I can’t believe we lived through it!
Being born in the south has a ton of advantages. We actually ‘know’ what biscuits and sweet tea are like, and we can easily figure out where someone is from based on accent and driving abilities. Though NASCAR has a large audience, anyone who is anyone down here knows it was ‘born’ in the south and came out of the bootlegger’s days of running shine or ‘grandma’s recipes’ across the borders for a little ‘extra’ help. (Financially and otherwise. Seems my family has some history with this, but that is for another day.) We grew up with terms or phrases like ‘drag, down force’, drafting or ‘getting loose in the turn’, and it was part of our regular conversation as kids. All of these words meant something that mattered to the sport and became part of the culture when Richard Petty, the King and his car toured the state!
By the time I was a child in the 60’s the old days of ‘shine’ running was a thing of the past except for the holdouts, that to this day, still find a way to whip up some of the ‘sauce’ for special occasions… or for a TV reality show… (Give me a break.)
However, I think those driving skills were passed down from generation to generation, and by the time I was old enough to ride a bus to school, the ‘Nascar’ spirit lingered in the kids of the day.
Enter into my story, bus 274, 275 and good ole 276. These buses were driven by teenagers back in the day. Lawsuits, cameras, security measures… none of that was around. It was just a plain old metal box on wheels, with standard bus seats held in place by a shiny metal bar that was great for banging one’s head or your friends fingers into. No one thought anything about it. It was just a bus.
Every weekday morning, these buses would invade our neighborhood. They were deployed through different streets like a squad of police collecting rioters. If any of you remember camping back in the 60’s and 70’s, campsites owners would come through periodically to spray for bugs. The ‘cloud’ or ‘fog’ behind these trucks would seep, settle, and cover the campground in a matter of minutes. Our buses covered the the home fronts the same way. They just eased into every nook and cranny of the neighborhood and would ‘steal’ away all of the children! (At least that was my version.) In no time at all all three buses were filled with ‘not so happy’ kids and would head to the same destination.
Jonesboro Elementary School.
It wasn’t unusual for all three buses to end up side by side on High Point road, at a red light waiting for green to go, and this is where I shake my head and go, “We really survived this?”
It would become a race in 2 seconds flat. Kids were screaming, jumping and begging the drivers to race off the line. We wanted to see if ‘she’, our driver, could get her ‘loose in the turn’ or whatever so we could brag about our bus once we arrived at school.
All of the machines were straight drive and had very low first gears to get them rolling. As kids, we were literally spitting and ‘giving our opinions in various ways’ to the other bus lined up beside us. The drivers would rev the engines waiting for the equivalent of a street drag race to start.
Pop the clutch and ‘bam’, we would be slammed in our seats as these old machines lurched and lumbered forward with that deep whirring, whining of gears as our driver, a young blonde who could out-drive the bunch, started slamming through the gears as fast as she could. These gears shifts were long and moving from gear to gear covered a lot of space yet she would have us in 3rd before you know it and old 276 would be blazing at 35 mph down High Point Road, passing ‘Shoney’s Big Boy Restaurant’ and ‘Big Daddy’s Disco’ in a flash! Since the buses were side by side, it was easy to see, by watching the windows slide by, if we were winning, losing, or neck and neck to the next light.
The real trick was driving a strategy type of race. These buses were governed and wouldn’t go over a certain speed. My guess was 45 or 50, so it wasn’t about the fastest bus so much as situational awareness, counting lights, and being ready to turn. Yes, one bus could end up being a tiny bit faster than the other since all of these machines were purely mechanical so no computers to keep everything equal, but it was ‘close enough’ to make the race interesting.
The bus that got to the next light first, especially if it was yellow, would breeze through while the rest would slam on breaks, throw lunches, hats, coats, books, etc. all over the place to the groaning and moaning of the passengers.
Winning become bragging rights, and though there were days we lost there were plenty of days we won! It wasn’t just light to light, but sometimes taking short cuts through side streets, with 50 screaming kids, blurring around corners as we rolled back and forth with the tipping of the bus, our driver threading us like a needle through the streets, to end up ‘first’ at school. I often wonder where those bus drivers are today.
We never got ‘loose’ in a turn, did any ‘drafting’ or had any major wrecks but I look back on these years and shake my head.
I can’t believe we lived through it!
Peace on your Journey this week.