My dad had died, and my uncle got drafted into the Army. That made me the family driver at age 13. At age 15, I had my own truck, hauling logs, lumber, gravel, hay, a bulldozer — anything the farmers in the Highland neighborhood needed hauled. During World War II, you did what you had to do. Not having a driver’s license was just kind of immaterial.
One day after the war, when I was a senior at La Center High School, I got a phone call from the chairman of the school board asking me if I would like to have a job driving the school bus. It paid $35 a month. Wow! So I was asked to attend a board meeting.
When I arrived, the man who was the school coach, shop teacher and bus driver was just coming out. He said, “What are you doing here?” I told him I heard there was a bus driving job open. He just exploded in anger and went cursing down the hall.
He’d been out on a date with the English teacher, and they had stopped in at La Center Tavern for a beer. When they came out of the tavern, someone saw them and reported it to the school board. They were both single. But they both got fired.
I got two of his jobs: bus driving and wood shop. In the shop, I built new seats for the outdoor swings and a picket fence with an archway and gate to put across the auditorium stage for the girls’ home economics class to use for their dress show. I built it so it could be easily disassembled and put in storage until the next dress show. It was used for years.
One day while driving the kids back home after school, two boys stood up between the seats and started fighting. I told them to stop fighting and sit down. They didn’t pay attention and kept right on fighting. So I slammed on the brakes and opened the door and they went rolling out into the ditch. I told them that if they wanted to get on the bus again tomorrow morning, they would have to have their mothers at the bus stop. Then I took off and left them to walk the rest of the way home.
Their mothers were with them the next day, and they didn’t complain. Those mothers must have seen it as a matter of needed discipline. But the other kids on the bus were disappointed that I left them behind because they wanted to see who won the fight.
The two boys became best friends, always sitting together on the bus, and the rest of the busload always remained well-behaved.
Today, no teacher would be fired for going into a tavern for a beer, and a school bus driver would probably go to jail for kicking a couple of boys off his bus for fighting. Just think how that would have damaged their self-esteem!
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