By Mike Riggin
WUSD Transportation Director
I became curious a while back about the history of the school bus, so I did a little research and found some interesting facts. There was a time when almost all kids walked to school. Uphill. Both ways. In the snow. We have come a long way since those days.
The idea of a school bus came around some time in the late 19th century. They were called Kid Hacks, which was short for Hackney Carriage, and they were more or less a farm wagon with bench seats. Eventually, some of them got canvas tops but were still open to the got on and off at the rear so they would not frighten the animals. As time went on they became more elaborate with solid roofs and sides. I even found reference to some of them having a wood burning stove in them to keep the kids warm in the winter.
Hacks didn’t last long as the horseless carriage was coming into vogue and they started putting gas engines in them. In 1910, Wayne Works produced the first “School Car” which was the first motorized school bus.
Wayne went on to be a major player in the school bus industry until they finally went bankrupt in 1992. I rode to school in Wayne buses and I bet many of you did as well.
In 1925, a Ford dealer in Georgia built the first Blue Bird school bus on a Model T Ford chassis. Blue Bird is still making buses and Blue Bird Number One still exists at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
In 1939, a conference was organized and attended by many transportation officials. At the end of the conference, 44 standards had been adopted regarding the manufacture of school buses.
Probably the most important of these standards was the adoption of the National School Bus Glossy Yellow color. All school buses since that date have been yellow in the United States and Canada. Many other countries use some variation of the same color.
We now take for granted that our children will ride to school on a climate controlled bus with every safety feature imaginable but, as you can see, it wasn’t always that way.
The school buses students have today are the result of many years of development and refinement.