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Moving generations of students: George Rumsey celebrates 50 years as a York Suburban bus driver

George Rumsey started driving a school bus when he was 30 years old in 1970. He never imagined he’d still be driving in 2020.

The 80-year-old resident of east York on Thursday celebrated 50 years as a bus driver for York Suburban School District, and as he accepted the honor in a camo hat, green cargo shorts and pandemic-grown beard, his reaction was as laid back as he was.

He said he had expected to stop driving when his grandchildren graduated from the district — after about 10 to 15 years on the job — but somehow he just kept at it.

Karen Dressel, director of safety of Reliance Student Transportation, passes vacation information to George Rumsey as he was lauded for his 50 years of driving service at the company's Suburban lot Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. Ramsey, 80, was gifted a paid vacation, cake and 50-year insignia jacket. Bill Kalina photo

“Anyhow, I’m still here,” he said. "I’ve hauled kids, and they got married and had kids, and then I was haulin' their kids."

Rumsey was recognized alongside other employees celebrating milestones, starting at three months on the job all the way up to his title — the longest serving member at the York Suburban lot.

The atmosphere in the Reliance Student Transportation lot was spirited at 9:30 in the morning, with the crowd of 60 or more employees shouting acknowledgments of support and erupting into applause for each honoree as they received jackets or pins.

Reliance Student Transportation driver George Rumsey talks about his 50 years of driving service at the company's Suburban lot Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. Ramsey, 80, was gifted a paid vacation, cake and 50-year insignia jacket. Bill Kalina photo

Branches of a tree on the wall connected photos of each driver, showing them all as part of a family tree.

“These are the oak trees of the company,” said director of safety Karen Dressel, noting that York Suburban has some of the longest-serving drivers of the company. 

And George is one of the pillars, said Jen Kline, the lot's general manager.

It might be surprising to start at three months, Dressel said, but all drivers need to be recognized, especially in those early days when many think of quitting.

“If you think back to your first time behind the wheel, you will know that that first three months… you wanted to throw your keys in the door and leave daily,” she said.

Rumsey lasted well beyond that period, a point further reinforced with a shout from the back: "I was in kindergarten when George started driving!"

His father was a Reliance driver, and he followed in his footsteps when he needed to pick up some part-time work. For 23 years he did morning runs, and when he lost his job at Sears in 1993, he switched to three runs a day plus day trips.

Rumsey developed tips and tricks for jobs — such as wearing whistles like teachers do to keep students quiet — which he shared with company president John Polli, who he said was a major reason he stuck around.

I said, ‘I’m wearing it because of the kids.’ He said, ‘What do you mean? I said, “You get your license and do a couple school runs and then you’ll come back and tell me.’”

Rumsey was no-nonsense, noting, "I didn’t put up with anything. I told 'em the rules are the rules. If you don’t like 'em, you don’t have to like me, you have to go to school."

But he also had a heart of patience and understanding for the students he served.

"He is just always a positive person, great with his students," Kline said. "Everyone looks up to George and respects him so much."

Reliance Student Transportation driver George Rumsey was lauded his 50 years of driving service at the company's Suburban lot Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. Ramsey, 80, was gifted a paid vacation, cake and 50-year insignia jacket. Bill Kalina photo