When the township decided to start building a fleet, we sold them our buses. This made the district’s operation large enough that it needed a director of maintenance, which turned out to be my dad. Victor Blankenship was director of transportation.
As a result of that deal, I took a job with a large school bus contractor in California. The company had contracts with school systems all over the state. I was involved with the training of new drivers and upgrading employed drivers to larger equipment. At that time the seating capacity of their largest bus was 103 passengers.
One day I noticed a new business, Ling Driving Center, going into a building that was close to where I lived. I stopped in one afternoon and was given a tour. This was a commercial driving center that was teaching beginning drivers. What made the company so different was that it used simulators.
Ling Corp. made simulators for aircraft and wheeled vehicles and was planning to open centers all over the country. Once I had learned a good bit about this operation, I called my good friend Ken Otto, who was in charge of driver education for Indiana. I explained the franchise to him, and within a few months we opened a center.
I moved back to Indianapolis, and we went to New York City to discuss the franchise and start the paperwork. We found a good location on 62nd Street near Broad Ripple. The simulators were delivered, set up, and we were open for business.
We offered classes for adults and students beginning to drive. We offered classroom training and then simulator training before the students operated one of our cars on the streets.
Within a couple of years we were contracting our student program to a couple of private schools. The classes were held at the schools and did not use the simulators. Most of our instructors were licensed to teach in schools.
We also had a great driver improvement program for employees who drove vehicles that belonged to their employers. We worked with Indiana Bell drivers and a few others.
We had several great instructors, and I learned a lot from them. We also had some special students, some of whom I still remember.
Shonk is a 1960 graduate of Southport High School, a ’63 grad of Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis) and a retired bus driver from Beech Grove Schools.