In my early years as a bus driver for Beech Grove Schools, I had the opportunity to meet and have some fun with a middle schooler named Amber Atherton. Her mom and I started our driving careers at the same time. We were only a few weeks into a school year when one of those special times came to me when I could say to myself, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
I had the opportunity to make up a story and fool Amber and some of her friends into thinking that several bus drivers were going to carve a bus figure out of a large block of Spam and display it at Beech Grove’s Fall Festival. I told the children that the carving would be done at the home of the lady who drives Bus 16.
Amber covered her face with her hands and moaned, “My mom drives Bus 16.” I could tell that she wasn’t excited about the prospect of her friends learning that a carved Spam bus was going to be constructed at her house.
It wasn’t long until Amber discovered that I had been messing with her. I was glad to see that she could laugh about it the next time we saw each other. I figured that she would enjoy getting even, but I have tried to keep a few steps ahead by continuing to pester her with thoughts of Spam throughout the 13 years since this all began.
Amber is now in Navy. She is stationed on the East Coast and works aboard a carrier that transports Marines. Her mother, Michele Atherton, told me a few weeks ago that Amber was going to be back here for a couple of weeks.
We planned on meeting for breakfast at Dale’s Family Restaurant on Thompson Road just east of Emerson Avenue. I was instrumental in picking this restaurant for a couple of reasons: First, it is a great restaurant, and second, I have some inside contacts there.
On my way to Dale’s I purchased a can of Spam. I arrived at the restaurant about 30 minutes early and was elated to see my friend Melody Walters, whose family owns the eatery.
I met Melody several years ago when I was driving her daughters to Hornet Park Elementary. I told her the story about Amber and the Spam and asked her if she would consider helping add another chapter to this ongoing tail. She thought it would be a real blast. I scampered out of the restaurant and didn’t return until I was sure the other guests had arrived.
Upon re-entering the diner it was great to get reacquainted with Amber. When our breakfast was delivered I got a glimpse of her face as she noticed that her order didn’t look right. As it was placed in front of her, her mom broke into laughter ... Amber had been served several slices of fried Spam. We all laughed, and the cameras came out. After pictures were taken, Amber’s real breakfast was delivered.
Amber Atherton is an amazing young lady. I feel honored to personally know anyone who is serving our country. Thank you for your service, Amber. You are the best.
Now I have to get busy planning the next Spam attack.
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.