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Changes make bus driver’s job safer, easier

Things are not what they used to be, but one bus driver firmly believes changes have only improved with time.

On the job for more than four decades, Sallie Samuel or as most know her, “Mrs. Sallie,” has enjoyed every minute of her job.

She has driven for elementary, middle and high school students for 48 years and served under several superintendents and transportation directors.

“To this day she still has one rule they all go by: All the girls sit on one side, and all the boys on the other,” said Melvin, one of Samuel’s sons.

“Sometimes they are so quiet, I don’t even know they’re there,” said Samuel.

She has driven seven different buses during her tenure and can still name each number, 83, 220, 101, 47, 84, 80, and she currently drives bus 108.

According to Samuel, the many changes through the years have made the job easier and safer. 

“They used to only offer straight gear, and the gears didn’t have anything on them. I just kept moving until I got the right one,” she added.

Samuel said now bus drivers have manual and automatic buses, buses have seat belts for the students, radios and cameras on board, and the bus garage is more efficient compared to years ago.

When Samuel first began driving the bus, the highest income she earned was $96 a month.

“You just didn’t make any money driving a bus,” said Samuel of her earlier years.

When she wasn’t driving the bus she was busy raising six kids and working in the Halifax County Middle School cafeteria. She worked at the cafeteria for nearly 30 years before she would retire. 

She now serves on the food committee, as pastor’s aid and missionary at White Oak Baptist Church where her son, Melvin, is pastor.

According to Melvin, five of her six children rode her bus, and they were treated no different than the other children.

“If they didn’t behave, they went in just like the others,” said Samuel.

“We were the first ones on and the last ones off. We couldn’t do anything wrong, our expectations were very high,” said Melvin.

Her son said all the children respected “Mrs Sallie,” and she is well known throughout the Sutherlin community. One Sunday he polled his church family to determine how many in the congregation had ridden his mother’s bus. 

“Half the church stood up and said they rode Mrs. Sallie’s bus,” said Melvin.

“I’ve driven many generations,” Samuel added.

“Every day she gets off that bus she has a story to tell,” said Melvin.

In her many years, she has experienced many crazy events and heard many strange things from students. 

She recalls one afternoon two girls were arguing, and the girl said to the other, “If you think you’re a frog hop on over here,” and Samuel had to take them back to school for discipline. 

“I see a lot of my former students, but some of them look different. I still talk to them and hug them,” said Samuel.

When the time comes, and she is ready to hang up driving the bus for a living, she plans to hand it down to her son, Melvin, who also often substitutes for her.

“I think if she could tell the parents or the community anything, it would be to listen to your bus driver, understand that the bus driver has a major responsibility,” said Melvin.

Samuel said she often talks with parents and alerts them of certain situations and gets good feedback.

“I enjoy my kids. Driving is my hobby…I just like to drive,” Samuel concluded.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE

This is the first in an occasional series The Gazette-Virginian plans to publish this year spotlighting unsung heroes in the education arena.