When I was in high school, almost everybody rode the bus back and forth to school. Very few people who I knew drove to school or were driven to school by their parents. Most people back then had two choices — walk if you lived close enough to the school or if you lived in the country like I did, you got on the bus that came by your house.
The drivers were always high school students who usually lived in your community, so they didn’t have to use a lot of gas getting to where the actual bus route began. When the driver stopped at a house along the route, he or she picked up all of the school kids at that house no matter what their age happened to be. There were not separate buses for elementary, junior and senior high.
Those drivers got paid $30 a month up until my senior year when they started getting paid a dollar an hour. Some of the students were then making what was considered pretty good money. Some of them even started making enough to make a car payment. I drove one of those buses my senior year and I can assure you, that money really came in handy for all those extra expenses you have for graduation.
When I was in school at Ellerbe, the elementary, junior and senior high schools were all at the same campus, so everybody could be dropped off at that one spot and not have to go to more than one location to unload. That worked out well also so older siblings could make sure the young ones got on the right bus to head home in the afternoon.
Very little bullying took place either, because a bully didn’t want to take on three or four kids as opposed to one little scrawny kid. And then if a younger sibling was a little feisty, like my younger brother Charles, he might need a little backup once in a while, too.
Everybody got to know one another too if you rode the same bus to school for several years and most of the riders were your neighbors. We had some good times on most of those bus rides even though there was no air conditioning to keep you cooled off and the windows only went down halfway.
When I was 15 years old, I rode the bus (from three miles this side of Derby) to Ellerbe every morning and afternoon. The driver always let me and my brothers off at the end of the long dirt road that led to our house. We had to then walk about 400 yards along that road with a field on one side and woods on the other side.
One afternoon when the bus let us off, my brothers, Mike and Charles, both took off like a streak toward home. I wasn’t really in any hurry to get home, so they left me behind as I just moseyed along, carrying my books. I’ve always loved to sing, so I started singing at the top of my lungs. My Mama just loved the country music singer named Jim Reeves (Mr. Velvet Voice). I suppose since I had heard his songs so often that is why I started singing:
“Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone.
“Let’s pretend that we’re together all alone.”
Just as I sang that last line, I got this funny feeling. Have you ever felt like someone was watching you? Well, that’s the kinda feeling I had at that moment.
I very slowly turned my head to the left toward the trees lining that road. I absolutely could see eyes staring back at me from behind every bush and tree!
Then I remembered that the neighbor who owned that forest land had told the Army they could use his land for some of their training. Then it hit me — those eyes looking back at me had to be soldiers on maneuvers!
Needless to say, I could not sing another note. I’m not going to say I ran all the way home after that, but I will say I caught another gear and got into a really fast walk.
So take my advice. If you’re going to sing a song that has what some people might consider “sexy” lyrics, you might want to first check the trees and bushes to see who might be listening.
Uncle Sam could be watching you!
Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County and a member of the Story Spinners of Laurinburg, Richmond County Historical Society and Richmond County Writers Club.