pupil, and catch the baseball that Charles Deline, another older pupil, was going to throw the baseball to me. Simple enough, I thought. In seconds flat, Deline went through his wind-up and let the horse-hide fly. Much like Haley’s Comet the ball flew from his hands to . . .well, not into my hands. Not whatsoever. But what did fly was the blue and yellow stars that were cast on a black background as I lay on the ground on my back—watching the light show and I could hear voices of New Home students is he okay? Why is he laying there? Who is he? All good questions. But no real answers were ever discovered.
I could, if I were so a mind to, blame the yellow school bus that was driven by Mr. Linyon Cox, a good man, and say that I was all his fault and shared by his school bus . . .but I didn’t. During the next week at home given me by my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Gertrude Ballard, who said that the two big knots on my forehead would go down if my mom would apply lots of that iconic Red Cross rubbing alcohol, a cure-all for all mishaps and diseases for the American school kid. The alcohol did not work that much as it did smell great, I did enjoy that week off just laying-around and thinking of just how stupid I had been to just agree to play baseball without first really thinking about it, which has been one of my main personal drawbacks that I have encountered for most f my life. After that painful day, my short career at New Home School, in Marion County, (my hometown) ceased! But at the next school that I had to attend, Hamilton Grammar School, I did play a few softball games, but did not take the catcher’s stance.
From 1961 Throughout 1972
I rode the school bus. No apologies for this event because it was one of those “have to” events. I could have walked when I lived in the New Home Community, near Hamilton, Ala., our county seat of Marion County, but not when my family moved and I was then taken to Hamilton Grammar School, but still, I had to ride the school bus. The story gets deeper and more-frightened.
One of my bus drivers was Mr. Felon Terrell, a retired gentleman, who was, by and large, a good bus driver, all except one thing: he had a physical defect of passing-out at any given time and he would always say that he did not remember doing (that). Now, you are thinking, why on earth was he allowed to drive a school bus with that physical defect? The State of Alabama Board of Education’s Guidelines for School Bus Drivers were really lax in the early 60’s. But later on in the 70’s to 2020, those guidelines are stern and strictly-enforced.
My favorite seat on the school bus was on the back seat. Along with my best buddy, Gilbert Abbot, a guy who was older than me and most of my friends because we all felt as he was kept back a couple of times and was a bit more manly due to his cursing like a sailor and offered to teach me how to curse, so in the weeks to come, Gilbert and I would sit on each side of the bus where we held back the back seat and he would tell me which profanity to use when a certain event happened. Example: Abbot told me that if my parents told me to a bit more than I could handle, just look at the ground and use a casual voice and say one of those sharp, four-letter words. I tried that once. Only once.
What does Abbot, cursing, and the back seat have to do with a school bus? Not to poke fun, but the vast majority of you do not know and asking yourself, what in the world is this fool Kenneth asking us such a question? A question easily-answered. It all has everything to do with riding a school bus and even I can go far as to tell you that it is about a student’s appreciation for a school bus. And mind you, I can relate to the time of when “we” were at the ages from seven and twelve, not really adults, but true, blue children with our entire lives that were ahead of us. We did not know what work meant, but we did know what fun and happy times meant. At our ages, I knew that Abbot was not a kid, but a man. And to us, that was all that we cared about.
But What About The School Bus
I ask? What about the school bus? And I am meaning the existence, performance, and needs filled by a school bus and its driver. And a pat-on-the-back to the inventor of the school bus, Mr. George Shillibeer, (his real name by the way), who created the very first school bus which was horse-drawn, in 1827 for a Quaker school at Abney Park in Stoke Newington, London, and was designed to transport 25 children.
I wonder now at this age and time if Mr. Shilibeer ever realized just what a grand invention he had built in the school bus. Probably not. But I can tell you that Shilibeer can be placed in the same notion as Henry Ford being the first American designer of the automobile. But I do not think like others, you can thank Charles Deline for that when he hurled a baseball that “took me out” in the first round, Shilibeer’s building the first school bus was a bit more important to school kids everywhere.
Here Are a Few Thoughts About
our friend, the school bus:
- Torn seats for most school buses was and is more like standard equipment. Who commits this mild vandalism? Who knows? We always thought that the older kids who were in higher grades did this to carry-on their tradition.
- The windows were always rattling and making noise like any Fourth of July Parade held in Lansing, MI. Why? I have only one opinion: some unruly pupils who had never seen a school bus window got on their knees in their seats and pulled their windows up and down until they were damaged.
- Underneath almost every seat we had in our school bus had a very large portion of chewing and bubble gum of most every brand. Did I get to stick my gum underneath the seat? Nope. My folks couldn’t afford it.
- Behind each seat in the meal backing, was some girl and boy’s initials carved by the boy’s pocket knife to tell future couples just how deeply in love his girlfriend was with him and for a few weeks, this was okay, but when the future and reality mix, there are literally uncounted couples who once swore undying love to each other, but married a professional gangster after high school graduation.
- Going to and coming home from school, I testify that this and the other facts in this narrative are true. The atmosphere of our school bus was a mixture of best-smelling perfume, deodorant, and shave lotion to the guys who shaved. Then there were the “Gum Jaws,” who did nothing but sit, stare out their windows and chew their gum as fast as possible. I envied them because I did hear on good authority that these guys and gals were able to keep-up their gum-chewing tradition even while in class. Talk about rebels? James Dean would have been a daisy compared to these guys.
- My bus drivers, Mr. Linyon Cox and Mr. Felon Terrell, were so laid-back that it took a hostage situation in order to get them to their their eyes off the road. Even an occasional horse laugh from a worldly guy’s rather colorful joke would cause the entire bus to suddenly be in an uproar and what still gets me is how did the students in the back of the bus hear every syllable of “Mr. Filthy Joke,” who was sharing his vulgar joke in the front?
I will say that traveling back to the junkyard and looking at a collection of abandoned school buses that my memories were more sad than nostalgic. In telling you “the” saddest abandoned school bus memory is this one: when I was a junior in high school, I rode the bus. When the end of my school year ended and I knew that I had passed to be a senior the next year, and my dad had told me that I could use the car (a great time to be young in Alabama), the very last time that I got off my driver, Mr. Linlon Cox’s bus, as I walked to our house, I was somehow compelled to look at the very front of the bus and sure enough, I believe that I saw the bus shed a tear or two.
School buses DO live.
April 9, 2020______________________________________________________
© 2020 Kenneth Avery