January 20, 2013

School says farewell to longtime bus driver


CORNVILLE -- Gib Poland was a school bus driver for so many years that by the time he took his final run in November, he was driving the children and grandchildren of pupils he drove to school in the 1960s and '70s.

Poland, 74, retired just before Thanksgiving after 47 years on Cornville roads.

The new Cornville Regional Charter School, where he ended his career, threw him a big going-away party Jan. 12 with gift cards and a money tree; and his son, Don Poland, gave him a gold watch.

"It was a good career and if I had it to do it over again, I would absolutely do it," Poland said recently from his kitchen on Cornville's Shadagee Road. "It's been a good journey. No regrets."

Skowhegan-based School Administrative District 54 closed the Cornville school in June 2010. Bus routes operated by Poland's Bus Service, now owned by Don Poland, were moved to Canaan, where Gib Poland drove for a couple of years.

"I've been spoiled all my life," he said. "I've been hauling Cornville kids, more or less, on the same route for four generations; and when the Cornville (elementary) school closed, I didn't like the route that I was on and decided it was time to get done."

The charter school hired him when the school year began in October, but the routes were different for his Cornville runs and it just wasn't the same, he said.

Poland grew up in neighboring Athens, where his father, Dick Poland, was contracted to drive school bus. He attended classes in the old Washington School and graduated from high school at Somerset Academy, both in Athens.

He started driving a school bus for the town of Cornville in 1965, then was hired by the newly formed School Administrative District 54 in 1967.

Poland said the roads are much better than they were when he first started driving, but the weather was different.

"Back then, we had some snow," he said. "A good many a morning I'd get up and if it snowed, the first thing I did was put chains on my bus. They very seldom closed school back then. You didn't have a storm day unless it was enough snow you had to wait for the snowplow. We don't have the snow that we used to have."

Poland said he will miss the schoolchildren on his bus every morning and afternoon, but will stay busy with his own four children and 13 grandchildren. He is a member of the Cornville Groomers snowmobile club and helps maintain trails near his home.

"I thought I would miss it, but I don't," he said. "I find enough to do; and I've got four grandchildren that are playing basketball right now, so that's keeping me busy.

"I can snowmobile in the winter and fish in the summer as long as I have my health."

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367


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