It's been 57 years since 1956, and Jim Miller has spent a significant portion of those nearly six decades behind the wheel of a school bus.
Monday, May 6, marked the anniversary of the date he began delivering bright, young minds to be enlightened, and, for many of those years, he helped with the enlightening.
"I also taught school for 37 years," Miller said while recalling how he got his start. "It was kind of out of necessity. I had a family and needed more than my teacher's salary."
Photo by Jacob Perryman
Jim Miller in the doorway to Y10, his school bus route.
According to a 2004 Economic Policy Institute report, a teacher in 1956 made the equivalent of just over $27,000 if the pay was in current dollars.
"I've continued from then until this day," Miller added. "One of the advantages I had; I got to know where the kids came from and that helped in my classroom activity."
When he started, Dwight Eisenhower was in the Oval Office and Freeman Loomis was in the bus company's office. Sixteen years later, Loomis sold his bus company to a couple named Johnson, who were also Miller's former students. Miller stayed with the company.
"I've now driven for them (Johnson Transportation) for 41 years," Miller said. "I appreciate very much the relationship I've developed with the people I drive for. I guess I've had the respect of my students over the years."
According to Miller, a bus lasts between six and eight years before needing replaced, but he's driven the same bus number for far longer than that: bus Y10.
While his bus number hasn't changed much in more than five and a half decades, Miller noted, some things about the job have changed.
"Looking back, the buses, first of all, have changed from gasoline to diesel," Miller said. "Many contractors now have somewhere to store the vehicles. That didn't used to be the case. I'd have to go early and clean the snow and start the bus and all the fun things like that."
Miller recalled the first time Johnson Transportation used a bag phone in an emergency, an incident he was driver for.
According to Miller, he was transporting band students to Coudersport to play at halftime of a football game when their van broke down on the Morrison Bridge on Route 59.
"I heard a ping, that was followed by a bang," Miller recalled. "The tire blew out and communication isn't great out there."
Eventually, a replacement vehicle made it to the students, but it left them two hours behind schedule.
"I certainly was impressed with Coudersport," Miller said. "Since we didn't get to play at halftime, we played at the end and I don't think a single person left."
Miller looks at driving the bus as a chance to make connections and as motivation.
"Even after I retired from teaching I kept doing it because it's a schedule that makes me get up and do things," Miller said. "I've developed many friendships over the years with parents what I might not have otherwise had the opportunity to. It's been a great experience. A great time."
So when you see bus Y10, remember it's in experienced hands.