D ale Dawes will say his final farewell as the kids walk off his school bus on June 28.
The time has come for Dawes to hang up his keys after 35 years of driving school bus for the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District.
Over the past three decades, Dawes has driven two generation of students, from kindergarten to Grade 12, safely to and from their schools throughout the district. For the past 13 years, he has driven the Yellow Point route, which includes Woodbank Elementary, North Cedar Elementary, North Oyster Elementary and Cedar Community Secondary School.
When he started at the age of 21, Dawes was merely looking for a day job to get him away from the swing shifts he loathed at Harmac. In a day and age when it was easy to change jobs at the drop of a hat, Dawes thought he would throw his in the direction of a good old Monday to Friday gig with the school district.
He didn't have any experience driving buses, only trucks. But it didn't take long for Dawes to learn the ropes and begin what would become a very rewarding career for the now 55-year-old.
For Dawes, work isn't so much about what you do, rather it's about how you do it. Treat people, including children, with respect and kindness and they will return the favour. Dawes makes it a priority to get to know all the names, first and last, of the more than 120 kids who sit on his bus throughout the week. He greets them before and after school with a smile, even if it's not returned. If someone has had a bad day he makes an effort to cheer them up.
Over the years, students have played practical jokes on Dawes including hiding on the bus only to leap up and scare him when does his seat checks. One student used a super soaker to wash him down after a year of ribbing from the driver.
"I deserved it," said Dawes with a hearty laugh.
Safety is always first though. But once again, it's the delivery of his authority, which wins him the hearts of his riders.
"If you say sit down because I care about you and I don't want you to get hurt instead of sit down and shut up, they can't argue with that," said Dawes.
Dawes favourite part of the job is to watch the kids grow throughout the 13 years they ride his bus. He has now driven two generation for some families and "it's great to see the parents I used to drive have children just like they used to be," said Dawes with a Cheshire grin.
When Dawes hurt himself in a cycling accident three years ago and was off work he learned just how much his "kids" adored him. A Facebook page was created by a few students and more than 300 members signed up to wish him a quick recovery. "My wife actually came across it and I just thought that was so nice. It was great to know they cared."
When Dawes started he was known as "Kid," but after another driver called him old man last year, he knew it was time to turn off the engine.
"The best part is I was that driver's bus driver when he was in kindergarten," said Dawes.
Dawes only regret is that he had hoped to see three generations of a family ride his bus.
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