Going to School

The End of the One-Room Schoolhouse

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. 

36-passenger Dodge school bus, 1936 (body), 1939 (chassis)

36-passenger Dodge school bus, 1936 (body), 1939 (chassis)

This school bus served a small consolidated school in Martinsburg, in rural south-central Indiana. Safety was key to school bus design. This bus had an all-steel chassis and bright orange paint. The eye-catching color, called double-deep orange, was chosen for safety reasons. Yellow became the standard in 1939 and was gradually adopted nationwide.

The next object is in the case at the front of the bus near the tree.

Lunch box

Lunch box

When students attended schools that were far enough away to require a bus ride, lunch at home was no longer possible. Children might have used lunch boxes such as this one, or simple tin pails from home, filled with homemade biscuits or egg sandwiches and sometimes cookies.


The next stop is Portland, Oregon. Turn around and look at the car showroom and roadway.