End of the road for Marnoo bus

Lyle and Lois Johnson marked the end of an era last Friday when the Marnoo school bus made its final run.

The Marnoo bus had been running for 58 years, but finally succumbed to dwindling numbers. Even this year was a blessing for the bus run to continue, with only six students utilising the service.

Lois Johnson said the school community and both herself and Lyle were sorry to see the bus go, but the writing had been on the wall for a long time.

On October 31, 1955, approval was granted to Bill Johnson by the Education Department to operate the Marnoo Primary School Bus. His parents had advised him against this venture, believing it would be a short term project, but Bill was more confident. He believed he could make a success of it and that there would be a need for a bus for many years to come.

Bill's first bus was a 29 seater Ford. For the first few years the condition of the road for the first seven miles of the 21 mile run was so bad, that it was necessary to travel in second and third gear.

The next bus was named 'Arabella' by the students and was a 35 seat Bedford, which was later upgraded to an 18 seat Toyota and now a 21 seat Toyota Coaster.

There were 13 students on the first bus run. They were Christina and Heather McAllister, Robyn Guest, Richard, Charles, Warrick and Christine Moody, Lex Lory, Paul Green, Margaret, Valerie and Lauretta Maunder and Dawn Reading.

In 1964 the Marnoo School Bus carried 45 students, in 1995 it had 26 students and this year only six. Next year, the student number would have been just five.

Public Transport Victoria's decision is that the contract is no longer sustainable.

"As in most country areas, the Marnoo region is just running out of young families. Farms are getting bigger, fewer people live in the area and the young people have more access to universities and different qualifications than their parents," The Johnsons said.

"We have enjoyed watching the generations of families grow up and now carry the children of the children who have been on the bus and note the particular similarities pass down the generations... McAllisters, Readings, Walters, Guests, Hodders, Healys, Hendys, Langs, Lorys, Carters and Duxsons.... let us know if we have missed any.

"There have been various bus drivers over the years. Of course Bill started the bus run back in 1955. Other drivers were, Reg Jenkins, Mick Lang, Vince Morris, Greg Falla, Nola Harbour and of course Lyle, Doug and Lois Johnson.

"The children have been a pleasure to carry and our close association with the Marnoo Primary School and the families involved will always be warmly remembered.

"After 58 years as a school bus operator - Started by W C (Bill) Johnson and now trading as W and P Johnson Holdings, we will be sorry to go."

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