Posted Online: March 20, 2010, 10:27 pm

School bus driver savors life on the streets

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By Seth Kabala, seth@sethkabala.com

Photo:
Tim Mohs
He solved electrical problems aboard nuclear submarines as an enlisted man for the U.S. Navy; pastored a church in Vallejo, Calif.; sold shoes and flowers; sanded drywall; and handled nuclear safety training as a health physicist for the U.S. Army on Arsenal Island.

You might think thatSilvis resident Tim Mohs, 63, would be ready for retirement after all that.

He did try it for a couple of years. Didn't like it.

Karen, his wife of 44 years, works full time in a home-based publishing business and couldn't share his new-found free time. So, drawing on a love of driving, he hit the streets.

Starting in Silvis, he drove west, stopping every place he saw buses in parking lots to ask about openings and eventually found one at Johannes Bus Service in Rock Island.

"They said, 'Yeah, we could use somebody.'" Tim said. "'Do you have a license?' I said, 'No. What's it take to get one?' They said, 'Oh, about six, seven weeks.' And I said, 'No it doesn't,'" He drove his first route two weeks later.

A typical day includes a morning and afternoon school route and, sometimes, trips for special events.

Special event trips include hauling kids and/or adults to museums, parks and sporting events in the Quad-Cities and elsewhere. "I've even driven the semi-pro football team to a game," he said, referring to the Midland Football League's Quad-City Stallions. "You name it, we do it," he said.

He also trains new drivers. "That's not normal for all drivers," he said. "I'm a little more forward than most." It's in his nature to leave his mark on things, he said.

Before leaving on any trip, safety is job No. 1 -- checking lugnuts, flashers, reflective tape, tires, doors. During the pickup phase, "You make sure between yourself and the monitor (bus driver's helper) and the teacher that brings the kids out that you have all the kids you're supposed to have and none that you're not supposed to have," he said. "One of the paramount, paramount, paramount things is you don't leave a kid on the bus."

Overall, he said, it's a great retirement job if you can tolerate kids," he said.

Many of his fellow drivers are retirees, too. They include Tom VanDeVelde, 60, retired from Deere Harvester, East Moline; Carroll Bair, 67, retired from East Moline Metal Products; and Fred Jones, 53, retired from the Rock Island Police Department,.

They agree it's a good job.

"I enjoy the kids. I like driving big machinery. I like to interact with the coaches and the kids on sports trips…. It's a lot of fun." said Mr. VandeVelde.

Mr. Bair said, "The money's good, and it's an easy job. You get to meet a lot of people."

Mr. Jones said, "It's so much different than dealing with the people I used to deal with on the street. It's nice to see somebody smiling at me instead of frowning."

The job has its challenges, too, Mr. Mohs said: squeezing a large bus through narrow streets with cars parked on both sides and dealing with kids who are reluctant to ride the bus or to behave once they're on it.

When the whole bus gets rowdy, he puts on his disciplinarian hat, pulls to the side of the road, puts on his emergency flashers and says, "We are not going anywhere until you get quiet," he said. The people who will be upset the most are parents when he tells them why he's late, he said he tells kids. "That usually works pretty good."

A father of four and grandfather to 12, he loves to be around kids, but said he also takes pleasure from all the different things he learns from adults when driving special event trips.