Taking the bus

Published 10:34 pm Monday, February 15, 2010

Louise Knight has been a picture of dedication for nearly 61 years.

As one of the six original school bus drivers for Nansemond County — before it became part of the City of Suffolk — she began driving for area schools in 1950, and she has been making sure kids get to school each day ever since.

“I’ve been driving buses longer than anyone else out there,” she said. “I just love it – just sitting up there like you’re eating cake. I just love it. I just love my job.”

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One of 10 children born to Eddie and Carrie White, she grew up on a farm in the Buckhorn section of Suffolk. No stranger to hard work, as a child she picked cotton, helped plant crops, harvested crops, gathered eggs, milked the cows and picked produce from the garden. Her first job outside the farm was as a school bus driver for East Suffolk High School.

“They didn’t have but six buses for the whole county,” she said. “All the county had was just six buses — and I drove one.”

Her bus was blue, number 22 and had three long benches for the children to sit. Students paid $1 every week to get to school, and her check for the month was $69. From 1950 to 1957, she never missed a day of work.

In 1990, she stopped driving for Suffolk and went to Tidewater Occupation Center, where she drove physically and mentally challenged adults for 14 years.

When the center closed its doors in 2004, she returned to Suffolk, where she has been driving for the school system ever since.

Now, she drives a smaller bus for handicapped children at Lakeland High School. Every morning she starts her engine at 5:45 a.m. to pick up her “babies,” and she returns to pick them up from school in the afternoon — not getting home until around 5 p.m.

“I love my job and meeting people,” she said. “I just love it. I’ve carried my sisters and brothers, my nieces and nephews and now their children. I’m going to stick with it until they tell me they don’t want me no more.”