After nearly 56 years driving the school bus, Marlene Bush is retiring
CLARKSBURG - When Marlene Bush began her bus driving career in 1961, there were no other female drivers.
A parent even expressed concern about having their child ride with a female bus driver.
"I was just a young girl, and you never heard of women bus drivers then," said Bush, who, after nearly 56 years as a bus driver for schools in the Northern Berkshires, dropped off her last students on Friday.
Her first bus had a manual transmission, didn't have power steering, and due to her small stature, had to have extenders placed on the pedals.
Bush began her career at Mount Greylock High School, which was built the year she started and she has nearly outlasted - it is now undergoing renovations. While still holding down a job at a North Adams shop, Bush would work a morning bus route before her shift began and take kids home on her lunch break.
"I've enjoyed every minute," said Bush, who is affectionately referred to as "Mrs. B."
Bush has seen bus companies come and go, and spent the last eight and a half years with DuFour. She driven for schools in Williamstown, North Adams and Clarksburg throughout the past five decades.
"For her to be retiring now, it's very sad. But she deserves her retirement," said Marlene McCausland, one of Bush's several coworkers who gathered at the bus garage on Curran Memorial Highway for a surprise retirement party on Friday afternoon.
Bush is known for being a no-nonsense driver, but earned the respect of students, parents and school employees that way.
"I've been strict since Day One," she said. "But I don't really yell too much. It's the look. It's always the look."
Bush, who took time off annually to visit Florida in the winter, was on the fence about retirement, but the recent snowfall made the choice easier. She lost her husband a year ago, and he had always made sure she could get out of driveway safely in the snow.
"That first snowstorm I thought `What am I doing?' I'm not looking for the Guinness Book of World Records," Bush said.
On Friday, the students and staff at Clarksburg Elementary, where Bush has been a driver for years, lined the halls of the school and cheered as she walked through during a special celebration.
"As long as I've worked here, she's been a bus driver, which has been 32 years. We felt it was appropriate to give her a little sendoff," said Lisa Boyer, a third-grade teacher at Clarksburg Elementary. "She runs a tight ship on that bus and the kids respect her. It's hard to maintain some calm on the bus enough to concentrate on your driving, it's really difficult. Especially at the end of the day."
Students also gave her a bracelet, flowers and a card - which will be added to the box full of notes from students she's collected throughout the years.
"They're the best little kids around," Bush said of the Clarksburg students. "All my little ones said `I don't want you to leave.' "
Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks
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