GAYS MILLS - It’s good to see those big yellow school buses rolling again. Classes are in session and students, teachers, and parents are getting back in the grooves of academia and the routines of the school year. True to form, the weather usually turns hot for a few days early in the fall term and this year we’ve actually been setting records for heat in September.
I found the picture above in the Gibbs’ archives. It dates from 1937 or 1938, back before Gays Mills and Soldiers Grove merged to form the North Crawford school district. The picture was taken on the south side of the old Gays Mills High School, and the picture is old school in more ways than one. This was either the last or next to the last year the school at Gays Mills didn’t have school buses. Families had to provide their own transportation to and from school. All those stories about previous generations having to walk X number of miles to and from school were true. The part about the trek being uphill both ways, however, has been refuted.
Anyway, Dad lived in the hamlet of Barnum on the southern border of the school district, about eight miles from school. Too far to walk, although I did hear once that there was a girl from Barnum that rode her horse to and from high school every day. That may be a rural myth but it does sound plausible and a bit heroic. The school offered to pay students, or parents I suppose, to provide daily transportation for other students as the increasing inevitability of having school buses developed. So my dad transported a few students and got paid to go to school! I’m sure it wasn’t a lot of money, but it probably helped serve a need and boost attendance.
That picture is my dad’s “school bus” and the people who rode in it. That “paddy wagon” was probably quite full when everyone shown got in it but it sure beat walking. There’s just enough of the vehicle showing to identify it as a Model A Ford panel truck. My dad is the third guy from the left and I wish I knew who the others are. I believe there is a Steinbach or two (on the front fender) and a Yonker, Bud? (on the wheel). Ruth Baumeister (nee I’m not sure) is the girl on the right. If you can identify any of the others, please let me know.
It was a simpler time, for sure. The farms were just getting electricity, horses were being replaced by tractors, phone lines were going in, roads getting paved. Things were changing at what seemed like a blistering pace. I’ve often wondered how parents of the day looked at radio, for example. That “device” must have seemed like a real drastic change and oldsters were sure it was a sign of the downfall of society. Just like today when senior citizens are sure that all the modern devices that are available are a mixed bag, some with tremendous positive potential and some just a huge distraction.
The familiar yellow school buses are a symbol of old school. Unless we evolve into sending all kids to private schools, on-line classes, or home schooling, the buses will be around for a long time.