The Man Who Did #39 Proud

Every once in a while, I pull up my tiny little hometown weekly newspaper online. I peruse it, see if I recognize any other names of the people who’ve gotten married ,had babies, received promotions, been arrested, or died. Yeah, it’s that small.

Anyway, I read it today, and in the obituaries, I recognized a name that brought back many fond memories. William Mickens died. He was my bus driver (bus #39) for many years. Let me tell you was not your average bus driver.

William was a big black man. He was jolly and jiggly just like Santa. He was as sweet a man as you’d ever meet and ten times as funny. He delighted on the daily jokes he’d throw at us to make us laugh. I remember him many a time almost banging his head on the steering wheel laughing so hard. Yeah, and he even smoked on the bus, and was known to use a dirty word or two.

William (he would have had a fit if we had called him Mr. Mickens) was precise. He was NEVER late. He was NEVER early. He was EXACT. I’d call that an art. There were only a hand full of times in all those years that he didn’t show up on time, and that was because his bus broke down and he had to wait for a replacement bus. If you were ever going to be broken down, he was the one to be with because he made the time fly by!

He could jam with the best of us. He belted out some Motown. He’d clap his hands and dance in his seat all the while keeping us in the road and entertained at the same time.

Back then, he was the only driver in the county to have ever had a governor placed on his bus. (You know the device that would not allow his bus to go over 55 miles an hour) I think he actually even may have disabled it a few times. Anyway, it mysteriously ceased to work and after being reported again by citizens to the school board , they’d place another one on our bus. I lived way out in the country and we had to go over a mountain. Let’s just say the man could keep it in the road going seventy miles an hour around a winding gravel road. He could turn on a dime. He made the forty-five minute one way trip an adventure. He made the ride FUN! And there was NO ONE I felt safer with driving me over a mountain in a torrential blizzard.

William was not conventional. He got away with things way back then that would be absolutely unheard of these days. And then again, I’ll bet no one had the kind of fun we had on the bus. He didn’t care if we ate or threw balled up paper at each other. The only requirement was that we cleaned up our messes. He would actually even drop us off at the local general store while he went down into one area to drop kids off and pick up back up when he swung back through. Only requirement was that occasionally we’d pick up a soda for him that he gave us money to buy for him. He was known to pick people up at one end of the town and drop them off at the other end. Usually these characters provided us with ample entertainment long after he’d dropped them off at their destinations.

I’m sure that bus #39 kicked  the bucket many years ago. I’ll just bet that #39 is entertaining the other buses at the some local junk yard that houses all of the county vehicles and buses. Yes, I’ll bet #39 is the king of that place!

I think that all the other bus drivers were envious of William because the kids loved him so. And frankly, he could handle his bus like no one else could. I know my friends who rode different buses wished he was their driver.

You guys are probably shaking your kids and thinking you’d die if someone was that irresponsible while driving your kids. And I’d have flipped if someone had done that while my children’s safety was in their hands. I went to school in a different era. Dang, I’m old. I graduated in 1981. They had rules and regulations, but nothing like today. As absurd as it sounds, the man did make us feel safe. He would NEVER have let anyone lay a hand on any of us or intentionally put any of us in harm’s way. And what was really weird was that he was in fact only a few years younger than my own parents…and he was the ultimate cool! We surely loved that man.

I only saw William twice after I graduated and moved away from home. He, of course, had a big hug for me and plenty of time to catch up and share a few laughs.

So, here’s to William. Thanks for making that long ride each day not only bearable but fun. Thanks for the memories. I’m sure he’s right up there’s showing everyone the real way to drive a school bus. And I’ll bet those buses aren’t equipped with governors.

53 thoughts on “The Man Who Did #39 Proud

    • Thanks! Unfortunately, I USED to have a great memory which I am very much losing these days. I used to have an exceptional one…but age slapped me right across the face!

  1. Susan,
    You are a fantastic writer and what a tribute to William. You sure brought back fond memories of my childhood for me. I, too, had a great bus driver, Luke Shelton. He drove me from the day I started first grade until I graduated. He, like William, had great impact on my life. Thanks for the memories. I started thinking about my times on the bus when the younger children rode with the high school kids. It made me tough!

    • Thank you. Riding with the big kids was an adventure. I remember many of the older ones being very protective of us younger ones. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. I’m glad you have fond memories as well. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. I think it is amazing the people that ultimately help define our lives once we reach adulthood. There is a lunchlady that passed away recently & I had a similar reaction. She is embedded in my grade school memories.

  3. What a nice thing to write in memory.
    And ironic for me, as yesterday, with our delayed snow opening, our bus driver drove right by our road w/o stopping, and I was late getting to work since I had to drive my daughter to school. But William would obviously NEVER have done that!

  4. Beautiful post. How lovely that he found the precisely perfect job for him, where he could have a magical impact on so many kids’ lives. We had a great woman that drove my son’s bus when he started J.K. She always knew if anyone had left anything on the bus and if I was at a friend’s house on the route she would let him off at any stop I showed up at (I love people who will bend the rules for me).

  5. Gosh, Suzi, you brought back LOTS of memories. I loved William dearly. There is no way he would ever have let anyone mess with “his kids” and we WERE his kids and he never let you forget that. I told you when I saw him years later he introduced me as his “daughter”. He was a kind hearted and well loved man. I can still see that smile and hear his jolly laugh. It was obvious he loved his job.

  6. You did William proud! All of the “kids” that had the opportunity to ride bus #39 were given the gift of friendship from a wonderful man that watched over us all.
    Thank you for memories…….

    • Thanks, Doris. I cannot imagine anyone would ever have a memory of William that would be less than fond. If only everyone could live their lives with such desire and delight to bring love and laughter wherever he went.

  7. What a sweet tribute, SC!

    I could actually see William through your words.

    What a COOL guy he was!

    Isn’t it wonderful how we meet people throughout our lives, we STILL remember, who have touched us?

  8. Such a great post!! I had a bus driver much like William when I was younger too. We had a 30 minute ride and she was always so nice and fun! We would always get to have end of the year paper wad fights and occassionally a shaving cream fight. The cool thing (for us kids) was that she cleaned it up! As an adult, I think she must have been crazy!

  9. Ahhhh…here’s to William! That was an awesome tribute to a man who was obviously deserving of such praise. I think being a bus driver would be such a difficult job but it’s obviousl that William reveled in his responsibility! (I should add that my busdriver was a crabby old woman named Sue who reveled in making our lives miserable.) =)
    Mindy
    http://www.thesuburbanlife.com

  10. Holy cow! You made me remember things I hadn’t thought of in YEARS!! You’re right, he was most definitely a unique personality and we ALWAYS had a blast! I had not heard of William’s passing and though that makes me sad, I know he brought so much laughter to us kids! Suzie-Q, you’re always right on the money!

  11. Great tribute! Cheers to William!

    Oh, the carefree days of our youth. My sister is a bus monitor and she has so many rules she has to enforce on the kids. She hates having to stiffle them like that, but it’s her job.

  12. That is a wonderful tribute.

    I know that, in many ways, times have changed for the better. But, I kind of miss the less rigid outlook on life many people had during those years.

  13. You need to send a copy of this to William’s family; I am sure they would really appreciate the memories that you put into words for all of us!

  14. The bus driver is a LEGEND! It’s silly, but your story reminds me of the bus driver in Forrest Gump, even though she was a woman. My D-Man finally has a good bus driver. The one last year was a biotch from hell & kicked him off the bus no less than 5 times for absolutely NOTHING. A bus driver can make or break the beginning of your day, and thus set the tone…

  15. I had the same thought as Maggie: send a copy of this lovely tribute to William’s family (or maybe even the local paper where you found his obituary). I wonder if his family knows how much he meant to the children of the town. (And it sounds like your town was small enough that you’d be able to track them down!) 🙂

  16. You are a very powerful writer to make me love a man I’ve never met! I, too, loved my school bus driver but I think William puts her to shame. Thanks for sharing.

  17. What a wonderful story – you brought him to life for me! It is a different world we live in now and not necessarily for the better, eh? I hope my children will find someone in their childhood that they remember as sweetly.

  18. What a great tribute to William! He sounds like he was a great man. I loved those few adults that just seemed to get us as kids without drawing the line into the creepy territory.

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