A high school classmate recently died and it reminded me of my high school days at Port Allen High School in the 1960’s. Young men, like myself, who lived “out in the country” faced a recurring dilemma—transportation to and from after school practice. Our coaches came up with a solution to the problem. They sought and got permission from the West Baton Rouge School Board to purchase and secure insurance for a passenger van. This van would be used to transport boys from after school sports practice. Coaches faced an immediate problem, who would drive this van? The school board and coaches made a very risky decision. Responsible high school boys, ages 15-18, with a valid driver’s license and a good driving record were selected. Looking back on it, this arrangement took a giant leap of faith by all parties, especially when one considers all the possibilities of young men messing up!
A procedure was established that the last boy to be dropped off would drive and keep the van at his home overnight. The next day he would drive the bus back to school and the process would repeat itself each day of the week. One can only imagine the trust needed to allow a young teen age boy to keep a vehicle at his house for the entire weekend. This van was used by aspiring athletes in West Baton Rouge Parish for over eight years. Not one wreck was reported during this entire period.
We all had stories, funny and scary ones, about time riding in the Blue Goose and I would like to share one. We had driven the bus home from a late Friday night football game. The next Monday morning the driver picked up another boy and myself. We had a very busy weekend and lamented the fact that we had to go school so early that morning. So we decided to pull the van over onto a sugar cane trail and take a nap. We instantly fell asleep! After a short while, we were abruptly awakened by a soft tapping sound on the van’s window. We were horrified to see a school board member outside the van. He didn’t fuss or pontificate, rather he told us it would be a good idea to go to school, immediately! As we drove away, we all went into a panic mode trying to explain why we stopped. When we got to school, the coaches met us on the parking lot to hear our explanation. The driver told him that we had a slight mechanical problem but we fixed it. He accepted this story and we never heard anything about it again from school officials. Of course, we suffered through weeks of angst that one day the true story would be told, and we would be punished.
Many years have passed since those good ole dazes at Port Allen High School, and I often think about our school experiences. On those many trips back and forth to school, we talked about sports, girlfriends, money, grades, homework and a lot of other things. We learned a lot about each other and life in general. We affectionately named the van—“the Blue Goose.” Blue was our school color and the pelican was our school mascot. I don’t know where goose came from, the only thing I do know is that the experiences we had on the “Blue Goose” had a lasting effect on our lives.
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