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At One Time, School Buses Did Not Serve South Hill

by Carl Vest

Going to high school on South Hill is now a routine experience.  There are two exceptional schools serving the area:  Governor John R Rogers High School to the north and Emerald Ridge High School located in the south.  Students have few problems getting to these schools since the Puyallup School District has established an extensive bus system.  However, the Hill has not always been so well served.

During early developmental periods there were no high schools.  Settlers formed elementary schools early, but not high schools.  Rogers High School, for example, was not started until 1968.  Before Rogers students had to make their way to higher educational facilities somewhere off the Hill.  The most common destination was Puyallup High School.

Getting to Puyallup High School from the Hill was not easy.  Yet generations of students made the effort.  During the periods before World War II, there was no locally organized educational transportation system and many stories have been told about various routes taken when walking to high school from the Hill.  Horse and buggies were sometimes used. Other accounts tell of hitching rides in various ways.  It was not until about World War II that an organized bus system was started.

Many old timers remember the first bus as “that old double-decker.”  It was a vehicle previously used by, or perhaps leased from the Blue-Gray Lines, a well-known local company.  It was a Pickwick, painted blue and grey, had two decks, and seats for about 30 students. The stairway to the second level was inside.  It was said that you could sit in the upper part and look down into the lower half through the cracks in the floor.  It was used until June 1950, and then replaced by a single deck vehicle.  The reason for the change was probably the damage that resulted when students overturned the double-decker.

The bus route was from Puyallup, up the hill, and south on Meridian.  It went back the same way.  During snow storms the bus didn’t run.  It couldn’t get up the hill from Puyallup.  Student pickups were made at various places, but initially the bus didn’t travel off Meridian.  Moreover, it did not go very far south.  Bob Ballou remembers it turning around at 152nd Street.  Mary Glaser recalls that in about 1959 the route went as far as Thun Field.  It all depended on the number of students needing transport.  Later there were some side routes, especially through the Rabbit Farms.
Students had to get from their homes to the bus route on their own.  Most walked.  Joan Parks Vosler and her sisters walked from around present-day Rogers High School to Meridian, a distance of roughly three-quarters of a mile.  They waited for the bus in Lyman’s gas station.   Bob Ballou lived on Meridian but walked to Firgrove School for pickup.  Don Glaser recalls walking about a mile and a quarter.  Katie Gabrielson Bennett walked from 86th Street --- just over one mile.

This was an interesting period for education on South Hill.

Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.