After 30 years, local bus driver shifts gears

Linda Parney recently retired from driving a school bus with many good memories and stories to tell, which she shared with the Independent News. Ridgetown Independent News photo

By Bird Bouchard, The Ridgetown Independent News Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


To be a positive part of a child’s life is a privilege.

One local woman has touched hundreds of young lives for more than three decades as a school bus driver.

Now, more than 30 years later, she is shifting down a gear on a positive note. She is now steering herself into retirement.

Linda Parney has driven countless kilometres servicing her community, a busload of children at a time.

With every pick-up and drop-off came a warm, friendly smile and a woman who loved her job.

Parney was an early riser. When she first began driving for Johnson’s, she juggled a job at Valu-mart.

“From 10 to 2 was my shift at Valu-mart so I could drive in the morning, do my 10 till 2 and then go back and do the afternoon bus route,” she said.

Despite working two jobs and the bus driving job paying well, Parney said it was never about the money.

“The money was nice, but I often looked forward to picking up the kids and hearing what they were going to tell me about what happened at their mom and dad’s place,” she said with a smile.

The now-retired bus driver said she is thankful for the opportunity to see much of Chatham-Kent. While most drivers stick to one route, Parney noted her 30 years of service allowed her to drive a variety of different routes and connect with hundreds of children.

No matter the route, pick up, drop off location or day of the week, Parney said every day was special and unforeseeable.

“You never knew what the kids were going to get on and tell you,” she said with a big, happy smile.

Parney said the stories would typically involve the children’s parents or something that shouldn’t be told to the bus driver. Either way, the kids were ready to tell all.

Parney reminisced of her time driving generations of children to and from school, realizing she had kept many secrets throughout the years.

“The little ones were the greatest. They would tell stories, but I never told the parents,” she said. “There would have been some kids that probably would have gotten grounded,” she said, chuckling.

In fact, Parney enjoyed the company of the children so much she often found herself driving the children to their field trip destinations as well.

Whether it be a trip to London, Rondeau Park, or the Detroit Zoo, Parney said she always enjoyed the ride as it was something new and exciting.

While she had many partners and little ones to talk to throughout her lengthy bus driving career, Parney admitted her career could not go noticed without acknowledging her friend Donna Zehr. She was the one who initially taught her how to drive a bus.

Whenever there was an issue, Donna was there.

Whenever she had a question, Donna was there.

Whenever there was feedback, Donna was there.

Donna was always there for her.

“Donna was the go-to girl,” said Parney.

As she thinks back on her three-decade bus driving career, the bus driver said she was lucky to have such well-behaved children.

According to Parney, the children rarely gave her a hard time. In fact, she often sees the same children who struggled to carry a backpack back in the day are now grown up with families of their own.

“I walked over to one of them (children she used to drive), and I had to look up to him. It’s like he still has respect for me. It just impresses me that he’s as nice as he was then to me. He was a good kid on the bus and he kind of kept everybody in order for me,” she said.

While Donna dealt with a lot of behind the scene duties, Parney admits the children and parents were very generous to her throughout the years.

She said she received many gifts and cherished them all. However, one gift stands out and brings a smile to her face all these years later.

“I got a little bus. And it’s out at my trailer at the lake now. It’s just a little square bus, and it’s yellow. And it kind of looks like it’s been in an accident,” she said.

But for Parney, gifts came in many forms. Each one came with a smile in return.

She noted many kids would give her a gift from the garden, an artwork or craft, or they would just simply say “thank you” and “goodbye, see you tomorrow.”

“That meant more to me than anything because I know it was from the heart,” she said.

As she looks back on her days driving the school bus, Parney said she had seen major changes in school bus safety. She highlighted there now being more lights, more safety classes, and various other safety changes as positive changes. However, she admitted there’s one change in particular, or rather an addition, she still questions whether or not it should have been added all these years later.


“It felt funny. Here I am, the driver, I’m putting my seatbelt on, and all the kids are just sitting in their seats. I could never understand that,” she said.

After a few thousand trips packed full with children, Parney said she is thankful to have kept the kids safe.

She admitted the roads could be dangerous at times, and a driver must be fully attentive, especially during wintertime.

“I was always afraid of the ice. I thought if I ever put the brakes on and started sliding, we would be in big trouble. Snow wasn’t too bad, but I was always afraid of ice,” she admitted.

She offered a piece of advice for parents to pass along to the kids riding the bus to help keep everyone safe.

“Sit down and listen to the bus driver and be respectful to the bus driver because they got their hands full. You can’t have all that going on behind you, and then the roads are bad,” she said.

Parney noted the backroads could be slippery, vision can be foggy, and mud can hinder the vision through the windshield at times, making it difficult to drive at times.

“It’s days whether it’s slippery and snowy and you’re on edge. You just don’t want one kid to say anything.”

As Parney parks the bus and moves on to the next chapter of her life, she is hopeful the next generation of school bus drivers will have as many happy memories as she had.

She gave her advice for the next generation of school bus drivers. She said they needed to master one particular quality.


“I guess patience would be the best thing. You’ve got to have a lot of patience,” she said. “Enjoy the ride.