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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Transportation in America before 1876 Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 Americans Adopt the Auto Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s People on the Move Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s On the Interstate: I-10, 1956-1990 Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction Consolidating Schools Riding the bus
13: On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939

Riding the bus

Farmer and part-time bus driver Russell Bishop started the day by milking the cows and warming up his school bus. After her breakfast, his daughter Mary Lou joined him on the bus. On cold mornings a neighbor brought Mary Lou a heated brick wrapped in newspaper, to warm her hands. The bus took an hour to reach the Martinsburg School, unless the harsh Indiana winter slowed the ride. Twelve classmates rode the 10 miles with Mary Lou and her dad.

Lunch pails in a rural school, Wisconsin, 1939
Lunch pails in a rural school, Wisconsin, 1939
Waiting for the bus, Nebraska, 1938
Waiting for the bus, Nebraska, 1938


Most kids had few belongings to entertain themselves with on the bus and at recess. Marbles and jump ropes were popular at the time and they could be played in groups or alone. Both were inexpensive, but highly prized by the children who owned them.

Bluish clear marble
jump rope
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.
Lunch box
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