In 1957 my dad bid on a route and became a bus driver for the township. As a student at Southport High School I wasn’t excited about teachers and school officials being able to step out the door of the building and speak with my father twice a day. That just didn’t seem fair.
In 1961 a state law was enacted that allowed a business to operate more than one bus and act as a contractor to school systems. Since the township was adding four routes to its transportation network, we formed a small corporation and bid on those routes, winning all four – we were in the school bus business.
We also operated the Sunoco service station on Madison Avenue, just north of Epler. We serviced our buses there and the ones owned by other folks in the township.
The year that I was old enough to get my public passenger driver’s license was interesting. I obtained my license in August and began my school bus driving career in September.
I have enjoyed telling bus stories over the years and have shared some of them in this column.
There is a breakfast on the second Monday of each month at Bob Evans on U.S. 31 that is attended by folks who have driven or still drive a bus in the township. A lot of stories are told there. One that gets lots of attention is our first spare bus. At some point during the growth of our fleet we decided that a spare bus was needed, so we purchased a reliable used one, which was put into use when a primary bus was in the shop. The spare was known as Bus No. 0.
For a few years our company partnered with Crossroads Rehabilitation Center to provide transportation to children attending summer camp. By law we were only allowed to use a bus that wasn’t under school contract for trips outside of the township. I generally drove these trips and used Bus No. 0. I picked up the kids and Crossroads staff members at their facility on the Northeastside and took them to Broad Ripple Park.
One afternoon while driving home I encountered a problem. I was on a one-way street on the Near Eastside when traffic came to a sudden halt. Because I was sitting up a bit higher than folks in cars, I could see a lot of upset people in the street and on the sidewalks.
Cars were turning onto side streets to get away from the rioting. I was stuck and wasn’t sure what to do. A couple of fellows came up my window and asked if this was the bus that transported the Crossroads patients to camp. I told them that is was. They conferred with each other for a minute and then one of the guys hopped on the bus’s left front fender and waved me toward the crowd.
He started shouting to everyone that this was the bus that transported the Crossroads kids to camp and back. He yelled to them to let it through.
Old No. 0 and I got home safely.