Gardiner area bus driver to retire after 50 years

Retired bus driver Barbara Astbury is greeted by some of the students she drove to the retirement party on Tuesday at MSAD 11 bus depot in Gardiner. Astbury had also driven the child’s parents to West Gardiner during his 50-year career. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal Buy this photo

KEEPING – When Barbara Astbury was little she used to go to school in a horse-drawn carriage with her feet in a bucket of sand to keep warm in the winter.

Then, she took a panel truck, then moved on to her father’s car.

It wasn’t until fourth grade that she would take a school bus, not knowing at the time the impact it would have on her later in life.

Today, after 50 years of driving a school bus, Astbury, 83, has decided it is time to retire.

“It’s a different world,” she says. “I don’t know if I like the other one better, but it was a lot less complicated.

Retired bus driver Barbara Astbury is greeted by some of the second generation students at a retirement party Tuesday at MSAD 11 bus depot in Gardiner. Astbury had also driven the children’s parents to West Gardiner during his 50-year career. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal Buy this photo

Astbury was celebrated on Tuesday by the transport team at Maine School Administrative 11, where she has worked her entire career, for her accomplishment. They organized a barbecue for her and invited her colleagues, as well as former students she led to school, some of whom came from several generations.

Astbury started driving buses by accident, she said.

“I was in between my job and planned to go to a Bible college in a year,” she said. “But I loved driving and let you know, a revelation.”

Until then, she had never driven a bus. When she went to apply for the job, the transport manager then asked her which was the ‘biggest’ vehicle she had driven – Astbury said her van with the horse trailer was trailing behind.

The manager drove her into the parking lot, showed her the gears of the bus and told her that she would bring the bus back with her. Astbury made room in her driveway and took the bus home.

“I think about all the rules and regulations and everything you need to do now, plus the bus radios and all the safety features, which we didn’t have any, and we brought the kids home. and safe, ”she said. “By current standards, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Her love for driving is what has led her to stay at work for so long.

“When I used to do orientation for Kindergarten, then Kindergarten, I started asking how many parents I was driving – I always have a few hands,” Astbury said.

Bus depot administrative assistant Dottie Hinckley, left, puts a belt on retired bus driver Barbara Astbury, who is attempting to wield a tiara, on Tuesday at a retirement party at MSAD 11 bus depot in Gardiner. Astbury kept the belt on but gave up on trying to keep the tiara in place and reverted to his bus driver cap instead. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal Buy this photo

Shanna Gagnon Curtis, with her three daughters, all took the Astbury bus.

Curtis lives in the same family home she grew up in and said the Astbury route has remained the same since she was a child at Helen Thompson Elementary School.

“She’s running a tight ship,” Curtis said. “She is a very nice lady. I was passionate about reading and spent time reading. I was the first stop and the last stop so I spent a lot of time on the bus. But I’ve gotten to know her more now that I’m older.

Curtis’ daughter Lexi, 10, recalled a time when a student threw a mitten on her bench and sent it back to the student, all on the Astbury bus.

“She said, ‘Hands off the aisle,'” Lexi said, with Curtis adding, “Lexi knew Barbara well.”

Karen Guilmette graduated from high school in 2002 and had Astbury as a bus driver from the time she was in pre-k. Now his daughter Isabella Williams, a freshman at Gardiner Area High School, has Astbury as a bus driver.

Guilmette lives next to the house where she grew up as a child.

“Usually when my daughter is waiting for the bus and it’s late, she says, ‘This must be the new guy,’” Guilmette said. “Barbara is always on time.”

Astbury said that upon retirement she planned to finish a book she started writing.

She initially planned that the plot would last around 50 years as a bus driver, but then began to focus on her experience of transportation to school as a child.

“If I had had any idea that this would be a 50-year career, I would have taken better grades,” she says.

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