Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Remembering the Farm - School bus days

This cold snap kind of takes me back to riding the school bus from 1960 to 1965. In 1960, Wilkie School Unit closed the remaining one-room country schools including Cavell which I had attended for 7 years. We were all to be bussed to |Leipzig where a new school had been built. Three busses collected the rural students.

My father drove the bus from 1960 to 1974.  This meant ready cash coming in every month of the school year and meant we could quit milking cows and shipping cream, which was a blessing, trust me. Riding the bus in spring and fall was no problem. Winter was another game. No mobile phones, no CBs. If you had a problem you couldn't solve, it was walk to the next farm to use their phone.

The bus was automatically canceled on days when it was 40 below or it was storming too bad to travel.

Roads were gravel and graded after rains.  They were not the grid roads or super grids of today.  The road past our place had been #14 highway until 1958 when a new highway was built that followed the railway track instead of the road allowance. This cut off many miles to Wilkie, Landis, where my Father's parents lived until 1963 (?), and Biggar where my Mother's parents lived until 1968. It also meant our road reverted to the municipality.

Saskatchewan usually did not get much snow in winter but what we had moved around a lot. Ditches were narrow and the banks were not cut back so roads drifted shut quite often.  A local snowplow club was formed to keep the bus route open. Of course, if you didn't join, you still got the benefit and there was always one neighbour who took advantage.

The road past our farm had been built in the 1930's. Grandpa was a staunch Conservative and it paid off.  It was built with horse scrapers so ditches were narrow and cuts through the hills were steep.  We had a cut 1/4 mile east and 1/4 mile west of our farm. With any drifting snow, they would fill solid. vehicles would often get through one cut but not the next one so we would have company until the road was plowed.

The rest of the roads were not bad, except one side road up to Stop 6, (see map below), which crossed a shallow coulee. The cuts going down and up would drift in, like the one by our farm. Dad usually made it.  He carried a shovel but hated to use it and mostly could get out of places he got into. Only once did he get down in the coulee and decide he wasn't going to make it up the other side. He turned the bus around in the middle of the road. The road was 6" wide than the bus wheelbase but he made it.

The map below will help describe the route. It is not precise as numbers of kids changed year by year so is sort of an amalgam as best I remember. I cannot recall the total number on the bus for any given year.

1. The bus left our farm at 7:50. Dad did not wait for the 4 of us. If we were late we were in trouble after he got home.
2. Alex Hubers where I think we picked up two.
3. Fred Frey - 3 kids, Jake Frey 2 kids
4. Jim Watts - 5 kids.  The first would get to the bus before the next one showed up.
5 Henry Frey - 2, Don Ulrich 1
6 Hurleys - 5, They were replaced by Sweets - 2 and then Mettlesky's 2(?) over time.
7 Schmidts - 3
8 Kolonosky's 5 (?)
9 Dominic Millers - 2
10 Delaneys - 2
11 Ed Gaertners - 4(?)
12 Fred Flasch - 2
We were at the school by 8:45.

Part of Reford RM #379 showing the bus route I took to school
 Baby Boomers were born from 1946 to 1966. But even before 1966, the number of rural kids started to peter out. There were 6 in my class that graduated in 1965.  There were more in the class but if they were short classes to graduate, they didn't make the picture. After I left, they started combining schools to make up class size. Grade 7 and 8 went to Handel 10 miles away and the high school kids came to Leipzig. Not sure how long that lasted but eventually they bussed the high school kids from Leipzig to Wilkie. Eventually, the school closed entirely after my dad quit driving bus. There is nothing left of the town now but the church which is seldom if ever used and the old convent which was refurbished into a private rehab centre with a good reputation.

My Grade 12 Graduating Class of 1965
Addendum from my brother:
Your grad was in 1965, Ross in 67, me in 72 and Ev in 73 (she skipped grade 1). The last Leipzig grad was 1969 with 3 grads: Audrey Cey, Lynn Delaney, and Reg Gaertner. Walter Bojarski died of a heart attack the day before the grad and they almost canceled it.
The Handel-Leipzig exchange occurred over 3 years: 1965-66 to 1967-68. Grades 7-9 went to Handel and 10-12 to Leipzig, I think because Leipzig school had a better science lab. It started when I was in grade 6 so I took grades 7 & 8 in Handel. Then back to Leipzig for grade 9. A teacher couple from Nova Scotia - Sandy and Bev Rankin - taught the high school. Mrs R taught 9 & 10 in one room, Mr R the 11s and 12s in the other room. Mr R was also principle.
The high school 10-12 were bussed to Wilkie starting 1969-70 school year. The 3 Leipzig busses met at the statue corner and Matt Huber took us to Wilkie. We got 3 way radios that year so Matt would know to wait for us or not (depending on how stuck we were at Mettlesky's coulee). I took grades 10-12 at McLurg Hign in Wilkie. I don't know what year the elementary grades were closed in Leipzig after I graduated anyhow.

11 comments:

  1. This brings back my school bus memories, too. It was about a forty minute ride for me but the bus started its route a good twenty minutes the other side of our house, so it was a long day for many of those kids, especially when the local elementary school closed and the little ones had to go all the way to the end of the line to the new consolidated elementary. Everybody knew everybody on the bus and the back seats were where the older, cooler students sat. Even the teachers travelled by bus for quite a few years. My mother was one. By the time I was in high school, teachers had to find their own transportation - lucky for me, as it was one less place I was under mom's scrutiny :)

    It sounds like your father was a good driver, just what was needed to take good care of all the kids on those iffy roads.

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    1. Our route was not long compared to the other routes which were at least 20 minutes longer. The longest was a loop. It reversed every two weeks so the kids that got on last would then get on first. No kindergarten so no very young kids.

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  2. You are pretending to be younger than you are. Your grad was in 1965, Ross in 67 (and again in 68 after completing all his Gr 12 subjects), me in 72 and Ev in 73 (she skipped grade 1). The last Leipzig grad was 1969 with 3 grads: Audrey Cey, Lynn Delaney and Reg Gaertner. Walter Bojarski died of a heart attack the day before the grad and they almost cancelled it.
    The Handel-Leipzig exchange occurred over 3 years: 1965-66 to 1967-68. Grades 7-9 went to Handel and 10-12 to Leipzig, I think because Leipzig school had a better science lab. It started when I was in grade 6 so I took grades 7 & 8 in Handel. Then back to Leipzig for grade 9. A teacher couple from Nova Scotia - Sandy and Bev Rankin - taught the high school. Mrs R taught 9 & 10 in one room, Mr R the 11s and 12s in the other room. Mr R was also principle.
    The high school 10-12 were bussed to Wilkie starting 1969-70 school year. The 3 Leipzig busses met at the statue corner and Matt Huber took us to Wilkie. We got 3 way radios that year so Matt would know to wait for us or not (depending on how stuck we were at Mettlesky's coulee). I took grades 10-12 at McLurg Hign in Wilkie. I don't know what year the elementary grades were closed in Leipzig, after I graduated anyhow.

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    1. Thanks. Fixed the dates and some spelling errors. Put your post as an addendum

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  3. I was a town kid, so I never had to ride the school bus. But a lot of country kids did, especially when the one-room schools were closed down in Manitoba in the late 1960s and rural kids all started attending the nearest town school.

    And hey, my Mom grew up on a farm near Biggar. I had relatives who farmed there right up to . . . well, I guess they're still there!

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    1. Manitoba took longer to close country schools than Saskatchewan. What was your Mom's family name?

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  4. My first 'school bus' was a neighbour's half-ton truck with a home-built plywood cap over the box. Narrow benches went around both sides and the front of the box, with another backless bench running lengthwise down the middle. There was a hole cut in the front of the plywood cap that matched up with the rear window of the cab, and a piece of canvas formed a gusset between the two openings so that some (precious little) of the heat from the cab wafted back into the box. The bus driver's kids got to ride in the cab with him while the rest of us (about 10 or 12 kids) froze our butts off on the hard benches in the back. When we finally got our first yellow school bus with actual seats, it seemed like the lap of luxury!

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    1. How was that even legal? At least in a caboose you could have a fire. You are one tough cookie.

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    2. It was well before there were any seatbelt laws, so I guess it was legal enough. Being crammed together on a bench meant there was a bit of shared body heat, and back then we all knew enough not to go out in a Manitoba winter unless we were dressed to survive. I don't know if it made me tough, but at least it gave me a sensible attitude toward cold weather. ;-)

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  5. I loved this post and the addition at the end. So much history and the list of people along the pick up route is great! It makes me realise how lucky today's kids are. My oldest grandie goes to school on a school bus but the bus has been cancelled about 5 times since Christmas due to weather and very low temps. And my other 3 grandies are able to walk to and from school.
    I walked the mile or so to school when I was at primary school, but went to grammar school on a green double decker bus. The young kids (that was me) were downstairs, the seniors were upstairs.

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    1. Your double decker green bus made me smile. Segregated by age group to keep an eye on little kids who supposedly created more problems being rambunctious and such. While the seniors smoked on the upper deck?

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