On the School Bus
The End of the One-Room Schoolhouse
In rural areas, the introduction of school buses changed the character of the communities they served and the lives of the children who rode to school. Students who had once walked to a local, often one-room, schoolhouse now rode a bus to a larger consolidated school where they were taught in separate grades. Progressive educators viewed buses as a step toward modernizing rural education. By 1932, there were 63,000 school buses on the road.
In Martinsburg, Indiana, school administrators—like their colleagues in other rural communities—saw school buses as a way to give children access to better education, and to save money. Some parents objected; they liked the local schools and feared that consolidated schools would increase taxes. But in 1939, three small one-room schools closed, and their 75 students began to take buses to the Martinsburg School.
In rural areas in the 1930s, school buses meant the end of the one-room school. Progressive educators favored larger schools, arguing they would provide students a better, more standardized education. Some rural citizens feared consolidation would bring higher taxes and a loss of involvement in their children’s education. One midwestern farmer said his local school was “the center—educational, social, dramatic, political, and religious—of a pioneer community.” But declining rural populations and better roads spelled the end of one-room schools. In 1920 Indiana had 4,500 one-teacher schools; in 1945, just 616.
Riding the Bus
Lunch pails in a rural school, Wisconsin, 1939Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Waiting for the bus, Nebraska, 1938Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Most kids had few belongings to entertain themselves with on the bus and at recess. Marbles and jump ropes were popular at the time and they could be played in groups or alone. Both were inexpensive, but highly prized by the children who owned them.