Thunder Down Under
The first couple of weeks of bus driving, I found it hard to finish early enough in the afternoons, to clean up and then get to the high school in time. I always seemed to be a few minutes late. The other buses were already leaving fully loaded.
Just as I was coming up Collier Av to the school, the first one or two explosions I thought were just bad ignition timing on the buses. But after about half a dozen, it started to filter through that maybe I was being targeted. My mom always said I was a bit slow. There was one fellow that worked in the bus workshop that would tell me all about it and that was Don Harrison. Don had modified all the bus exhausts taking out the rear muffler and exiting the exhaust pipe in front of the right hand rear wheels instead of out the back of the bus. With less back pressure the buses ran a lot better. But the exhausts were near my side window when they erupted. I collared Don one day and asked him what was going on.
“Oh, they are targeting you all right.” He laughed.
“What they are doing is turning off their ignition, then count to ten. This pumps the fuel from the engine to the exhaust pipe. Turning on the ignition then explodes the fuel in the exhaust pipe, acting something like the old World War II flame throwers, with a big bang to boot.
“Ah.” I said.
Don saw the glint in my eye and said hurriedly.
“Ten seconds is the maximum. If you leave it longer you will blow the exhaust pipe to pieces.”
I had a good think about it all and decided if I left Belgrave just a little later than I did, I would catch most of the buses between Tecoma Township and the bottom of the school hill. So for the next few weeks I had a good time. I got very good at judging the distance of approaching buses and timing ten seconds to the driver’s window. This was really good fun, I enjoyed it very much.
I was waiting one afternoon at the Ferntree Gully Technical School with four other buses. I was behind the other buses by about fifty feet and had a good view of everything going on. We were parked on the side road beside the school for safety. The school children were just coming out of the side door and were milling about talking on the footpath outside the school building with two teachers. Between the first three buses and me was an old lady, Mrs. Dyer. I played football for Upper Gully for a few years and knew Mrs. Dyer. She was an old identity. She had a full two wheel shopping trolley and was heading for home. Around the corner of the road came bus 61 with Don Harrison driving. I knew Don wouldn’t turn his ignition off here with Mrs. Dyer so close. But as I looked from Mrs. Dyer to Don I realized he could not see Mrs. Dyer, she was hidden by the other buses. The explosion was a monster. Mrs. Dyer took off and in a standing jump cleared the four foot, six inch high cyclone wire fence in a single bound. Students, teachers and me had a really good view of this jump.
Now because she landed in school property, it was decided that Mrs. Dyer now holds two records at the school, and her name is high on the sports honour board. One is the standing high jump, four feet six inches. The second is the standing high jump with handicap being the loaded shopping trolley, which she still had in her hand when she landed on the school side of the fence.
Students now wait every day for Mrs. Dyer, ready to clap this fine athlete. But for reasons known only to Mrs. Dyer, she now takes a different route home.