Today we celebrate getting kids to school. Gertrude the Bus was O’Neal’s first “transporter” for students. It was a unique acquisition by founding trustee and parent Jim Van Camp. He and his daughters were driving it to Southern Pines after purchasing it in Troy and discovered it had no brakes. From that point on, there were so many memorable stories from students of journeys taken. Gertrude the Bus had a significant role with student life at O’Neal in the early days. Apparently, in addition to no brakes, Gertrude had no air conditioning or heat.
Upon Gertrude’s retirement in 1977, the yearbook was dedicated to Gertrude and Bob Southers – Gertrude’s only driver with perfect attendance for six years. Some may not have remembered Mr. Southers’ name, but they remembered his dog whose name was Mr. Heinz 57.
Gertrude’s legacy is so memorable, O’Neal’s oldest running bus presently carries the “Gertrude” name.
Bus transportation for O’Neal, in general, has been complex as the School has served students outside of Moore County starting not long after it opened. Given there were enough riders in an area to justify the service, the offering to transport students to and from school in Lee, Rockingham, Montgomery, and Scotland counties has been in place for at least 40 years.
For many years tour buses were contracted for transportation to and from school as well as athletics. In 2006 the School purchased six buses. Four of them were used for daily school transportation, while two others were used for athletics. Since 2006, O’Neal has managed to meet transportation needs and keep its vehicles in running order, and upgraded as needed. Currently, it has a nice fleet ranging from large capacity buses to vans. The task in managing the schedule for routine maintenance, daily transport, field trips, and athletic events is quite the challenge. This year O’Neal’s buses have daily common stops in Cameron, Sanford, and Rockingham.
Falcons Fly to 50
O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.
Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388