Worcester Bus Contractor Makes Final Runs Of 42-Year Career

Worcester Bus Contractor Makes Final Runs Of 42-Year Career
1 DSC 0363

(Editor’s Note: This story will not appear in tomorrow’s hardcopy edition, but we wanted to share it with our online readers in a timely fashion. Look for it in the newspaper next Friday, June 26.)

WEST OCEAN CITY — “Happy Trails” was the appropriate theme this afternoon for an emotional sendoff for a Worcester County Public Schools bus driver making his last run after 42 years.

Bill Shockley, who has driven generations of local kids, now many adults with children of their own, to and from school for last four decades-plus, made his final run from Ocean City Elementary on Thursday afternoon following an emotional sendoff from students, teachers, staff, fellow bus drivers and parents. Shockley completed runs from Stephen Decatur High School and Berlin Intermediate earlier in the day and his busload of rambunctious elementary school students on Thursday was his last after a career that lasted 42 years plus.

Teachers blew bubbles and snapped pictures as Shockley made some farewells and goodbyes with fellow drivers and staff members with whom he had established long-term relationships over the years. When it came for the students to be released for the last day of the school year, chaos ensued as his young charges boarded the bus for the last time this year and the last time with Shockley ever.

Staffers adorning cowboy hats and phony mustaches serenaded Shockley with “Happy Trails” and presented him with an autographed poster before he hopped into the driver’s seat of his bus for the last time. The “Happy Trails” theme was appropriate for Shockley’s sendoff as the long-time bus driver has been the customer service manager at Frontier Town for over two decades and at different times has played Doc Holiday in the iconic western-themed campground’s Gunfight at the OK Corral show.

“It gets a little emotional when I think about this being my last run,” said Shockley, a staunch disciplinarian with a soft heart who shed a tear or so during the festivities on Thursday. “When I start thinking about all of these years and all of the kids I’ve driven, I get a little emotional. Some kids I’ve driven from pre-school all the way through Stephen Decatur High School.”

Indeed, Shockley has driven generations of Worcester County students over his four decades on the job. OCES teacher Barrie Brown said Shockley drove her husband Doug to and from school when he was just a young student and also drove each of her now-grown children.

Shockley said much as changed since it started driving Worcester County students over 40 years ago. The schools are bigger, there are far more kids, the roads are different and the north end of the county has exploded with residential and commercial development. However, as much as things have changed, some things have remained constant.

“I guess I have the reputation for being tough on discipline, but kids are still kids and that hasn’t changed over the years,” he said. “You have to keep them in line, but you also have to listen to them. Get to know them and listen to their achievements and their problems. It has been a joy and I will miss it.”

Shockley said the little ones on his last run from OCES were a little different than the older kids at Decatur High School he transported for the last time earlier on Thursday, many of whom he had been driving for their entire scholastic careers.

“With the high school kids, there were a lot of hugs and a lot of them asking me for one more year,” he said. “That was a different kind of emotion.”

Although he is retiring from driving the school bus, Shockley won’t let any grass grow under his feet. He has been a Judge of Orphans Court for 20 years and was recently elected for another four years. He continues to be the customer service manager at Frontier Town, where he handles issues similar to those on the bus.

“I’m just a people person and service oriented,” he said. “It’s often easy to resolve issues and conflicts. You just have to listen to people and talk to people.”