© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Meath Park area bus driver Albert Paradis is seen with the watch he was given in recognition of his 45 years of service to the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division. Although many others received service awards during the division’s annual Long Service and Retirement Recognition ceremony on Monday, Paradis served the longest.
In his 45 years of driving a school bus in the Meath Park/Albertville area, Albert Paradis always got the kids to school -- sometimes under dicey circumstances.
Around the time he first started, Paradis said that things weren’t as regulated as they are now.
“In those days you were all alone -- there were no radios, and if you got stuck you had to shovel your way out,” he said.
“I’d hit snowbanks as high as the hood about six feet deep, but I had a good bus that would hit them straight. If it hit them at 50 miles per hour you might get out of them at 10.”
A shovel and axe were his most valued tools during those days, during which he’d have to dig and hack his way through the ice in order to get the bus moving at times.
“It was an adventure, but we looked out for one another. If we were more than 20 minutes late I’d go and look for the last guy,” he said.
“We always brought the kids to school and nobody ever froze.”
On Monday, after clocking in more than 1.5 million miles for the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division, Paradis was recognized during the division’s annual Long Service and Retirement Recognition with a gold watch for his 45 years of service -- the longest-term award of the evening.
Although he said that the award meant a lot to him, the kids he drives to school have already thanked him.
“The kids have been very good to me,” he said after Monday’s award ceremony. “They even asked me to propose a toast at a Grade 12 graduation three years ago, and that really touched me.
“Two of my Grade 12s who have been on the bus for 13 years gave me a hug today.”
Looking back at his bus-driving career, Paradis said that he would have never believed 45 years ago that he’d still be at it today.
He was initially drawn to driving a bus out of necessity, he explained.
The Meath Park/Albertville area was short of drivers and it reached a point where parents would have to start driving their own kids to school if they didn’t find more drivers.
In those days you were all alone -- there were no radios, and if you got stuck you had to shovel your way out. Albert Paradis
“I might as well get paid to drive them rather than buy my own gas to drive my kids,” he reasoned.
A farmer by profession, Paradis said that a combination of great bus supervisors and kids have kept him behind the wheel ever since.
“I’ve always enjoyed kids,” he said, noting that for one particular family he’s driven three generations -- the grandmother, the mother and now the kids.
Paradis said that he plans on driving the bus for as long as he can.
“If I can beat what I’ve got on my lung right now -- I’m going for chemo -- my licence is good until the 22nd of June next year,” he said. “I hope to be able to do that.”
In addition to handing out various long-service awards, from 10 years to Paradis’ 45 years, Monday’s ceremony recognized 39 recent or upcoming retirements.
The annual event is a great opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of the division’s many staff members, director of education Robert Bratvold said prior to the event.
“We’ve got a tremendous group of staff -- great loyalty and dedication to providing kids with the best of education in whatever their role is, whether it’s an E.A., a bus driver, a teacher or a payroll person or whoever it is -- making sure that we provide a system that provides excellence for our kids,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to set aside and say we have some great staff who have done great things with us, so let’s honour them in their retirement.”