I’m doing something different on this blog. I have a foster brother who drove school buses for the city for 21 years. He wrote a great letter to the Gazette last spring, reflecting on his years with the city. Since the Gazette doesn’t post letters online, I want Randy to have his moment on my blog so I have “volunteered” him to guest post:
To the editor:
Where do I start? Oh yeah, how about at the beginning. On March 21, 1988 I was hired by Jim Parisian to drive the field trip/athletic bus for the city of Salem’s School Department. Little did I know at that time how long and how much I would enjoy this job. This was supposed to be a temporary job until I found a “real one.
The first week on the job started with a literal bang. The leased bus I was assigned to drive was torched overnight and damaged the rear of the high school. I couldn’t believe when I was shown what remained of the bus: The front end was completely gone and the tires were burnt so much that there were only rims left. What a way to start off a job, but I stuck with it.
I learned how to get to the sporting fields by Salem’s greatest coaches, Ken Perrone and Al Giardi, and even got lost taking Charlie Maihos’ softball team over to Lynn Classical. I started out being the driver that followed everyone to eventually being the driver everyone looked to for directions.
I drove in and out of Boston all the time and loved it. I watched the Big Dig happen all around me and only regretted coming back in September every year because so many changes happened over the summer months and I had to learn the new routes around Boston.
I really loved driving the kids of Salem and was considered the cool bus driver because I never stayed on the bus — I would join them on field trips, helping teachers chaperone or watching the games. I even got to sit on the parquet floor at the old Boston Garden with. our basketball team during a championship game. I was there when Jeff Juden was being scouted and I remember the Saugus game, watching the radar gun, seeing him throw over 90 mph. I still have the bail he signed for me after he got recruited to the Houston Astros.
There was only one school year that was really
tough on me. That was when Salem High’s class of
2000 were seniors. They were in kindergarten when
I started driving a bus and I watched them grow up,
even though I hadn’t changed a bit, or so I thought.
I loved saying “good morning” to every kid on my bus as they got on and “have a good day” when they were leaving. I even let them know they were missed when they were out sick. I still have many of the gifts given to me over the years by the children and their parents.
I will miss being seen in a store and being run up to or pointed at and hearing the kids say, “that’s my bus driver.” How many looks did I get when some of those special angels would run up to me and give me a hug to say hi in a store and I would never return it, but say “I don’t do hugs,” showing that it was the child and not me initiating it. Those were the tough parts of the job, because I knew that some of those kids really needed a hug back.
These are just some of the things I remember fondly about being a bus driver. I could go on and on about the kids I drove, but sadly all things must come to an end. For personal reasons I resigned my position on April 11, 2008 so for the first time in 20 years and 21 days, the city of Salem does not have everyone’s favorite bus driver at the wheel of a bus. I will cherish all of those years driving Salem’s children.
To the Salem School Department and all of my bus driver friends, thanks for all of the great memories. To the parents of all of the children I drove over these 20 years, I thank you, for the greatest gift: getting to drive your children.
Dunlap Street, Salem
Ironically, the year Randy was hired, I got a temp job as a bus monitor for a week where I got to ride around in one of our special-ed vans with Jan, one of Randy’s fellow drivers. Even though it really wasn’t my kind of work, it was an interesting job and I really enjoyed working with Jan. Sadly, Jan succumbed to cancer shortly after my time on the bus, so I never got to tell her personally.
The past nine months have been very difficult for Randy and I as we deal with some very personal and emotional issues. But one thing is clear from his letter: He loved Salem. My deep cynicism makes it impossible for me to appreciate this fact, but there it is.
This school year is different without Randy, no doubt.