LEON, Kan. (KSNW) – A Kansas man is stepping on the brakes after nearly 60 years as a school bus driver.
Leon is the epitome of small town Kansas. It’s a place where the water tower looms above, the street corners are marked by painted stones and the residents act like family.
“I’ve lived here since I was 8 months old,” said Larry Jones. “It was a great place to raise the kids, we had a good school system and kind of knew about everybody in town.”
Jones, 79, fell in love in Leon, raised his two boys in Leon and built a career in Leon.
“In 59 years, I never did hate to see the morning come and think I had to go to work on the bus,” Jones said.
Jones, who is often seen sporting a Powercat hat and shirt, is one of Bluestem USD 205’s long-time bus drivers after he got his first shot behind the wheel in 1958.
“He (the superintendent) called and said, ‘Larry I’ve got a lady that is going to have to have surgery and I’m going to need a substitute driver, could you come over and drive for me for probably three or four months,’ I said sure.” Jones explained.
Jones was only 18 years old when he started substitute driving. When he wasn’t driving a bus route, he would work at his father’s business hauling gas.
“I think it was $80 a month,” he said.
However, the $80 paycheck, which is about $2.60 per day, wasn’t why Jones kept coming back to the transportation department; it was his love for children.
“It’s seeing the kids come in the morning, have a good day, you know, that’s the best part,” Jones said.
To this day, Jones still has a number of thank you notes from his past riders. He even keeps one in his billfold.
“It says, ‘Dear Larry you are an awesome bus driver, you are really nice. I just want to give you a little thanks,” he said.
Jones said he misses getting notes from his riders. The soon-to-be 80-year-old had to put his bus in park one last time after suffering from several health issues.
“I would have still probably be driving if it hadn’t been for my back and that cancer deal,” he said.
Jones had to stop driving the school bus about two years ago after he injured his back. For the last two years, he has driven other transportation vehicles for the district. However, after he was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo nearly 30 rounds of chemo, his doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to drive for the district anymore. He retired in May.
“I have really enjoyed working for the school district all of these years. I enjoyed all of the kids that I haul,” Jones said.
On Monday, Jones took the school bus on the road for the first time since his back injury.
“I’d have to say all good memories,” Jones said as he maneuvered though the town of Leon.
Jones is now in remission. He said now that he is retired, he’s spending more time with his wife, kids, grand kids and great grand kids.
Jones was also a well-known referee for nearly 60 years.