Looking Back: Mr. Riley drove the bus, was a fixture among kids

Published 8:26 pm Wednesday, October 16, 2019

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Before I get to Looking Back, I want to tell you something else.

I had some company who came to see me and I thought I would share this news with you. Since this is a column about stories from the past, it may remind you of something in your childhood.

My sister in law and a cousin I haven’t seen in many years came to visit with me recently and after having a nice lunch at Drexel and Honeybee’s, we spent the rest of our time together talking about our childhood.   

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I recalled one incident, well actually several, involving a school bus driver that drove the bus that I rode to school. He was a local man I had known all my life who was quite elderly. My grandfather was also a bus driver and both of them should probably never have been behind  the driving wheel. I know my own grandfather only had one eye because of an accident with a RC Cola blowing up in his face.

Mr. Lige Riley was my bus driver. He was described by the kids who rode his bus that he was blind in one eye and couldn’t see out of the other. You know children can be very cruel. Anyway, we had many adventures with getting to and from school each day.

When I was in school, school buses were used not only for school, but for other community events, too. If there was anything of interest to the community, school buses would run their regular route and furnish transportation to those who wanted to attend.

One such time there was a big time concert of Christian music and it was performing at our local baseball field, which was not only used by the school team, but by a semi-professional team. I chose to go to the concert and to ride the bus with Mr. Riley. I was picked up in front of my house and we ran the regular route. Our first problem came when Mr. Riley turned at a house, side swiped the mailbox and almost knocked it down. That was pretty funny to us kids. We rode into town and there were not enough parking places available so our bus driver decided to park on the high school campus, which was covered with big trees. He jumped the curb and side swiped one of the trees. His wife, Lottie, who also worked for the school system in the lunch room, let out a shriek and jumped up in her seat. “Lige, you are gong to kill us all,” she screamed.

Mr. Lige slowly and calmly turned around and said, “Sit down Lorrie.”

I don’t remember what happened next. All of the kids were laughing so hard, we were about to roll in the aisle. It never occurred to any of us that he was a danger to us and everybody else that got in the way.

I remember another incident involving Mr. Lige. Back in those days most roads were not paved. They were mostly red clay that was graded every few weeks to cut down on cars bogging down. There was a long hill on our route that would get muddy and slick after a rain. A few times we were known to slide into a ditch on that hill. My brother, and a few of his friends would be called upon to push on the bus to get us back on the road. Mr. Lige didn’t know he was asking the wrong ones to help him. While he was behind the wheel, the boys were pushing as hard as possible to  get the bus deeper into the mud. I can see him now yelling at the boys to push harder, their pushing against him and the rest of us laughing about the situation.

We were of a generation that enjoyed having a good time without endangering life and limb. We didn’t know how lucky we were.

I will get back to Looking Back next week. I just had this on my mind.