Linden — Around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept 17, she drove bus No. 33, the purple heart, into the bus garage behind Linden High School and honked the horn for the last time.
Priscilla James of Linden is now retired from bus driving after 30 years.
After opening the doors, her grandkids ascended the steps to give her hugs and flowers before posing for photos.
“It was emotional,” James said. Her coworkers threw her an ice cream party in the transportation offices, and she enjoyed desserts with her daughters, husband and grandsons.
Her favorite thing about Linden was the kids.
“They’ve been great,” she said.
Her retirement comes only months after her sister’s.
In June on the last day of the 2018-2019 school year, Phyllis Hoffman retired from bus driving at Linden. Both started the occupation in 1989 and hadn’t stopped since. It runs in their family — their two other sisters were bus drivers as well. One of them, Nancy, drove buses at Linden for more than 30 years.
Hoffman related to the emotional feeling when she retired in June.
“That was emotional but happy,” she said. “When I first started, I said I was only going to stay here for a year and ended up staying 30. It was bittersweet. I wanted to leave and I wanted to stay. It’s still that way. But it was time for me to go home and relax and raise my grandkids.”
James’ daughter, Andrea Appleton, said, “I’m happy for her. She’s worked hard and she was a good bus driver. The students all love her. When they told her she was retiring, they all started chanting, ‘don’t go, don’t go.’”
Laura O’Lewin, First Student location manager, mentioned the difficulty of finding bus drivers.
“They don’t make them like these two. They don’t make them like that anymore,” she said.
Linden is not alone in struggling to find drivers.
“What I need people to understand is that it helps the community because if I don’t have enough bus drivers, then athletics can’t run, and neither can the band or other extracurricular activities. Our primary focus is home to school, and then I need extra people to do the extra work,” she said.