I grew up around buses and learned to walk on them at an early age. You see, not only did my father William make his living as a singer who rode and drove buses, my mother Frogene used to drive a bus...a school bus. Even before I started school I was too young for her to leave at home so I rode the bus with her every morning while she took the big kids to school. I recently ran into a man who remembered how jealous him and his buddies were when my mom would stop at a little convenience store each morning to buy me chocolate milk and either donuts or a honey bun. I sat on the seat right behind her and had my 'breakfast' in front of the other kids. When I started first grade, my parents wanted my brothers and I to go to a fairly new private Christian school which was about 15 miles from our town. As my mother got to know the other parents she found out there were quite a few also from Hendersonville when she got a brilliant idea. Since she had to make the trek anyway, she asked the other parents if they would like to 'carpool', and decided she would buy a school bus and charge the other parents a small fee to take their kids to school. The other parents agreed. Before long the school was using it for class field trips, the ball teams for away games, ect. She helped to put my brothers and I through private school with that old bus.
I remember hearing that gospel bus coming down the road to pick my daddy up and drive him away, and also when it would bring him back home. Back before the Oak Ridge Boys 'made it', none of them had second cars to leave at the office, so the bus made the rounds to pick them up at home. I always wanted to go, and sometimes if it was a really short trip I would get to tag along. Once they even picked me up at school in the bus and I felt like such a big wig. It's hard to believe I once was small enough to sleep in the luggage rack. Back then they would customize the buses themselves, and they would leave a few of the seats that came with the bus in it, some turned backwards and sideways...and I remember playing on the bus seats stacked up in our garage... the ones they took out for making space for bunks, ect. There was no bathroom on the gospel bus, only a funnel attached to a piece of water hose which spilled on the highway. Maybe that is why no ladies were ever on board. During their lean years, they rented their bus out to Olivia Newton John. They had a toilet put in the bus just for her and from henceforth it would be called the Olivia Newton JOHN.
Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. I used to wanna go so bad when I was young, and eventually started playing with a gospel group when I was 15. They were big time enough to have a bus. I have been riding them ever since. When I was with The Goldens, we spent a ton of money on buses and drivers and eventually found a bus which the owner would let us drive ourselves. The laws were much looser back then concerning CDLs, log books, ect. Custom buses were considered 'private coach' like a RV. That is when and where I learned to drive one, and I usually took the night shift. After the show I couldn't wind down so I would drive until the sun came up before I would pull over and let someone else take the wheel. That hour before the sun peaks is my favorite time. Watching the colors light up.
I go spoiled to great bus driving early on and found out a bus is only as good and smooth as the driver. I was always picky on bus drivers. My mom was a good one. My dad was a good one. I always felt safe with them. My dad taught me to drive, and I feel like I am a good one. The Oaks first driver, Curly Jones was as smooth a driver as ever got behind the wheel. I remember once I asked him why he was going so slow. He said it was because the band and boys were sleeping, but that it also gave the folks who saw the bus extra time to read the name written on the side. I never forgot that. Curly went on to own and run the biggest bus company Nashville had at one point... Stagecoach.
Some of the best sleep I have ever gotten was on a bus. On the other hand, some of the worst nights rest I have ever gotten were on a bus. Some of you know the rest of my bus story. I will get around to writing it down one day.