Employee Spotlight – Mrs. Vickie Giles

For over 40 years Vickie Giles worked in the Longview Schools Transportation Department. She retired on January 31, 2020. Thank you for 40 great years Vickie – you will be missed!

Where were you born? At the Cowlitz General Hospital in Longview.

Where did you go to high school? Kelso High, class of ’73.Picture of Vickie Giles retirement part

What did you want to be when you grew up? Quite honestly my mom was a waitress and a cook, and I really thought I would be a waitress my whole life.

When you got out of high school what did you do? I went to work as a waitress.

How did you go from being a waitress to driving a bus? My brother in law, Bill Brady, was the mechanic in the transportation department – he called me.

What year was that? 1979.

Did you interview to be a bus driver? Sort of, Bill took me out in a bus, showed me how to shift, and then had me show him that I could in fact do so.

Had you ever driven a bus before? Oh no.

Picture of Brenda McCowen and Vickie Giles

What was training like? Practicing down shifting. I needed to be able to down shift while climbing 38th hill, as many of the afternoon routes originated from Cascade.

Your training consisted of coming in and getting the keys to a bus? Yeah, pretty much. I’d come in and get the keys to a bus and go driving around Mt. Solo by myself.

You drove around in a full-size stick shift bus? Yes. A 35-foot, stick shift bus. Bill showed me how to shift, then I was told, “Come in and practice driving and whenever you’re ready let us know.”

What else did the training entail? They told me when I was able to accomplish driving up the 38th hill by myself, I would be ready to go out and be a bus driver.

Did you drive up the 38th hill? Yes, I decided I was ready to attempt driving up the 38th hill. Back then it was steeper and leveled out at the top, so the goal was to get to the top. You always had to down shift at least twice to get up the hill.

Was your first attempt to drive up the hill successful? No, I thought I was ready. I was 24 years old and ready to take that hill, and low and behold, I missed my gear going uphill. The bus stopped on the hill and I could not get it going again. I had to call the mechanics to get the bus off the hill.  On the next try I accomplished it.

What was driving kids for the first time like? I honestly don’t remember what it felt like having kids on the bus, I think I was more focused on getting the bus down the road, following the stops on the piece of paper I was handed, and getting them back off of the bus.

How many years did you drive? I drove for 15 years, from 1979 to 1994.Vickie Giles and Misty Woodrum

How many years have you worked in the transportation department? Almost 41 years.

What did you enjoy about driving? I enjoyed the kids. You build a rapport with the students and I’m friends with a lot of those students today. In fact, I just got a message from one of them that rode my bus about 35 years ago. I’ve met kids that became my baby sitters. Overall this has been a great job.

What’s the strangest thing ever a kid brought on the bus? A kid brought a snake on the bus, and I’m deathly afraid of snakes.

Has bus driving changed over the years? It has changed drastically. As I’ve already stated, my training was “Here’s the keys, go practice and let us know when you’re ready”.

Do school busses still have stick shifts? No, now the busses have automatic transmissions and we have an extensive training program.

Have you ever worked anywhere else? Yes, my family moved to Southern California for about 18 months. All I knew was bus driving, so I went to work as a bus driver.

Did something happen while you were driving a bus in California? Yes, I tell this story in my driver training class, so that you understand why I am where I am at today.

What happened? I was dropping off the last 4 or 5 kids on a route. One of the kids asked me to take them down to the housing area where they lived. I checked the route sheet and that’s not where their stop was. So I said, “No, your stop’s right here.” One little boy was extremely insistent, but they all get off. As I pulled away, the little boy ran to the side of the bus, grabbed on and fell off – I ran over him.

What happened to the little boy? Thankfully, he lived.

Did you consider quitting your bus driver job? Yes, but the dispatcher said, “I want you here tomorrow”. So, I kept driving.

Did the incident change you? Yes, because of that incident, I was determined to make a difference with other bus drivers. I wanted to be a driver trainer.

Was the accident a devastating event? It was very devastating and changed my life. My training has always incorporated school bus stops from the very beginning. I give drivers a specific search pattern (in the bus mirrors) that they must do before pulling away from every bus stop. I made something good out of a terrible incident.

When you moved back to Longview did you start working as a bus driver? Yes, in September of 1990.

Did you get your bus driver training certificate? Yes.

When did you move to being a Dispatcher and Trainer? About 1994.

Is it hard to drive a bus? I don’t think so, but I’ve been doing it for two-thirds of my life.

When you look back at your career what are your thoughts? First off, I never dreamed that this would be a career job. I’m so grateful that I started into something where there’s a retirement system in place. I feel a sense of accomplishment in my ability to train new drivers in the safe pick up and drop off of school children.

Do you look back on your 40 years with happy thoughts? I do, this has been a great place to work.

Are you excited about retirement? It is bittersweet.

Why is retiring bittersweet? I’m really excited for retirement, but I’ve made a lot of connections here. I can’t imagine getting up and not coming to work here.

Are you going to be a substitute bus driver? All along I’ve said, “I’m not going to sub, I’m not going to sub.” Then I started feeling an emotional tug of war within myself – Do I really want to give this all up? So, it’s bittersweet.

What would you want people to remember about Vickie Giles? That she was personable and fun to work with. I enjoy people and I like it when people enjoy my company. I was a dedicated employee who was approachable and passionate about the safety of school bus stops. I took the training of other drivers seriously while still making it an enjoyable learning experience

Would you do it all over again? I would.