Take the Bus and Leave the Driving to Us
For my first six years as a school boy, me and my siblings walked to our elementary school in Tuxedo, North Carolina. It wasn't until we reached junior high that we began to ride the "big yellow taxi's" as they were affectionately named. We had to ride almost eight miles each day to our school and continued riding the school bus on into our high school years or at least until we were able to purchase our own set of wheels or solicit a ride from a classmate who owned a vehicle. In those days the drivers were older men like my future father in law who drove a bus for over thirty eight years and never had an accident. They knew us all by first names and more importantly they knew our parents which certainly put most of us on our best behavior while riding their bus.
The buses provided by our county were comfortable and our ride to and from school was a pleasant experience. For many of us our daily commute to school was an opportunity to socialize with our friends and for those brave heart Romeo's maybe even an opportunity to carefully put our arms around a pretty girl who had saved us a seat. The ride to school also allowed time to complete homework that had been neglected or for last minute cramming for an exam. Of course there were times when there was added excitement when some clown set off a stink bomb inside the bus. Without exception all the windows immediately were lowered to clear the air while the guilty party laughed at his prank.
In those days we had student bus drivers here in Henderson County, usually a high school senior. All of my wife's ten brothers and one sister drove a school bus during their senior year of high school. Driving a bus afforded an opportunity to earn income and since the driver was a student, he or she was always available to drive the bus assigned them and oftentimes drive the activity bus for ball games and other outside school events.. State laws now forbid student bus drivers but in the 1960's, a large part of the bus drivers in our county were student with whom we had classes during the day. Most were from the rural area and had learned to drive long before taking the required drivers education classes in high school and most experience driving and operating large equipment on farms. Miraculously, all of the student drivers during this time had wonderful driving safety records. This fact is amazing when one considers most of the bus routes were on roads that were unpaved along curvy mountain roads.
Many juniors and seniors in our high school had cars or trucks and afternoon jobs in addition to trying to earn their high school diploma. I think kids were more responsible in those days. It was a happy day for me when I bought my first car and began to drive to my high school. For many of us who played sports, the activity bus was another story. Ours was an antique and cold as a wedge in the winter. After basketball games we bundled up and sat close to keep from getting frost bite. Those heaters in the bus only kept the driver warm.
Buses have long been used for mass transit. The proverbial Greyhound and Trailways both ran through our small mountain town. The city had a bus station down town. I had never ridden a Greyhound until my military days. I had come home on leave and after a few days at home I would take the Greyhound to Winston Salem. I would board at 10 or 11 am in Hendersonville. Little did I know then that this trip would take me through every small town and community along Highway 64 before arriving at Interstate 40. The distance is about 180 miles. It was early the next morning before the Greyhound pulled into the terminal at Winston Salem. I was as tired as if I had worked a twelve hour day.The Greyhound continues to stop in Hendersonville and the company has a long history.
Living here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, tour buses are big business. The fall eaves will soon be turning and there will be countless tour buses bringing tourist and "leaf peepers" to see all the beauty nature provides. The touring industry has grown rapidly and vacations and trips are offered to almost any part of the continental USA. Most are package vacations and appeals to many of our senior citizens who simply had rather not drive themselves. The package usually includes food and accommodation.