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The school van

When I started school in 1954 the school “van” route was up for tender and my dad decided that he could maybe take it on. He had a 1952 International half-ton truck and with a bit of work he made a box for it. A pretty simple box actually, the sides being a centre-split sheet of plywood mounted on some oak stakes. The first top was a brown tarpaulin if I remember correctly.

This truck is shown in the picture. It carried students to Holland Consolidated School in Manitoba until 1958, when the truck was replaced with a newer model. With the truck are John and Christina Waddell and me, their son Ken, in 1954.

Later, in 1958, a new three-quarter ton IHC truck was bought and the box-making episode was repeated. In the fall harvest season, the truck served double duty. The top had to be lifted off, the truck taken to the field and filled with grain from the combine and loads driven to the yard. At the end of the harvest day, the truck had to be swept clean and the heavy wooden roof or lid put back on ready for the following morning’s school run.

The students were met at the end of each farm lane and loaded into the back of the truck through a small crouch down door. Then the door was latched from the outside and the tail gate put up and latched. There was no escape from this rig. Trucks and other private vehicles were pretty much the standard for hauling students in the 1950s in the rural school divisions.

Dad’s 1958 truck was retired early as the rules changed in 1961 and school vans had to be, well, vans, closed in station wagons or the slightly bigger units we called panel vans. By 1967 the rules changed again and van drivers had to buy real school buses that didn’t look a lot different than today’s buses. †

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