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Tales from the old-timer

The Joy of a School Bus Mishap

During my grade school years all kids rode the same school buses - that is, first graders and high school seniors all rode on the same bus. This probably cut down on the number of miles the busses needed to drive, since they only stopped at each house with school students one time. It translated into close to an hour ride twice a day for Dahl Road kids. The older kids helped police the younger ones so the driver could focus on his job, and everyone got along pretty well.

To pass the time, I played cards with some of my friends (usually some sort of poker, without wagers except bragging rights). The drivers, Mr. Martin first, and later Mrs. Motkowski (eventually Mrs. Devine), were willing to play the radio on a popular station. Certain male students (all relatives) who lived on Highway B would sing loudly along, altering some of the song lyrics with entertaining results. (One of these songs featured Troglodytes.)

I never thought too much about the amount of time I spent on the bus, it was just the way things were.

Two events stand out as noteworthy. One morning as we were waiting for the bus at the end of our driveway we were the victim of a cranky skunk. We got on the bus anyway, but as soon as I arrived at school I called my parents for help, since everyone was more than willing to inform us we stunk to “high heaven.”

The second event happened on an icy morning. After our pickup, the driver went to BB to pick up the Dudka children, who lived on a big curve. The curve was banked with the low side into their front yard. We eased to a stop and picked the Dudka children up fine, but as the driver shifted his way back up to speed, the bus lost traction on the banked curve and slowly and somewhat gracefully slid down into the Dudka’s yard. Despite our driver’s efforts, the bus couldn’t get back onto the slick roadway.

Since there were no radios or phones onboard in those days, Mr. Martin went into the Dudka home to call the school. And Mrs. Dudka, a kind and sweet lady, invited all the kids into her home to await the arrival of a rescue bus.

I was very glad to get into a familiar house (we often went to Dudka’s to ice skate on their flooded garden, or drive their go-cart around the lawn). Mrs. Dudka was a famous cook and she was already hard at work baking that morning. She gave all of us some cinnamon rolls and homemade bread and jelly while we watched TV and gave their bathroom a workout. We were pretty disappointed when the rescue bus finally arrived. I bet she was happy to see us leave, although she was way too kind to say so. My guess would be she went right back to baking, since what we had gobbled up was probably intended for a funeral dinner or some other worthy cause.

Back in those days, a family that lived three miles away was considered a neighbor. Mrs. Dudka treated all the kids on the bus as neighbors, since in country terms, we were.


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