Jefferson Middle School is just a few blocks away, and part of our (me and the dog) morning post-breakfast walk, as it’s adjacent to an open space. The usual assortment of CUVs, minivans and compact cars typically populate the parking lot, but on this morning, there was something a bit less boring. Not exactly surprising, for Eugene, but worth shooting. And since it’s not drop off time, I’m assuming it belongs to a teacher. Now that brings back some memories.
I’m going to guess it’s from 1965 – 1967, the last years of the original VW “Bulli” buses and transporters. I did a lot of my unofficial training behind the wheel of one of these. In my sophomore year at Loyola High School, a fresh-out-of-college French teacher was hired that fall, and he had a white-over-green ’65 bus, just like this. And the choke in it would get hung up, so I often had to help him start it. The payback was that I got to drive it, even though I was 15 and had no license. Minor detail.
This is one has the three-across seating in front, which was pretty unusual in the latter years of these. Three really could sit comfortably in the back seats, but the front doors pinched in towards the front, and with the stick shift there, it just wasn’t very conducive to three adults. But practically half the sophomore class piled in sometimes, to get a ride into Towson, or for some other inappropriate activity or another. Given that this teacher was like 22 or 23, and a bit immature, we didn’t have a hard time coercing him into all kinds of…things we shouldn’t have been doing, in his bus, and with me often behind the wheel. Including a ski trip to Roundtop, in Pennsylvania, in a snow storm, with me driving, and a number of other sophomores in the back seats. Who were passing bottles and joints around. Quite a trip.
So when I look at the driver’s compartment of one of these, it brings up very deep-seated and intense memories. If you can drive a bus through the mountains in a snow storm carrying a bunch of drunk and stoned kids, your sense of invincibility does tend to swell some. Or just your actual driving skills.
Ironically, this is by far the most valuable vehicle in the parking lot. In fact, it’s probably worth more than all the cars here put together. Now that’s something I couldn’t have imagined in 1967, hunched over the wheel, shifting furiously to keep up some semblance of speed.
By the way, that teacher only lasted about three months before he was fired. Too many reports about his students seen behind the wheel of his bus, and a few other activities not conducive to a Jesuit High School teacher.