Ward keeps on rolling
By Leigh Anne Butler
Sitting behind the wheel of Tallassee City School bus 05-17 is dedicated school bus driver Margaret Ward. The children on her bus often ask her when she is going to retire. Her answer is simple and matter of fact, “When you graduate.”
Ward is in her 36th year of driving a bus for the Tallassee City School system. She began substitute driving for her friend and neighbor Martha Butler when Martha’s husband got sick. The next school year, Ward took over the bus route for her friend.
Tallassee resident and business owner, Brad Parker was one of Ward’s original bus riders. Parker fondly recalls Ward “stopping that school bus and getting up and telling us to stop all that hootin’ and hollerin’.” Parker also remembers Ward’s son, Toby, who was not yet in school, sitting on her left hand side of the driver seat. “He operated the stop sign switch,” Parker said with a chuckle. Parker was also a neighbor of Ward and knew if he ever did anything wrong on her bus his father would be the first to know.
Ward states, “I’ve seen (the kids) come and go. I’ve hauled all the Websters that live on Redland Road and Martha Brown, now I’ve got her grandkids on my bus.”
Ward laughs as she recalls one incident many years ago. “Barry Glass made me a paddle in shop class. One day Bobby Parker got on the bus and when he saw it he told me I couldn’t swing it. I told him that yes I could.” She tells of how she gave Parker a good “lick.” Then she told him, “I can’t swing it, huh?” and asked if he would like another. She smiled and said he replied, “No. I’ve had enough.”
Ward also pulled double duty for about a ten year span working third shift for Mount Vernon Mills while keeping her bus route during the day. On field trip days, when the last student was off the bus she would find an empty seat and get a little shut eye.
“Hazel Taylor, Francis Porter and I drove the bus for the band when Colonel Ed Watkins was the band director. I’ve driven for all the band directors since Colonel Watkins and now I drive the cheerleaders, majorettes and flags,” Ward added.
Not only does Ward get up early every morning to ensure her bus riders arrive at school safely and on time, she tries to be friendly, helpful and make sure each one knows she cares about them. “I treat the kids like they are mine,” Ward proudly stated. “I talk to them and encourage them to get an education. I think I’ve got a pretty good bunch of kids. If I get on to them, it’s for their own good.”
“My own kids are wanting me to retire,” Ward explains. “I’m happy doing what I’m doing and I’m not ready to quit.”