Students riding bus share a special bond

When my father was growing up on a homestead a mere five miles from where I live today, there was no such thing as school buses.

When my father was growing up on a homestead a mere five miles from where I live today, there was no such thing as school buses. A one room school house served the students from approximately a five mile radius. The ones who lived close enough walked. Others rode horses that spent the day munching hay in the school barn while their young riders learned their ABC’s. My father lived just over a mile away so he travelled to school by foot along with his older sister. The pair often broke trail pushing their way uphill through waist deep snow. Like so many of his generation, Dad loves to say in his day he walked to school uphill … both ways. The school taught grades one through eight; if students wanted an education beyond that they had to board in town.

When I started school I had to walk a mile as well but I only had to walk in one direction. We lived in the bottom of a valley and the road ran out when it got to our house. In the morning our parents drove us to the top of the hill to catch the school bus. In the afternoons we walked home. Telling my children that when I was a kid I walked home from school one way, downhill, doesn’t carry the same bite as my father’s version. Worse, by the time I was in grade three a road had been built past our house and from then on the bus picked me up at the end of our driveway. There aren’t a lot of bragging rights in that.

I attended the same school in the same building my father did—the same building my mother later taught in — only by the time I attended it had been moved a few miles north and had a second room built onto it. When we got to grade seven we had the luxury of being bussed into town and back, no longer having to board in town to further our education.

The 20-minute drive to town took over an hour by bus depending on who was riding. There was always that one kid who lived further from the rest and added 15 minutes to the run, through no fault of their own.

Some years that kid was me. Most kids hated having to get up so early or home so late, but not me. I loved my time on the bus.

It was free time to socialize, read or daydream or sometimes to catch up on homework. There was a hierarchy to the seating plan. You started off in grade one sitting behind the driver and by grade twelve you were in the backseat. In hindsight I’m not sure why we coveted the backseats. The only benefit was the frost heaves in the spring and some might have argued that was a curse inste ad of a blessing. It is hard to describe the excitement of frost heaves to someone who has never ridden a school bus. Rising out of the gravel roads like rural speed bumps, the bus and the students could gain some serious airtime as we sailed over them. Due to some scientific law of gravity which we never bothered to study, the further back you sat the higher you flew. Some drivers could be coerced into speeding up when approaching a bump, others not so much.

Buses don’t have seatbelts which is kind of bizarre when you think about it. Children who wouldn’t dream of getting into the family vehicle without buckling up are put into buses without a second thought. The theory is if there were ever an accident getting all the kids out of their seatbelts would pose a bigger risk than going without. Not to mention how they would seriously impede airtime over those frost heaves.

During my elementary years my bus driver was one of the students who had rode his horse to attend the original schoolhouse. In turn, this same popular driver drove my own sons to school and back. By that time the two room schoolhouse had been torn down and a new four room school had been built five miles north of us. It is still there today.

Kids who ride buses share a common bond. They know the terror of a mother screaming, “The bus is coming!” while they search for that missing textbook or lost mitten. They know how it feels to stand at the end of a driveway in the wicked cold for what feels like hours, waiting for a bus that is running late. And they know the sweetest sound of all; being woken by the words “Go ahead and sleep in. The school buses have been cancelled for today.”

But now the Dawson Creek school district is saying the service is too costly to continue and they’re thinking of cancelling school buses forever. This time those words aren’t so sweet.

Shannon McKinnon is a syndicated humour columnist from Northern BC. You can read past columns by visiting

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Jason Kenney announced $200 million more money that will benefit seniors living in continuing care on Wednesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta premier skeptical about federal government vaccine predictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggests all Canadians could be vaccinated by fall

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 has been climbing up since Jan. 20 at Red Deer's Olymel meat processing plant. (File photo by Advocate Staff)
Some Olymel workers return for training, plant reopening date not set

Union calls for delay of opening as workers fear for safety

Artist Lorne Runham's COVID Bubbles abstract work (shown here as a detail) can be viewed in an online art show on the Red Deer Arts Council's website until April 18. (Contributed image).
Art created in Red Deer in the time of COVID can be viewed in new online show

The show by members of the Red Deer Arts Council runs until April 18

Activists against open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains hung a protest banner outside Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon’s Rocky Mountain House constituency office. Exploratory coal leases in the Nordegg area were recently granted by Nixon’s UCP government, and many local residents say they feel betrayed, as they had been promised eco-tourism opportunities by Clearwater County. (Contributed photo).
Anti-coal mining activists post banner on Environment Minister’s Rocky constituency office

Activists call for clean water protection, ban on strip mining

Justice Anne Molloy, from top left, John Rinaldi, Dr. Scott Woodside and accused Alek Minassian are shown during a murder trial conducted via Zoom videoconference in this courtroom sketch on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Verdict expected today in Toronto van attack trial

Alek Minassian admitted to planning and carrying out the attack on April 23, 2018

UCP MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka Ron Orr. (File photo)
MLA Ron Orr: Benchmarks were achieved but goalposts were moved

Orr responds to concerns, calls on province to fully open Step 2

The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award during the NFL Honors ceremony as part of Super Bowl 55 Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Annual NFL women’s forum enhancing career opportunities

When Sam Rapoport envisioned conducting virtually the NFL’s fifth annual Women’s Career… Continue reading

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), speaks during a news conference with Toshiro Muto, left, CEO of Tokyo 2020, after a council meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP)
Fans from abroad unlikely for postponed Tokyo Olympics

Olympics scheduled to open on July 23

FILE - Singer Jhene Aiko poses for a portrait on Dec. 7, 2020, in Los Angeles. Aiko will host the 63rd GRAMMY Awards on March 14. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Jhene Aiko to host Grammy Award premiere ceremony

63rd annual Grammy ceremony set for March 14

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault holds a press conference in Ottawa on November 3, 2020. The Heritage Department is committing $40 million to a “COVID-safe events fund” designed to encourage arts and cultural plans to move forward in the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Heritage minister unveils COVID-19 events fund for arts and cultural sector

Financial support tops out at $100,000 per eligible applicant

Opinion: Crisis in long-term care must include data-driven change

More than 19,000 people in Canada have died from COVID-19 – more… Continue reading

The Dawe family home in the Michener Hill subdivision in Red Deer. This house was designed and built by Robert G. Dawe, a local engineer, in 1911 and has remained in the family ever since. (Contributed photo)
Michael Dawe: 65 years of Red Deer history

As a major milestone birthday looms, I thought that it might be… Continue reading

Most Read