I think most remember that sing-song nursery rhyme “The Wheels on the Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round.” And, so it has been for me that those wheels have indeed turned.
While, I’m guessing, many of you have your own memories of your bus-riding days in school, my memories are actually twofold and separated by nearly two decades.
During my early St. Charles days, indelibly etched in my mind is Green Bus No. 1. My bus stop was on the corner of Hazel and North Nixon avenues, a site accessible more quickly by cutting through the backyard of our 1525 Latham Avenue house as well the our over-the-back-fence neighbors on Hazel.
As for my times on the big yellow conveyance with, of course, green-painted bumpers, riding in it provided me early glimpses into human nature. I learned what a bully looks like, had my very first experience with that roller coaster pit-of-the-stomach feeling when a certain girl boarded, and found my first audiences for my own brand of juvenile comedy.
As for the bully, the first I’d seen in action, his name was Tom, older and physically bigger as bullies tend to be than my cohorts and me. One day, I watched him make my best friend Greg eat a dog biscuit.
When it came to my first crush, her name was Jennifer, and she had blonde hair. She came on the bus on the very next stop after mine. Of course, for me and my other equally smitten colleagues, we tried to gain her attention and favor by trying to make her laugh and when that didn’t work, picking on her. It seems so strange to me now that we somehow thought we’d be able to curry favor by calling her Whitey and telling her that she was a dreaded carrier of cooties.
Of course, as time evolved, I outgrew my Green Bus No. 1 when, by seventh grade my rite of passage, one shared by my pals Jim Fry, Tim Clark and Duane Reynolds, was riding a bike to school. By the time we matriculated to LCC, bikes were replaced by cars and I thought I’d seen the last of my school-bus days.
However, as the winds of fate blew, following my time at Miami, I became a teacher and coach, and, thus, came my reintroduction to school buses.
During my early teaching-and-coaching days at Perry High School, anyone who coached below the varsity level actually had to obtain a chauffeur license and drive his own team bus as a cost-cutting measure. I really wasn’t thrilled about that, but that’s the way it was.
I remember the school day I took the bus driver test. Without even a licensed driver to go with me, I was given the keys to a bus and told to drive out to the DMV on West Street and take the test. After arriving without incident, I promptly failed the test and drove back to school alone and angry. Later that week, I took it again and passed.
To be honest, I was never all that comfortable driving a bus. I remember missing the entry to the parking lot on a Saturday morning while taking my JV footballers to our game at Allen East and, instead of driving around the block as I should have, backing up and running into the front bumper of a car that was in my blind spot. Hello, $100 ticket, one, of course, the school that wouldn’t pay for a bus driver wasn’t about to pay. The $100 was two-thirds my supplemental contract for the coaching assignment.
I also remember a frightening moment that occurred on a trip to Upper Scioto Valley to play a junior high basketball game. Following our 20-point pasting by the Rams, we left the locker room to discover the inside of our bus had been vandalized. As I was pulling out, a group of kids in the parking lot were yelling racial epithets and pelting the bus with rocks. While I didn’t think at the time or do I now that the incident was an indictment of an entire community, what occurred was preventable with some adult supervision after the game.
The next day at my classroom door stood the USV superintendent, apologizing profusely. It was an apology I suppose I accepted, but it also remains without question the ugliest moment in my 32 years in education.
Yes, indeed the wheels on my buses have indeed gone ‘round and ‘round, both as a youngster and as a young man, and often when I see the old familiar yellow vehicle rumble by, a memory will drop in for a spell.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.