School Days

School Transportation

All the country kids came to school in the school van every day. In the summer the school van looked very much like the old prairie schooner since it was a horse drawn wagon with a spring seat set crosswise at the front for the driver with a wood plank on each side of the box. This plank served as a seat for the kids. There was room for four on a side so this wonderful van could accommodate eight students.

This van was especially built for the school district and I know that the Chinook Consolidated School District owned at least six of these monsters. The vans were built with a wood floor and wood walls which extended up from the floor four feet. The seats were attached to these walls, which also provided a backrest for the students. From these walls a framework of wood extended up high enough to accommodate all but the high school students in a standing position.

This whole framework was covered with heavy white canvas. Up front where the driver sat had a roll down canvas with a plastic window in it and an oblong slot cut and stitched for the horses reins. The back had a big step fastened to the floor and a narrow door from the floor to the roof. The door had a window in it and a lot of light came in through the white canvas so it was quite cosy inside, especially when the wind blew, which was most of the time on the prairie.

Let's assume it is now winter (January was always bitter) and the country vans are pulling up to the school gate. The kids stream out the back door of the van, lunch pail in one hand, foot warmer in the other. The horses backs are covered with frost and clouds of steam pour out of each horse's nostrils as they stomp the snow to keep warm. A cloud rises from each student's mouth as they run to the school door.

Through the school's front door, down the wide stairs to stack the foot warmers for "Wibbly Wobbly" Bill Isbester the school caretaker to recharge with new hot glowing coal just before the afternoon trip home.

The lunch boxes were hurriedly stacked in what had been a classroom, but since much of the population had moved away it now served as a kitchen, where hot soup and hot chocolate was served at noon in the winter for all the kids who had brought their lunch on the van.

As soon as the kids had bailed out, the horses headed down the alley towards the livery barn where they were quickly unhitched from the van, put in the barn and given hay. Upon tending to the horses, the driver (one of the students' fathers) headed for the hotel lobby to wait in the warmth of the steam radiator until the beer parlor opened at ten o'clock.

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