My School Bus "Obsession"

As kids, we all had strange obsessions or hobbies. My first "obsession" was strangely tires and wheels, when I was 2 years old. That was soon replaced by dinosaurs, which was more appropriate for a kid of my age.

When I was 5 years old, I started Kindergarten. For the first semester, I was transported to and from school in my parent's Dodge Intrepid. They soon let me ride the school bus, and that is where my "obsession" with school buses began.

I can remember riding the school bus in Kindergarten. I can remember getting up early, and waiting out at the end of our driveway (we lived out in the "middle of nowhere") for the school bus to arrive. The big yellow bus would pop over the hill, and the lights would start to flash. He would then stop the bus, and the "Stop" sign would extend out, and I'd walk across the street to board the bus.

The bus driver was known simply as "Glenny Joe." The first bus I rode on was a 1998 AmTran bus. The morning rides to school was completely dark, as the bus picked me up really early (around 6:45 or so; I was the first person on the bus and last off in the afternoons.)

AmTranI can remember riding on the wrong school bus during Kindergarten, and getting lost. The other school bus driver, who drove a 1993 AmTran (this will become important later), was Earl Zimmerman. He was an older guy, but nonetheless a nice guy. Sadly, he and his wife lost their lives later that year in a tragic accident where they were hit by a train due to a lack of signaling.

Field Trips

In Elementary School, it was a requirement to participate in the bi-annual Track Meets. We hosted Track Meets in two places; Miami, and Arrow Rock. Arrow Rock was right up the stret from our school (about 5 miles), but the Miami meet was hosted at their Elementary School, around 25 miles away.

Track Meets were not my thing, early on. I can remember trying to get out events so that I could play on the playground, or go to the concession stand and get something to eat while hanging out with my friends while they were not in any events. I can remember getting participation ribbons in everything, except one year where I got third in the 40-yard dash. (At the time, I was also scared of the gun used to signal the beginning of the race.)

Conway ArkansasMiami diagramThe Miami track meet was hosted on a fairly large grounds. There was three parts to the ground. The north part was used for the long-jump and another event (I can't remember it.) The middle part was where the playground and concession stand were located, and the south part was home to the field where the relays took place.

The middle part was my favorite, not only because of the playground. (Miami had a really nice playground.) Rather, the school buses were all parked next to the concession stand. I can remember admiring all of the school buses parked there, and "taking it all in." There was also the beloved merry-go-round on their playground, which I liked.

Arrow Rock wasn't as interesting. The Arrow Rock State Park, where the meet was located, is designed in a big circle. The outer part of the circle is the road that goes in a roundabout. The buses were parked on this outer ring, and the inner part of the circle was where all of the events were held. There were also bathrooms (which I hated and tried to avoid due to my extreme fear of wasps - there were wasp nests in the bathrooms), a playground, and a shelter on the other side of the outer ring. (The shelter is where lunch was held, and the playground wasn't constructed until my second-grade year.) However, I was still able to admire the buses from all locations, not just the center part, which I liked.

We also went on a lot of field trips, much like any Kindergarten class. I can vividly remember visiting the Waverly Apple Orchard. Waverly is home to an extremely large apple orchard, and we got to tour the whole place. We also got to see how apple cider was made, and also got to play on their playground and run around the orchards. I can also remember standing in front of the school bus to pose for a picture as a class, but I'm not sure if my Kindergarten teacher still has that picture.

The Playground

As with any Kindergarten class, we had recess. Our playground, specifically the farest end of the swingset, offered a great view over the part of the school parking lot where the buses were parked. I can remember trying to swing as high as possible.

For P.E., we were allowed out into the large yard that was adjacent to the playground area. (This later replaced the Arrow Rock State Park as a field where the meets were held.) During my Kindergarten year, the school had this old 1988 (or 1989?) Ward with a Ford chassis. I can remember checking that bus out, and looking inside to see the control panel for the lights and the first-aid kit. However, we never rode that bus, and it was soon sold.

The New Bus

In first (or second?) grade, I wrote a book called "Lizzie The Old School Bus" while our normal teacher, Mrs. Wilson, was on maternity leave.

During my third grade year, I can remember learning about the new bus we were going to get. Our school released a monthly newsletter to parents, and I learned about our new bus through this newsletter.

Luckily, the bus route that I was on was the bus route that got the new bus. The 1998 AmTran was transferred to the other bus route, now driven by the preschool teacher, and the 1993 AmTran was parked in the same field the 1988 Ward was. However, the 1998 AmTran started to have major issues (it blew a headgasket, etc.) and it even left the bus route stranded a couple times. The 1998 AmTran was later sold to a junkyard, and the 1993 AmTran (dubbed by me as "Ol' Reliable") became their "new" bus.

We, on the other hand, got the 2007 Blue Bird Vision. The bus was sold by Central States Bus Sales, and I can remember looking at the Central States Bus Sales (CSBS) website for hours on end, before eventually drooling over the Bluebird website. The 2007 BlueBird Vision had a radio, which was an amazing feature to us at the time.

However, the 2007 BlueBird Vision wasn't nearly as reliable as the 1993 AmTran. The BlueBird Vision was subject to multiple recalls, and our particular Vision must've been a lemon. There were times where the electrical system would malfunction, and the gauges would spin from 0 to 100 randomly and the bus would "restart"... while we were driving.

The Bluebird came with a CB radio, but the 1993 and 1998 AmTrans had to be retrofitted with a CB radio. I can remember watching the technicians through the window as they installed the CB radios in both buses. The busses were parked in the front circle-lot, as they were everyday later, for easy access. This proved to be a bad idea as long as I was at school; my math teacher had to pry my eyes and mind off the work outside by lowering the blinds.

RPG

PlushThe 1993 AmTran became my favorite bus, as it wasn't modern (at all.) It was reliable, and was much simpler. The 1993 AmTran was made on February 22, 1993 in Conway, Arkansas. I later learned that the preschool teacher who drove the bus had a cousin who lived in Conway, and was married to someone who worked at the factory. She got me a gift, a plush school bus that AmTran employees received. (I later had a friend in high school whose dad grew up in Conway, and he went to school with a descendent of the original founder of the Ward Body Company.)

RPGBy this time, I was well known for doing web designs. My first website was all about school buses. I joined a School Bus RPG. RPG being "Role Playing Game", and the game was to drive a school bus. Instead of a graphical game like you'd think, the game was all text-based, and was done using a forum software known as SMF (Simple Machines Forum.) The owner also owned a school bus picture website (that no longer exists, and SchoolBusLand also no longer exists.)

I opened my own School Bus RPG and ran it very similar. However, I can remember most of my buses being either Wards, or 1993-1996 AmTran Volunteer models. That RPG wasn't very popular, and only two or three people joined it.

The Move

On October 8, 2010, a disastorous fire consumed our home and forced us to move. We moved to Boonville, and I attended middle school.

There, my like for school buses finally went away, slowly. In 2011, the BlueBird Body Company closed their plant in LaFayette, Georgia (the same plant where the Vision was made) and consolidated into one giant factory in Fort Valley, Georgia. I found this using the "LaFayette Underground" website, a "news beneath the news" website (underground news) about news in LaFayette. I found their school mascot was the Rambler.

I did some research on the Rambler and, before long, was interested in the Rambler. That was easy. I was interested in the 1902-1913 "First Generation" Rambler, and started the FGRC (First Generation Rambler Club.) Of course, it wasn't popular.

Model TThe Model T then became my hobby, but didn't last long due to some issues with others inside of the hobby. I was able to ride in a 1911 Model T, though.

The Model A became my hobby, and lasted probably the longest. It replaced the Rambler as my "hobby car", as I could easily afford a Model A (depending on your definition of easily, to me- not so much, but much more affordable than the rare Rambler), and a Model A can acutally be driven as a daily driver. I wanted a Model A as my first car so bad, that I started a web design business to get money to buy the Model A. My goal was $15,000 for a Model A Tudor Sedan. I made $0, and later got a "normal" job and bought the Pintomobile, finally putting the dream of owning a Model A as my first car to sleep.

As for the school buses, the 1998 AmTran was last seen in a junkyard. The 1993 AmTran was sold to a bus resales company, possibly to be sold as a party bus or a "Skoolie" (a bus transformed into a makeshift RV), or possibly even cut down and recycled. The 1988 (1989, possibly?) Ford Ward was sold to a private party, and the 2007 Blue Bird Vision was sold to a bus resales company and replaced by a new Thomas Saf-T-Liner, as the Vision was costing too much to repair.


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Last updated 10/17/2016 ; T420 (originally created 07/20/2016)