With the new school year here, I thought I'd drive down history lane and tell you how some grandparents or great grandparents of South Winn's students rode to school, sometimes it was quite a wild ride indeed!
One summer day in 1942, the Superintendent of South Winneshiek, Justin Iverson, came to Hauber's family farm by Ridgeway to talk to Joe's father, Leonard. They happened to be old classmates as well. Supt. Iverson mentioned that the school board was considering starting the first bus route and wondered if Joe, a senior, would be interested in being the bus driver. Of course, Joe jumped at the chance to drive anything!
The bus route would be from seven miles north of Spillville to Spillville, to Conover, then to Calmar where he would unload the students then continue to pick up more students on the way to Festina and in Festina turn around and deliver them to Calmar. Joe was happy that his father decided he would be driving the bus.
And what an adventure it was! "The bus was a used International panel truck and the seats were two planks running the length of the bus. On really cold days the bus would not start, so dad would harness up a team of horses and pull the bus around the barn on a run until it would start since there were no motor heaters then," explains Joe who also found a couple photos of the bus and a photo of some familiar Festina people from his bus route to share with us.
"If we got snowed in, I would put on a set of chains, fill the back of the bus with sacks of ear corn for weight, take along a shovel and open the roads. The air conditioner on warm days was a round six inch hole in the front floor. You slid the cover over and you got cooler and also began chocking up the dust," laughed Joe.
"Each noon he would take the bus to Halverson's garage. They would check the bus over and fill it with gas. A number of the senior boys would go with me and we would play pool while the bus was then taken care of. Once a month, Joe would stop at the Calmar town square where Ider Benrod (school treasurer) owned a clothing store and he would give me a check, a dollar a day for each school day in the month."
Joe recalls a few scary moments while in charge of his bus route students. "On one dark morning in October, about ¾ of a mile from home, we came over a hill and there was a herd of cows out on the road. We hit three of them. They had to be put away. The poor old bus lost two fenders, two headlights, the radiator and other parts of the bus was damaged. Both of my brothers, Dwayne and Vincent, ended up under the front heater!" Luckily no one was hurt. It wasn't like now, where he could call someone on a cell phone for an emergency. Joe had to manage not only the bus, but the students in all circumstances as well, at only 17 or 18 years of age.
On another occasion, we thought we had a fire as the bus filled with smoke and the Festina group rushed out the front and back doors. We found out the parking brake had not released and was back on the road shortly."
Years later, Joe was elected to the South Winneshiek School Board and continued to serve there for 18 years. During that time they purchased a number of new school buses, built a new bus barn, and hired a full time bus mechanic, and even had a spare bus in case one broke down. Today's journey has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the transportation system of one panel truck for South Winneshiek Community School!