After 50 years, couple gives up their school bus

If there’s anyone who deserves a happy retirement, it’s Bob and Kathy Ersland of Kenyon, Minn.

For more than 50 years — 50 years, people! — they’ve been picking up the kids of Kenyon, dropping them off at school, and picking them and bringing them home again.

You know who the daily heroes are in this country who never get recognition? School bus drivers.

The Kenyon Leader newspaper gives them an appropriate nod this week.

Bob talked about the early days of driving when buses were not equipped with radios and drivers were on their own in the country in bad weather. A few times Bob did use the snow shovel to get out snow banks. Those were the days when there were no early outs or snow days so a driver had to be prepared for anything. One day after dropping the last students at the end of his route Bob knew there was problem with the brakes on his bus.

“I came in without brakes. By downshifting and using the hand brake I was able to drive in safely,” he said.

When Howard Held bought the buses in 1968, he went out to talk to Erslands about driving.
“I went out to the farm and we couldn’t talk outside or even in the car. They invited me into the house and we all sat at the table to converse. They made me feel like family,” Howard Held said.

If the Helds needed a driver to fill-in for an extracurricular trip, Bob could be called and would be ready to go in just a few minutes. One day he had taken the wrestling team to Le Center for a tournament. Late in the afternoon Bob went out to check the weather and found it was beginning to snow. He talked to the coaches, telling them the weather was getting worse. As soon as the tournament was completed they got the team on the bus and headed for Kenyon with the coaches watching out the windows to help Bob navigate his way home. The trip took longer than expected but Bob brought them home safely.

The couple says the first day of school this year might be a little tough.