The kindergarten car

September 7, 2023   ·   0 Comments

I grew up in the country roughly eight miles outside of town in the 1960s, literally in the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed to me. Our nearest neighbours were 100-200 yards away, and the properties were separated by huge groves of wild trees and bushland. Being isolated like that had both its good points and its bad points. But we had a good home life, and the times were generally happy. 

When it came time for me to go to kindergarten, the township had to hire a school bus driver to come and get the few kids who lived out in our part of the rural area. And that’s how I came to meet my first school bus driver, young Ward.  

When the township contracted the assignment out to Ward, there weren’t enough kindergarten kids out in my area to justify using a full-sized school bus to come and get them. 

So instead, he used his car, a full-sized sky-blue early 1960’s Chevrolet Impala, as a makeshift school bus. He attached, I think, with giant suction cups or straps and cables, a large rectangular sign that said ‘School Bus’ across the roof of his car and used that to make his rounds and pick up the kids. I remember that sky-blue Chevy Impala fondly as the big blue ‘Kindergarten Car’. 

When the first day of school began for me in September, I was an afternoon kindergarten kid and vividly remember eating lunch at home with Mom while watching Popeye cartoons at noon on the only channel we got on our old black and white TV. 

When lunch was done, I walked out to wait at the side of the highway for the school bus with Mom keeping an eye on me from the living room picture window.

And then, along came a big blue Chevrolet Impala with a ‘School Bus’ sign secured to the roof. The driver pulled onto the shoulder of the highway, stopped, and gestured for me to get in, and I did. He introduced himself to me with that happy-go-lucky smile of his, and we got along famously right from the start.   

And as the school year progressed, I always looked forward to seeing Ward every day when he picked me up after lunch in the big blue Kindergarten Car. 

He was such a nice person, one of the nicest guys in the whole wide world to a little kid like me. I have fond memories of our very spirited conversations as he took me to school. I was the second kid he picked up on his route, so I usually sat beside him (or sometimes one kid over from him) in the front seat of the big blue Kindergarten Car and talked his ear off most days about any old thing on the way to school. And he always replied with his easy-going, happy-go-lucky smile. 

(One silly little thing kid thing I distinctly remember is one day asking him if he could drive the car with no hands. He said, ‘Sure!’ and put his wrists on the steering wheel and steered the car with his wrists. As a kid, I was not impressed. That’s not what I meant, but technically he was right. He said he could do it, and he did it. I smile when I think about that now. It’s funny the silly little kid memories that stick with you over the course of your life.) 

Ward would make the rural rounds, gathering up his handful of kids, stopping on the shoulder of the highway or going into the odd side road for a pickup. The big blue Kindergarten Car finally filled, and he then transported his happy little gaggle of kids to school.

Being the sixties, there were no seatbelts, no padded dashboards, or any other significant safety features in his Chevy Impala to my recollection. 

But we always got to school safe and sound and worry-free, thanks to Ward and the big blue Kindergarten Car!

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