“They’re my kids. Getting them to and from school safely every day is my responsibility,” she said choking up as she talked. “I’ve been driving the same Bus Route #2 for 19 years and I’ve watched students progress through kindergarten to graduation many times. I’ve gotten attached to the kids and their families and I still keep in touch with some of them.”
But the morning waves from friends and neighbors as she drives the big yellow bus down the road are about to end. Mugridge is retiring this month. “It’s just time,” she said. “I never felt like it was time before, but it is now. I’m not sure why, but it just feels like it’s time to let it go,” she said. “I’ve really appreciated all the drivers and people I’ve worked with too. It’s just a great group.”
Little did she know when she started driving a bus that it would become such a well-loved and lengthy career. “I wanted to go to work and be happy – to enjoy what I was doing, not just working,” she said.
When she saw an ad for bus drivers she thought it might be a good fit. “I love kids. It’s as simple as that. I decided I would give it a try and see what happened. It stuck and I have loved it,” she said.
Her career started in Caledonia, but within about a less than one year she was hired at TK where her two sons attended school. For a while she was a substitute driver and she even quit for a short time after the TK bus garage fire. “I just got bumped so far down on the list, I just didn’t get called.”
That soon changed though and she was hired as a full-time driver and soon made Route #2 her own. The roughly 40-minute route around the Gun Lake area is a gorgeous route to travel through the seasons, she said, and the people along the route have come to know her well.
“There’s one couple who stop what they’re doing in their yard and they wave every day,” she said.
She didn’t know who they were for a long time, but wrote down their address one year and sent them a Christmas card thanking them for always greeting her with smiles, waves and even a bow now and then. “Since then we’ve been exchanging cards every year and we’ve never met face-to-face,” she said.
While others might think driving a bus would be too stressful, Sue said she was always happy to see the students and listen to their chatter during the drive. “I have great kids who have learned what I expect from them and they’ve responded. They’re so well behaved and so kind. I’m just so proud of them.”
Mugridge said the key to her success is simple – “You just have to treat them like you would want to be treated. Tell them what you expect and be kind.” She also admits it takes time to build those relationships and understandings.
While she makes it sound easy she admits there were times she needed to discipline students and there were stressful times driving a bus. “You have to be so aware of everything around you – the other drivers and people and then also the kids on your bus.”
Like all bus drivers she’s driven in some rough snow and ice conditions and been stuck more than a time or two. But she said she wouldn’t trade this rewarding career for anything. “I’m just lucky. I found what I love to do. I would just tell people to try it. If they love kids – try it. They might find out they love it as much as I do.”
Sue and her husband, Dave, hope to do some traveling in their retirement years. “New York City, Maine, - anywhere on the East Coast. I think we’ll try that area first,” she said.