Last week, Simon (our new dog) and I visited some friends over at Beech Grove City Schools. We missed seeing several folks because they were in meetings or attending programs at other facilities.
A couple of times, while visiting with friends, they brought up some memories of things that I was involved with while driving my school bus for Beech Grove City Schools.
During the years that I drove in Beech Grove, I really enjoyed having fun with my student bus riders. It also helped the students to understand the bus rules while I gained their respect. I generally had a plan for several of the holidays and of course, April Fools Day.
I had routes that connected with two different schools. Hornet Park Elementary School works with kindergarten and first grade students. South Grove Intermediate School housed 4th, 5th and 6th grade students.
We celebrated birthdays and holidays with both groups of students. Even the school bus (Named Ursula) had a birthday and we always celebrated it. I would pass out Twinkies to the students on her birthday. Twinkies have the same color and shape as the school bus. It was the only time during the school year that I was able to send some students into school with a small sugar high because of birthday treats. School bus drivers receive sugar highs from birthday parties that are held near the end of the school days several times a month.
On a few occasions, I gave the South Grove students the opportunity to participate in a Thanksgiving Turkey Gobbling Contest. I would explain to all the riders that each class could nominate two classmates to be contestants in the contest. There would be two students from each grade participating.
On the last morning before the Thanksgiving break, the contestants would come to the front of the bus and gobble like a turkey. Some would put their whole hearts into it and others just mumbled, “Gobble Gobble”.
All of the student riders were provided with voting ballots that they filled out and handed to me as they exited the bus. I had totally explained that the winner from each class would receive a major prize. They would receive a family size, full course turkey’s dinner. This would be for the winners to take home.
I always announced the winner that afternoon before we drove away from the school.
It was always exciting when the winners were named. Sometimes we had very shy winners and other times we might have very outgoing winners. When the winners were all standing at the front of the bus with me, I reached down and lifted up the prizes.
I presented each winner with a large, clear plastic bag filled with turkey food, which included corn and various seeds. I always got puzzled looks from the winners and I’d have to explain that the prize was a family size, full course turkey’s dinner…. A Turkey’s Dinner.
I could only do this contest every three years, and even then I knew that a few of the students might remember an older sibling telling them about this contest.
We always had fun and the winners always took home their prizes and helped their neighborhood birds celebrate Thanksgiving.
I can still close my eyes and remember the looks on the faces of those winners when I handed them a bag of seeds.
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. He can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.