Like many of her fellow Churchill County school bus drivers, Marsha Metz has crisscrossed the state numerous times taking Fallon students to one event after another.
Some trips stand out, others have been routine. Last year’s trip to Las Vegas was one of the scrap book.
Yet, after 40 years of driving for the Churchill County School District, she will remember the Greenwave in Las Vegas after both the girls and boys basketball teams each won a state 3A title on March 2.
“We were coming back from Vegas last year with the varsity boys and girls,” Metz said Thursday after Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford and the city council recognized seven drivers for their contributions to the community. “We were so excited coming back into town.”
Metz will never forget that night as the buses approached the lights of Fallon with fans and first responders lined up along U.S. Highway 95 from Drumm Lane into the city. With police cars with their flashing lights serving as an escort, the teams headed into Fallon and then to Pizza Barn for a party.
“It was awesome,” Metz said of the entire experience.
And just a few days prior to the Fallon arrival, the community’s first responders escorted the teams out of town for their journey to Las Vegas and ultimate championships. During her career behind the wheel, Metz has driven thousands of students on her routes and across the state.
Metz’s colleagues also received accolades from Tedford as he introduced each driver and presented them with an award. The dean of the Churchill County drivers, Tina Grenameyer Nickles, began driving in 1969, followed by Evelyn Lammel with 47 years. Also honored were Donna Lima, 42 years; Toni Dalluge, 38 years; Stena Dowling, 34 years; and Ellen Clyburn, 33 years.
All-State Insurance has nothing on these drivers, who have combined for 287 years putting the community’s children into their safe hands.
Tedford expressed his appreciation and joked what an adventure he always had transporting his children.
“The council and I are honoring the bus drivers who have served for many decades driving our kids around,” Tedford said.
Kenny Mitchell, the school district’s transportation director, said he was pleased to see the mayor and the city council recognize the drivers in a ceremony held in the council chambers. He said the acknowledgement of the drivers is deserving.
“Amazing,” Mitchell said. “The kids see the drivers first thing in the morning and as the last people from the school district in the afternoon,” he said. “The impact drivers have on the kids is huge. Most drivers know the kids just as good, if not better, than the teachers.”
Mitchell said driving a school bus is a thankless job because of the split hours, weather and low pay.
“The amount of work these people put in goes unnoticed,” he said.
Grenameyer Nickles echoed the sentiments of her fellow drivers.
“There are times when I get frustrated, but I enjoy driving,” she said, adding bus drivers have adapted to changes in the way they can discipline, for example, the students.
Over the years, Grenameyer Nickles said she’s also had memorable trips, which she said are too many to single out, but she remembers competing in the annual School Bus Rodeo for 21 years against drivers from other school districts.
Stena Dowling added she loves the children and everything about driving them safely from home to school and back.
Metz, though, wasn’t at a loss for remembering her trips as she revealed a mischievous, yet playful side to her personality. Years ago when she was driving a team back from Las Vegas, she stopped in Beatty to allow everyone to stretch their legs. She remained behind the wheel while the players and coaches disembarked.
“A man walked up and said, ‘I think this gentleman left his wallet in the bathroom,’” she recalled.
Metz thanked the man, and when she looked at the identification, she saw the wallet belonged to a coach.
“We take off and we’re 50 miles down the road, and I could see (in the mirror) he was panicked,” Metz said of the coach, who discovered his wallet was gone. “He was ripping through everything he could find.”
The coach walked up the aisle to Metz, concerned about his wallet. She kept a straight face trying to show empathy.
“I think I left my wallet. We have to go back and get it. I left my money in it,” the coach said.
Metz remained coy, but she didn’t stop the bus for about 20 miles, supposedly looking for a wide spot along the highway to flip the bus in the opposite direction. She said the coach continued to stew.
Finally, Metz relented.
“I finally told the coach I had the wallet,” she laughed.