A drive in the country
Pat Peterson thought when she began driving a school bus for the Westmer school district she would do it for a year. Now a driver for Mercer County District 404, she "retired" Friday, Sept. 25 after 32 years on the job.
"I could have done other things," Peterson said during an Oct. 1 interview at the bus garage in Joy. "Some people think driving a school bus is a menial job. I don't. It was a pleasure. I could have gone to college and been a teacher. It wasn't for me. This is what I like.
"I think the Lord placed me here for a reason," she said. "God put me there (driving a bus) for a reason. I just hope I fulfilled that reason."
Peterson said there was a lot of camaraderie during the Westmer days, before the consolidation with Aledo formed Mercer County District 404. She fondly remembers one supervisor in particular, Joe Wakeland.
"He was a wonderful boss," she said. "He was the best boss I've had anywhere I've worked and I've worked a lot of places."
That might seem surprising, considering her longevity in getting children safely to and from school. She worked for Dustbusters, doing cleaning, during her years driving. Peterson gave that job up earlier this year.
She said her parents instilled responsibility and a work ethic into their children. Her first job was when she was 12 at Blaul's _ a combination cafe and drug store _ in downtown Joy.
Peterson said the owners, Bob and Vada Blaul, lived in the old hotel downtown.
"All those buildings are gone now," she said. "I remember when Main Street was full of businesses."
The youngster learned to do many jobs, from waiting tables to manning the soda fountain.
"I did everything," Peterson said, "and I think she paid me 15 cents an hour and I thought I was uptown. She (Vada) taught me skills I couldn't learn otherwise."
One of her sisters talked her into driving a school bus and Peterson has a rich mental scrapbook filled with memories of her years on that job. The best part?
"Oh, the kids," she said. "I love the kids. My favorite time (driving) is early in the morning. The sun is just coming up and the sky is gorgeous."
Read more of Pat's story in the Oct. 7 edition of the Times Record.