The Yellow School Bus

Yesterday was a big day … huge in fact … it was 6 months to the day since we arrived in Canada.  I can’t believe how quickly time has flown.  I spent the day doing something really exciting ……

No!  I did not get to meet Justine Trudeau …

It was better …

I got to ride on a big yellow school bus!!!

As a kid growing up in Australia I was obsessed with North American TV shows like Sesame Street, The Brady Bunch, and The Partridge Family.  Then later in the teenage years, Degrassi High and anything by John Hughes … think Breakfast Club, 16 Candles, Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Uncle Buck, Home Alone, all the greats!  Then moving into the 90’s it was The Simpson’s, South Park, the list goes on and on!

These shows introduced me to something we didn’t have in Australia, the yellow school bus!

A note came home from school with the 9-year old that an excursion had been planned to visit the Ontario Science Centre and they would be travelling by bus and with it a request for volunteers.   I could not get that note with my name on it back to school fast enough and so with the yellow school bus carrot waved under my nose I found myself going on my first ever school excursion with my son.

The bus was scheduled to depart at 9am, it arrived at school to pick us up at 9.45 after several phone calls chasing it up.  Was the bus driver Otto Mann the school bus driver from The Simpsons???   Otto’s catch cry is “My name is Otto, and I love to get Blotto” had he come to school via a bar?

Not smelling booze on the driver I pushed and shoved the kids out of the way and climbed on board and found a seat.


school bus inside
That kid is looking at me like … “Please, don’t come and sit next to me”


The yellow bus was everything I thought it would be and more ….

The inside of the bus was exactly as I had pictured when I was a kid back in the ’70s and here I was 40 years later and it was the same.  Time has stood still when it comes to the yellow school bus.

A quick google reveals that in Canada and the United States federal safety standards require that all school buses are painted school bus yellow and are equipped with certain safety devices like the little red stop sign that pops out from the side of the bus.

The current design appears to have been done around the 1950’s/60’s with a couple of safety inclusions in the ’70s and this is pretty much where the bus design has stayed.   It is so friggin retro that it’s cool.

Comfort was not in mind when the original designer of the yellow school bus put pen to paper because those seats are rock hard.  I made the rookie mistake of sitting on a seat above one of the back wheels on the way to the Science Centre.

One word – Potholes

Due to the weather in Canada, potholes on the roads are BAD.

When it was time to get off I thought I may have lost the use of my legs.

I did not make the same mistake on the way home advising the little girl that asked me if I was my son’s “Grandma” to sit in that seat on the trip back to school.  Don’t mess with me little girl!

Garbage bags got issued to kids that looked a little green around the gills and at one point I almost asked for one for myself as the little boy sitting in the seat in front of me proceeded to pick his nose for most of the trip.

We arrived safe and sound at the Science Centre and inside into chaos.   It was like every single kid in the Toronto District School Board had decided to visit the centre that day.  It was crazy town.   I was given 4 kids including my own to keep my eye on, no probs I thought and slipped into role-playing a teacher.   I would not be receiving an academy award for my performance.  That shit is hard!   I have so much respect for teachers.

At no stage did the 4 of them stick together, myself and 3 of them would always be looking for our fourth as one of them would always wander off.  I didn’t blame them, the place looked exciting and has so much to look at and play with, it was also huge and we only got to see less than half of it (Damn you Otto Mann for arriving late) so we will head back one weekend with the Canadian to explore properly.

The Science centre included a Rainforest and as soon as we walked in I was hit with the familiar smell and heat.  It felt like and smelt like Australia.   It was strange because as much as I loved the familiar hot, dank and mouldy smell as we walked around I also couldn’t wait to get out of the rainforest room and the heat.  Here I was 6 months to the day in a room that reminded me of home and it didn’t invoke any sense of homesickness. I actually felt reassured that I could leave the hot room and get back outside and into a (rather chilly) Canadian Spring day.  Sure friends and family back in Australia are missed but for myself and the 9-year-old homesickness has not been a problem.  The Canadian is another story!



rainforest 1

Time to leave the Science Centre and head back to school and this time Otto Mann was waiting for us.  A fun day (if not exhausting)  was had by all and we left with only a few minor incidents. An almost broken nose, a burn from a hot glue gun and a missing tooth.  7, 8 and 9-year-olds can be brutal.

yellow school bus

Safely back at home and mid-week wine was cracked!

Anyone else share a love of the Yellow School Bus?



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  • jan

    When I was a kid we used to take a yellow school bus up to the mountains to go skiing. The buses were usually driven by college kids and so it’s somewhat of a miracle we survived!

  • Emma and Stewart

    I am so jealous! The yellow bus brings the same excitement to us too. Sadly the closest we’ve come to riding in one is a tour company who used one but they’d painted it white so it was just not the same.

  • Meghan

    I love this. I remember so well the thrill of sitting in the ‘hump’ seat over the wheel when it went over big bumps! I also remember how cool I felt when I finally became old enough to ride in the back row seats. I always did have a terror though of the metal window panes, as they would freeze up in the winter and I was somehow scared that I would accidentally freeze my tongue on one of them and be stuck there!

  • joannesisco

    Damn you WordPress!! It still won’t let me *like* anything. At least I can comment (for now) …

    My only memories of the yellow school bus are from high school when we would play basketball and volleyball against other schools. Since there was only one high school in our town, it meant going out of town for up to 3 hours for a match against another school.

    You got the part about them being brutally uncomfortable right!! Not to mention really slippery. I remember sliding along those vinyl seats as we would turn corners. Do they at least have seat belts yet?

    … and do you have any idea what those vinyl seats feel like at -30C?!!

    • Maple Bacon Please!

      No belts which I thought was a little bit odd. In Australia, in recent years, they have seat belts in the coaches that take kids on school excursions.

      When we took the turn onto the Don Valley Parkway everyone was slipping and sliding, it felt like the bus was going to tip over. Kids loved it! Me, not so much. On the front of the bus was a first aid kit and next to it a box marked Body Fluid Cleanup kit. I suspect the Body Fluid Kit gets opened more than the first aid kit.

  • Miss Chardy

    Hello there…… so excited to have found you!!! I think you are going to be right up my alley – love your sense of humour, honesty and keeping it real. I have just subscribed via email thank you very much!!!

  • RuthsArc

    Oh Danielle. What a fun, laugh out loud, post. Thanks for taking us on this outing with you and the kids. Also thanks for putting Partridge Family songs into my head 🙂

    • Maple Bacon Please!

      In Australia kids just use the regular transit buses and for a school excursion or an outing a bus will be hired and they tend to be like a “greyhound” style bus.

      When I was a kid in high school in Sydney, I got a bus and a ferry to school or sometimes a train. I was given a pass for free each year that I could use on any public transport ie bus, ferry or train. I’m not sure if it’s still free these days or if parents pay for a yearly pass.

  • pw19

    I also love seeing the yellow school buses around Vancouver. We’ve been on one, when the bus we normally caught to Whistler had some problems, and they rented a substitute. The excitement that day was the snow we would be skiing, and not the bus. This was uncomfortable, compared to the normal coach.

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