more flexible vans. But vans do not have the personality quirks that the buses had and there is a sameness about
them that makes them—well, boring. Today’s vans are numbered and this is how we tell them apart. 105, 106,
121, and 122 are all white vans, as are all the vans we now lease for the summer. 124 is a light blue van and 119
is teal blue but it is still too confusing to put those descriptions on the transportation list so we just use the numbers.
116 and 117 are both red; 120 is dark grey but 103 and 104 are light grey. We do have 2-tone purplish van
we call Grimace, but you get the point.
Camp buses, however, had personality, and no camp driver needed a number to clarify which was which. Do you
remember “Fat Albert”? I never knew whether the song (“Old Fat Albert had a puncture in its tire…and we fixed
it with a piece of chewing gum”) came from the name of the bus, or the name of the bus came from the song.
Then, in the spirit of fair representation of the sexes, there was “Plump Penelope”. “Fat Albert” and “Plump Penelope”
were both 24 passenger buses and I guess they did look a bit alike, but no one ever had a trouble telling
the difference between them. Somehow, “Fat Albert” was more macho.
“69B” was the pride of our fleet and one of its primary workhorses well past the time when it should have gone to
a quiet retirement. I still remember being shocked in the early 90’s when I realized that “69B” was named for the
year of its birth. “69B” had a split axle and only those of us with some experience could drive it—“69B” was one
Then, in the 70s or 80s, Sandy bought “The Rust Bucket”, named for a slightly rugged exterior look. It, frankly, was one we tried to hide on parent visiting days. Sandy, however, swore that “The Rust Bucket’s” motor was just great, and, in truth, it served us well for quite a while. The JCs and Outbackers painted it one year as a project, but it didn’t improve its looks much. About that time we also got “The Big Ford”—this was a 40 passenger bus which could hold most of High Trails or Big Spring after a coed activity. I don’t know why we never gave it a more interesting name.
The beginning of the end of the bus era came when Sandy purchased “The Automatics”. These were two small
buses with automatic transmissions and we never gave them individual names. We “experienced” bus drivers
hated “The Automatics”. For one thing, they were wimpy. We knew how to drive split axles and double clutch
and we were not about to be seen in an automatic. But the even more important reason we hated “The Automatics”
was that they didn’t work very well—they were always dying near the top of the High Trails Hill or at the
crest of Strawberry Shortcut—it was terrifying to have to back down one of those hills with a bus full of loud
campers. So, on Saturday nights, we always gave the Automatics to the newbies who didn’t know any better.
Those buses were great! Do you remember climbing in one for the trip back to High Trails or Big Spring after the
dance on Saturday night? Do you remember the noise level? Do you remember that there were no seatbelts—
and, in some cases, the seats were not even fastened to the floor of the bus and that the “seating capacity”
was often just a suggestion. Do you remember riding in a bus to the river or to Leavick Valley? Some Big Spring
boys may recall running from side to side in a bus parked on the streets of Fairplay, making innocent passers-by
gasp, because it looked like the bus was about to turn over.
Ah, those were the days. Today our vans are cared for by a qualified mechanic, our drivers are trained and follow
strict protocols, and everyone fastens their seatbelt for even the shortest trip—it is a much safer situation. But the
old bus days were fun—weren’t they?
This was excerpted from our monthly newsletter. The Alum e-News is sent to Sanborn alums (and other Friends of Sanborn). To add or remove your name from the Alum E-News list, please send an e-mail to jane at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.