Larkin hands over school

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 16, 2001

bus keys after 50 years


Staff Writer

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Many people would not drive a school bus, but Mathaniel Larkin found it hard to give up the job he had for more than 50 years.

On Aug. 28, Larkin backed in one of the Pike County Schools buses for the last time.

The first question most would have is ­ why would you drive a school bus that long?

"You come to love it," Larkin said.

Now, 77 years old, Larkin boarded an old 1937 Chevrolet with wooden plank seats when he first started driving schoolchildren.

Buses have changed over his 50-year career, but so have the students, he said.

"It took 45 years to get the kids under control," Larkin said jokingly, but admitted discipline was the most difficult part of his job.

"The past six years, I pulled over and had a talk with the kids. We made an agreement that while the bus was moving, everyone would hush until we get to the destination."

Larkin said he was about 23 years old when he was hired to drive one of the first school buses in the county.

"Back at that time, we weren’t riding, we were walking," Larkin said. "The county saw fit to get some buses and I was one of the lucky ones.

"They figured a young man would last longer," he said with a laugh, adding nobody expected him to keep driving for 50-plus years.

"At that time, I know they didn’t think I’d be doing it that long."

Larkin started driving county roads making $45 dollars a month, but that money was better than depending solely on the farm to make ends meet.

He was accustomed to caring for those younger because he helped his mother raise six children.

It was not only the paycheck that kept him driving. He knew getting school-aged children to school was very important.

The longest stint Larkin had in school was the six months and 13 days he spent in class while serving in the United States Army.

"I got caught without an education," Larkin said. "That’s what made me hold on."

He said children don’t realize the importance of school.

"You don’t know what your missing without an education," Larkin said. "You’re in the dark all the time."

But, at age 77 it was time to hand over the keys to someone younger who needed a job.

"I thought it was best to give it up while I’m ahead," Larkin said, referring to the fact he never had an accident in all his years at the helm of a school bus.

John Key, superintendent of the Pike County Schools, said Larkin has "been more than an employee" over the years.

"If everyone was like Mr. Larkin, we’d have a lot fewer troubles in the world," Key said of the man he considers an "extremely wonderful role model" for all the children he’s transported safely to and from school each day he’s been behind the wheel.

Key said Larkin’s daily presence will be missed by fellow bus drivers, students and many others in the school system.

Although he expects to miss driving, he said he will not miss having to get up early every day. And, his wife is not likely to miss getting him up, either.

Mathaniel and Lou Emma Larkin have been married almost 54 years and she is quick to point out she has "been driving 50 years, too."

Actually, before restrictions were placed on bus drivers, Lou Emma Larkin was known to fill in for her husband when necessary, so she can claim that in earnest.

Editor’s Note: A reception honoring Larkin will be held from 2-4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 7 at Pike County Elementary School.