Turvin honored at ‘Love the Bus’ event

Published 11:08 pm Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentine’s Day 2011 was very special for Letha Turvin, a school bus driver for the Pike County School for 43 years.

Turvin was one of several bus drivers statewide who were honored at a “Love the Bus” event in Pelham on Monday. The event was sponsored by Transportation South.

Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of Pike County Schools, said Turvin was very deserving of the recognition and congratulated her on her many years of service.

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“Mrs. Turvin has been a wonderful employee over the years and has done a great job with the kids,” Bazzell said. “With 43 years of experience, she is an icon among bus drivers. She’s still plugging along and doing a great job.”

Turvin said she was honored to be recognized for her years of service to the Pike County School System and the thousands of children she has “hauled” to school and back home again.

“I enjoy what I do and it’s very rewarding to have a part in the lives of so many children,” she said. “It makes me feel good when I’m out somewhere and one of them comes up and speaks to me. This award is very special to me and I thank Mike Johnson for nominating me.”

Turvin, of the Tarentum community, left a good job at the Brundidge shirt factory to drive the bus for the county schools in 1967.

“I had two small children at the time and it was hard to get a baby sitter and, too, by the time I paid the baby sitter, I didn’t have much left out of my check,” Turvin said. “Cleone Seay retired from driving the bus and I thought it would be a good job for me so I took her route.”

At the time, Turvin said all she had to do to get the job was show that she could keep a bus between the ditches.

“I liked driving the bus from the start,” she said. “I have the kind of patience that it takes to do a job like that and still enjoy the kids. I was making $149 a month and that was a pretty good salary because I didn’t have to pay a baby sitter.”

In the early years, Turvin’s route was primarily the Tarentum area so she was transporting the children of parents she knew.

“Discipline wasn’t a problem but, when you did have to discipline a child, you could do it. I never spanked one but sometimes I wanted to,” she said, laughing. “I drove my children, Melinda and Greg, to and from school and, when Melinda was in the band at Pike County High School, I drove to all the football games and I drove for field trips. That way I got to be involved in things my children were doing. On the bus, my children called me mama and all of the other children did, too. That was nice.

“I never thought that I would be a school bus driver for 43 years but it happened and it worked out good for me.”

Turvin said driving a school bus today is very different from the way it was in the earlier years.

“When I first started driving, if a child was standing by the road, you could stop and pick him up,” she said. “Now, the transportation supervisor has to fill out a request form and it has to be approved before you can pick up a child. Back then, there was zero paper work and now there’s so much involved and, too, there are rules and regulations from the state level.”

Turvin said that children are still children and most of them are “good kids.”

“Every once in a while, there’s a discipline problem and we have to write a referral and take it to the school principal,” Turvin said. “Now, we have radios and cameras in the buses and that’s protection for the drivers and the kids if there is a situation.

“Being a school bus driver is different from the way it used to be but I still enjoy it. You never know what your day will be like. The Good Lord has been good to me and helped me handle any situation that came up. And, good too, that not one child has been hurt on the bus while in my care.”

With 43 years in her bus log, Turvin could be thinking about retirement but she’s not.

“Driving a school bus is what I enjoy doing and I’ll keep doing it as long as my health holds out and I feel that I’m capable of doing the job safely,” Turvin said. “I’m still enjoying my job so I’ll stay with it a while longer.”