A big school advance: School buses
Continually advancing to meet students’ needs
I spent a lot of time on school buses during my time in Pea Ridge schools. But when I started to school, almost 72 years ago, the school didn’t own buses. As I recall, it was at the beginning of the 19471948 school year that the Pea Ridge School bought two new Ford school buses, the first buses that were school-owned. One of the new buses ran in the area where I lived, and served the northwest quadrant of our school district. I am not quite sure where the other new bus served, but I think it was the northeast of town area, including the Twelve Corners Community.
Prior to 1947-1948, I think our bus route was the only route that was served by a real bus. The other routes were run by vehicles owned by individual drivers who were hired by the school to provide transportation for the school kids. For our route, which began on the road we call Hayden Road today, the driver and bus provider was O.R. Morrison. Mr. Morrison owned the farm land on which today’s Pea Ridge City Park is situated, as well as the housing development which reaches west to Chapman Street.
Mr. Morrison had invested in a school bus body which he mounted on his Chevrolet truck during the school year. When school was dismissed in the spring, he would remove the bus body and leave it beside his barn on blocks, and would outfit his truck with a hay bed for hauling hay. So the old truck was a combination farm truck and school bus. I’m told that in the early days, many school kids rode to school in unadapted trucks, with only a tarp over the stock rack to protect the kids from the rains and cold winds.
In our earlier days, only the country kids rode school buses. The town kids had to walk to school or to be dropped off by their parents. The rule then was that if you lived two miles or more from “town” you could ride the school bus. If you lived within two miles of the schoolhouse, you were near enough to get to school on your own, and you couldn’t ride the school bus.
School buses also moved the community to improve the roads, and in a few cases to open new roads. I mentioned that my bus route started with Hayden Road, (although it didn’t have that name then). Near the state line, we would then turn west onto the lower stretch of Lucas Lane. A new roadbed had been made to connect the two ends of what we now call Lucas Lane. The hill between the low stretch and the high stretch of Lucas Lane was very steep. Our new Ford bus had four forward gears, first, second and high; and, new to me, compound (or what we called Grandma gear).
Our bus driver would stop at the bottom of the hill, shift into compound gear, and we would lug up the hill to the tune of the high-pitched whine which was characteristic of the older Ford V8 trucks. Compound gear was for some serious pulling, and that hill gave our bus a challenge. It was so steep that the bus wouldn’t take that way with a full load, but would run the bus route backward in the evenings, so as to have fewer kids and a smaller load for negotiating the serious hills and hollows. We also got a new road which connected the lower part of White Oak Hollow with Arkansas Highway 94 West.
Lucas Lane, Gates Lane and the White Oak Hollow roads are still nice gravel roads today, but Ark. Hwy. 94 and Looney Road have been really modernized with paved roadbeds. Parts of Mariano Road are still gravel, but most of the rest of our old bus route has fine paved surfaces. We would hit our “home stretch” on Benton County 40 (McNelly Road), merge into Ark. Hwy 94 at Blackjack Corner, and take the State 94 entrance (now Pickens) into Pea Ridge.
Prior to the schoolowned buses, the school had had a front drive for dropping off the school kids. But with the buses, the bus entrance was moved to the back of the schoolhouse. The old front drive was soon replaced by a wide sidewalk, which is still in place today. The advances in the quality of the school busing program was just one more example of public school progress, in which the Pea Ridge community adapted to new situations and sought to offer the best possible educational programs for the community’s kids growing up.
When the first public school opened in Pea Ridge in 1884, the school didn’t provide meals. The Hot Lunch Program opened in 1941.
The school at first didn’t do vocational education. Vocational Education began about 1920.
The school at first had no gymnasium. The first School Gym opened in 1931 as an unfinished building, and was completed in 1936, being used as it was built by volunteer labor.
I see us as still trying to do the best we can for our kids, providing more adequate facilities, providing programs that help kids meet the opportunities and challenges of their lives, and making us all together a stronger and better community.