The year was 1968 and I was in the 3rd grade. My brothers, friends and I would wait for the school bus at the end of our street. We would watch for the yellow school bus by looking down Maple towards Pine Drive. There were any times when I was walking to the bus stop and someone would shout out, “The bus is here!” My walk turned into a run at that point. When we climbed onto the bus, our driver would greet us with, ‘Good morning.’ I don’t recall his name, but for this writing I will call him Mr. Harris. After a few weeks, he even learned all our names and would greet us with our names. If we missed the bus there was a second chance at catching it, the bus would turn left onto Royal Oak which was a u-shaped street that ended up near our bus stop. We would cross Maple and wait for it at the end of Royal Oak. Since we were one of the first stops we would always get our choice of seats. Before long all the seats were taken, and kids were standing in the aisle from front of the bus to the back. The ones standing would hang on to the corners of the seats as the bus drove us to school.

My school, the Primary School, was the first stop to unload kids. As we got out of our seats the ones standing in the aisle would sit where we were, and we would make our way to the front of the bus passing the older kids in the aisle who had not yet found a seat. As I stepped off the bus I would hear Mr. Harris saying to all of us, “Have a good day!”. I walked to my classroom which was an old Air Force barracks building the school district bought and moved from Ellington Air Force Base as temporary classrooms. Those were not temporary for us since we used them as our classrooms the entire year.

When school let out later that day we would stand in line next to a pole with our bus number painted on it. When the bus arrived, and we started climbing aboard, the bus driver would greet us again and sometimes ask about our day. We usually answered with one word, ‘good’ as we made our way to find a seat. Once the bus was loaded it would slowly pull out of the bus loading area then make its way to the Junior High School. This part of the ride was usually quiet, but once the Jr. High kids came aboard it got noisy and crowded. When the bus was loaded and the doors closed, we pulled out of the Jr. High bus loading area. As Bus 37 made its way through town, it would stop a few times before our street. When we reached our stop and the doors opened, I was always glad to see our street, Plantation Drive. Sometimes my brothers and I would race home, other times I would slowly walk enjoying the newfound freedom of being out of school.

There were times I would catch Bus 29 on the way home. That bus stopped near our street, but I would have to walk an extra block to get home. Bus 29 was driven by Sam Vitanza. Everyone loved Sam, he was friendly with all the kids on his bus. Many years later when Sam died, the school district named the football stadium after him.

Back to our regular bus, number 37. Mr. Harris treated all of us as if he knew each one. We all enjoyed riding bus 37, especially if we were on our way home and not going to school in the morning. One morning as I boarded bus 37, Mr Harris was quiet. He did not say a word but drove his bus like always. As I stepped off bus 37 at the school, I said, “Bye, Mr. Harris” but he did not answer. I thought that was odd but soon forgot about it as I walked among the crowd of kids on my way to class. At the end of the school day, I boarded bus 37 to go home. Mr. Harris was quiet like he was that morning. I asked whoever I was sitting next to if he knew what was wrong with Mr. Harris. My friend replied, “Mr. Harris got a phone call last night that his son was killed in Vietnam.” My heart sank for Mr. Harris. When we stopped at our street, the doors opened. As I walked past our driver I said, “So sorry Mr. Harris.” He looked at me with a slight grin, but I could see he had tears in his eyes. The next day we had a substitute driver who drove our bus for the next few days. The next week Mr. Harris was driving Bus 37 again, but he was quieter than his usual self. He would talk with us, but he rarely greeted us like he used to.

The last day of school before summer break, as we stepped off Bus 37 for the last time, Mr. Harris told each one of use “Have a great summer!” That was the last time I saw Mr. Harris. I often wondered about Mr. Harris and his family. All I ever knew about him was he was one of the best bus drivers we had.