Alternative Transportation Was Necessary for Students

Recalling the days when alternative transportation was needed for those in rural areas.

| July 2013

  • Boy With Car
    Proof that a shiny new car is not necessary for pride of ownership.
    Photo Courtesy Clell Ballard
  • Car Side
    Important mechanical components were open to the weather. The car had a windshield frame but no glass.
    Photo Courtesy Clell Ballard
  • Car Hand Crank
    A perpetually weak battery really didn’t prove to be much of a problem because the car could be hand-cranked or easily push-started.
    Photo Courtesy Clell Ballard
  • Car Front
    Since the vehicle was licensed and had headlights, it was legal to drive on public roads. Note the nearly bald front tires and the completely bald ones on the back.
    Photo Courtesy Clell Ballard

  • Boy With Car
  • Car Side
  • Car Hand Crank
  • Car Front

In the 1950s owning an automobile was not possible for every family, let alone every young person who would love to have “wheels.” If you ask people who are of retirement age today, they will tell you that only a very small number of high school students drove to school back then. Large parking lots were not needed at schools as they are now.

Most rural areas were served by school buses by the 1950s. In the wide-open spaces of western America, it wasn’t unusual for students at the far end of the route to board a bus as early as 7 a.m. and return after 5 p.m., even though the school day ran from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This author has driven bus routes that were close to 80 miles round trip morning and night.

Such grueling daily trips were unpleasant, especially for little kids. Because of the distances involved, nothing could be done about it. Those living far from population centers did what had to be done even if it wasn’t pleasant.

Alternative transportation

Some districts were huge geographically yet small in the number of students enrolled. But even in very small high schools, a strong feeling of community expressed itself through sports competition. In the 1950s, that meant football and boys’ basketball (in some areas girls played basketball too, with unique rules). Every able-bodied boy was needed to field a football team.



There was a time in our isolated part of Idaho that, instead of the standard 11-man team, six-man football was played (some schools in western Nebraska and parts of Texas regularly played six-man), but most of the time our school of 50 to 60 students grades nine through 12 played eight-man. Even then it was difficult for the Camas County Mushers (team mascot named for a dog sled driver) to field a team. In the early 1990s my son quarterbacked a team in an eight-man state championship playoff game. We had 13 kids on our team; the opponent had 40.

Those who participated in after-school practice, and that was almost everybody, had to have transportation other than the regular school bus. Because of the situation explained above, western states like Idaho allowed young people to obtain daylight driver’s licenses at age 14. That meant that when a kid became a high school freshman, if he lived on a farm or ranch far from the school, he might spend much time from then on during the school year behind the wheel of a vehicle, often a pickup or truck.

miracle
12/3/2013 12:56:31 PM

Hi Clell, the body on the jalopy is a 1926 or 7 Model T Ford. I need windshield posts and frames for mine. The car frame is probably 33 or 4 Ford and if brakes were stock, would have been mechanical thru 1938. Originally the body would have had top bows to support a convertible top and sometimes sidecurtains. Gil at the Miracle of America Museum, Polson, Montana




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