Driving Ms. Margaret

'I'll miss all the babies who get on the bus, give me hugs . . .'

Toya GrahamMarch 24, 2009 

Margaret Lundy (left) instructs Dorothy Tobias on how to inspect the school bus for any safety issues prior to picking up the students on her route.

TOYA GRAHAM/FORT MILL TIMES

FORT MILL -- Margaret Lundy walks out to a bright, yellow school bus atop the Yellow Jackets' bus lot.
It's her home away from home.
Or it used to be.
"This is it," Lundy, 64, of Fort Mill said. "Free at last."
Lundy, a fixture at Fort Mill High School's bus lot, worked her final day last Wednesday -- a bittersweet day for the bus driver of 25-plus years.
"I hate to leave," Lundy, also a bus driver trainer, said. "I'll miss all the babies who get on the bus, give me hugs and tell me they love me."
And she has love for potential bus drivers, too.
"I take them under my wings," Lundy said. "I love taking a driver out who is scared to death to drive and two weeks later, they're [driving] on their own."
Lundy and a new pupil, Dorothy Tobias, checked doors, tires and lights before boarding the bus for a brief trip that circled the high school.
"She takes time with me," said Tobias, formerly a truck driver. "She wants me to really get the driving procedures. I think I'm moving right along."
With that, class began.
"Doing the procedures properly means the difference between a child being safe or getting hurt," the driving sage said. "It's very important."
Just before leaving the bus lot, Tobias, of Chester, found fault with a mirror.
"That mirror is tilted," Tobias said. "Ms. Margaret told me to look for that."
Sharon Davis, a bus driver, hopped off the bus to fix the mirror. Satisfied, Tobias eased Bus 10 from its parking spot. Lundy, situated on a seat near Tobias, looked on with pride.
"I drove buses in the 60s when I was in high school," she said. "Back then they had teenage drivers."
During a brief sabbatical, Lundy got married, started a family and worked with Springs Cotton Mill, she said. In the 1970s, she resumed bus driving duties for "spending money."
"I decided to go full time because I had kids in school and they played sports, said Lundy, who eventually left Springs. "I wanted to drive them to their events."
And drive she did. For 29 years.
From her perch behind the wheel, Lundy met Davis. Then Davis stood along the sidelines and cheered on the school's basketball team.
"We knew if Ms. Lundy drove that we didn't have to worry about getting lost," Davis said. "She's a walking map."
Brief laughter erupted on the bus. Then Lundy, with a teacher's gentle coaching voice, meted out instruction.
"Go out in the middle of the road, and square your turn," Lundy told Tobias as she steered the bus. "Her tires should not hit the yellow line."
A moment passed: Lundy watched Tobias' perfected skills in play.
"They did not," Lundy said of the tires not hitting the yellow line as Tobias turned from Harris Street to Hwy. 21. "That's a good turn."
Not getting it right yields consequences come test time, Lundy said.
"If the tires go up on the curb, it's an automatic failure for the commercial driver's license," Lundy said. "But if the tire scrapes the curb or hits the yellow line, it's points off."
The bus driver turned trainer reaped praise for Tobias.
"Dorothy's picked up real quick," Lundy said.
Last Wednesday marked the last day that Davis would see her mentor in action. For a decade Lundy pursued Davis.
"I was at a bus stop," said Davis, who graduated in 1990 from Fort Mill High. "She told me I had what it takes to be a good bus driver."
In August 2007, Davis came on board, she said.
"I was terrified of driving a big vehicle," Davis said. "I didn't think I could drive anything bigger than a small Toyota."
But training for her bus license erased that fear.
"She's inspired me to follow in her footsteps," Davis, who has driven a bus for nearly two years and was last year's bus driver of the year for the Fort Mill school district, said of Lundy.
Still, Davis and fellow bus drivers are stunned by Lundy's retirement.
"She bleeds school bus yellow," Davis said. "I don't think she's going anywhere. It's surreal. Margaret has been Fort Mill transportation since before time."
Yet, Lundy said, it's time to move on so she can drive around three grandchildren.But don't look for them on a school bus.
"I'll drive them in the car," she quipped.
Then she spied the buses on the lot.
"I'm going to miss it," she said. "I love it so much."

RETIRING AFTER 25 YEARS: The end of an era

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