Looking Back


Conveyance -> School Wagon -> School Bus

Long forgotten historical gems are to be found among the papers, documents and photos carefully archived at the Onoway Museum!

A recent donation might make you look twice when you next see the big yellow school bus drive by. Larry Lafleur brought in a scrapbook compiled after students who rode the Hillcrest bus between 1945 and 1964 gathered in 1987 to honor their bus driver, Alex Lafleur. With the scrapbook came several contracts between Alex and Lac Ste. Anne School Division. What enlightenment!

Alex Lafleur, 23 years old, signed a contract in December 1945 to convey the students of Hillcrest Creek School to Beaupre School in Onoway. One-room schools were disappearing and larger schools that offered grades 1 to 12 in larger centres were becoming the norm. This was the first bus route in the municipality and took much work on the part of Onoway trustee George Tomlinson to convince the Council and parents that school buses were the way of the future.

The "conveyance" had to be able to operate continuously and provide protection from snow and rain. Alex had a 1941 Studebaker truck so he pulled a tarp over the stock racks, nailed down some planks to make benches and fixed a small door at the back. Not exactly warm, but it sure beat walking! Once the kids were dropped off at school, Alex removed the tarp and hauled cattle, hogs, and barrels of fuel until it was the end of the school day. (He then had to wash down the box.) For providing this service, Alex was paid a flat fee of $1,000 for the school term.

School Wagon

School Wagon

A plywood box on Alex Lafleur's truck was a step up from the tarp-covering during first year on the Hillcrest Creek bus route.

The fee increased ($1,500 as of September 1946 to drive the school wagon) and by September 1948, a schedule was created whereby the amount paid was determined by the mileage travelled, number of pupils and whether the road was all gravel, part gravel or all dirt.

The vehicle Alex drove improved over time – the stock racks and tarp were replaced with a plywood box. He bought his first factory-built yellow school bus in 1948. He continued operating school buses for 24 years.

School Van
Hay Girls
Snow Drift

School Van

Now it's officially a School Van. The driver still couldn't see what was happening in the box. One of the responsibilities according to the contract was to maintain order and discipline and refrain from discussing any topic that may have a tendency to make trouble in school.

Hay Girls going to School

Leafa, Lorna and Jacqui Hay appreciated the warm ride to school. "At each stop Alex would jump out, unlock the back door, put down a stand for us to step up on, help us in and then reverse the whole procedure. ... He never had to scold any of us. I guess we were so thankful for the ride and anyway he couldn't hear us and could hardly see us. He only had a small peek hole at the back window."


Would you like to walk to school in these conditions?

So ... if you had a choice between walking one/two/three miles to school and back every day, how could you refuse a trip in a motor vehicle? Taxes might be a bit higher but the total saving for education couldn't be denied. The successful accident-free operation of school buses speeded up the closing of small schools and gave all rural children the opportunity to finish high school.

Onoway Museum archives – oh, the stories to be found there!

Buses at

Buses at Beaupre

This is progress! Seven buses served Beaupré School in 1951.
Drivers were Earl Mills, John Tyschuk, Roy Yeoman, Bill Kruger, Frank Roberts, Alex Lafleur, and Clay Truckey.

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Last updated: July 27, 2020