by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
I don’t know when Grain Valley first had school buses. Grain Valley’s first yearbook, published in 1936, had a photograph of the school bus driver on the page with the Board of Education.
My parents graduated in 1932 and they never mentioned school buses. They did talk about the barn behind the school where the country kids tied their horses during the school day. It was more of a covered hitching post with a trough along the front for hay or feed. The older boys would go out once or twice daily to give the horses water to drink.
Mr. Ray Frantz was one of Grain Valley’s first school bus drivers. When I look at the photo I always wonder if the tie and hat were part of a “required” uniform for bus drivers. I believe this particular photo was taken around 1940.
There were two buses in Grain Valley at that time. They each had two routes in the morning to transport student to school and two more in the afternoon when the students were driven home.
One bus went north to pick up students and the other went south. The students farthest away from school were picked up first. Their second run was to pick up students near the school.
During the 1950s, the buses in Grain Valley were operated by Elmer Perry of Oak Grove. their My parents bought out Mr. Perry in January of 1961. At that time, Grain Valley had four buses but each bus still had two routes.
The first school buses in the U.S. weren't buses at all: they were wagons. Known colloquially as “kid hacks” (“hack” referring to a type of horse-drawn carriage), these wagons were used as early as 1886 to ferry children in rural areas to the one-room schools that were popular at the time.
They were built by Wayne Brothers in Indiana. The Wayne corporation went out of business in 1992. Today Blue Bird and Thomas remain two of the biggest manufactures of school buses.
There are many state and federal safety regulations for school buses. Probably the most recognized safety feature is their color. Scientists have found that people are able to see yellow objects in their peripheral field 1.24 times better than red. Unlike red, yellow is also more easily noticed in a dark environment. This is one of the major reasons “school bus yellow,” an actual color, was chosen.
The black lettering on yellow is the easiest color combination for drivers to see in the darkness of early morning when students are being picked up for school.
While school buses were the main form of transportation during much of last century, beginning in the 1980s, fewer and fewer students road the big yellow bus. And yet, according to all the records, the school bus is the safest vehicle on the road—your child is much safer taking a bus to and from school than traveling by car.
Although four to six school-age children die each year on school transportation vehicles, that's less than one percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide.