For Golden Hills School Division, there has been one man who has been around to see it all; Bobby Painter of Huxley, Ab.
Painter, 72, can confidently say he has witnessed three generations of families on the same bus route, including four of his own grandchildren.
Although a bittersweet ending, the seasoned bus driving veteran is glad to have served so many students throughout the years.
For 40 years, his wife Laurie has been the spare driver in case he himself could not make the route.
“I love doing that. My wife hated it. She did not want to do any spares but I loved them because I got to meet new people and stuff and I still want to do it because I love the kids.”
A highlight of his travels has always had to do with the kids he served.
“I was a softie. I would always let kids get away with a lot of stuff but I still say I did it safely for 54 years. I must have done something right,” he said.
Many students can agree he was the best as Painter would take the children out for a treat in town roughly once a month.
Painter lived in the same yard his entire life, driving the route east of Huxley for 54 years beginning when he was only 18-years-old.
He even recounts seeing five buses pulling into the hamlet when the community was at its largest.
“There was a time after Huxley [School] closed for one year there I would go into Huxley and pick up Huxley kids. I had picked up 22 kids in Huxley,” he said.
He has travelled down every route in the school division after substituting for various other drivers throughout the years.
One of the most memorable trips from school was one winter day during a freezing rain storm that produced half an inch of rain.
He and the occupants on the bus were travelling on Highway 21 from Trochu towards Huxley on ‘totally glare ice’ when he first started driving the bus.
“So I’m going down the highway and I get to the first place along the highway and this 600 pound sow decided to come and walk out on the highway,” described Painter. “She’s standing on the road and her feet kick out like this because she can’t stand up and I’m trying to get by her going about five miles an hour.”
They did eventually creep by the misplaced pig without any issues.
“It was just an incident that was really quite interesting. The kids thought it was a real fun deal but I didn’t think it was very funny,” laughed Painter, looking back on the situation.
A second story that comes to mind when he was substituting for another bus driver that was stuck in British Columbia at the time.
The driver explained to him where to go as the route was by Carbon, Ab. He also told Painter that an older student would be on the bus to direct him where to go next.
“So I get there and his mom comes out and says ‘He’s not on the bus today’ so I was totally lost. She kind of told me where to get to the next place. I ended up getting to Three Hills that morning probably 20 [minutes] to 10 I’d say.”
Painter has been reluctant to let go of his position but with his new found freedom, he has more time to focus on other things in his welldeserved retirement.
He has been on boards such as the Ag Society, United Conservative Party board, Saint Mary’s board, Kneehill County Council and so on.