File photo courtesy Sunrise Transportation

File photo courtesy Sunrise Transportation

This season I am mindful of the past, which includes my mechanical career, and of those individuals — many long gone — who have been of great influence in my life.

Besides a few specific people in history, there are a few in my life to whom I really owe thanks. When I started at my first real job, there were three longtime employees who were all highly skilled mechanics in their day. One had machine shop experience. One was not only a certified professional welder, but also an old-time drag racer who could build a flathead Ford motor into a monster of a machine. The third was an all-around, seasoned heavy equipment mechanic. All three — individually and combined — could do anything related to automotive and school bus repair. They taught me more life skills and more than I ever learned academically.

Although there are many others who over the years guided me along the way, I am most thankful to my three heroes. They taught me that by addressing the little difficulties, the big problems diminish, oftentimes on their own.

Through adversity we learn. Life is really just a giant classroom in which we grow by using our senses.

So what is it that makes an incredible mentor? For me, it was having people believe in me. It has been people who were patient enough to use times of error as a teaching tool and not as a means to ridicule.

Throughout my long career, I have gained much knowledge and I am so thankful for being able to use it to help others.

Decision-making is a constant part of our lives. Although I originally wanted to design automobiles, as I reflect back, going into the field of mechanics was not a poor choice. I am thankful for making that decision. If I hadn’t, I would not have the loving wife and family I do now.

Throughout my long career, I have gained much knowledge and I am so thankful for being able to use it to help others. For example, I am thankful for the opportunity this publication has given me to do that.

I asked a friend in my profession once what he attributed his school bus knowledge to. He told me he is not smart by any means, but has gained his knowledge simply by asking questions.

Although I have always had a desire to see what makes things work, I too am not an overly intelligent person. Like my friend, my knowledge has been gained by having a desire to understand. Hence, I ask questions. I am thankful for being inquisitive.

Brad Barker is a veteran shop manager and technician.

Brad Barker is a veteran shop manager and technician.

I am thankful for Steve Hirano, a former editor of this publication, for assisting me with getting the “Professional Garage” forum rolling over 25 years ago. That forum, as many of you know, has been a great information site, which provides each of you an avenue to share your problems and solutions to school bus mechanical issues.

In my present place of employment, there exists such a well-rounded knowledge base and varied set of skills that I think there is no obstacle we could not overcome. I am thankful to be a part of that organization.

As the new year approaches, I ask each of you to examine the people in your life who have had a positive impact on you and to resolve to emulate them.

As each of you move forward in life, no matter where you may be, I offer some words of wisdom: try to be patient, kind, and charitable. Concentrate more on the good in each person and not on their faults. Make every day a learning experience as well as a teaching experience, and give thanks whenever possible. You never know what tomorrow may bring. Make the best of each day.

Brad Barker has more than 40 years of experience in school bus maintenance as a shop manager and technician. He has written numerous articles for SBF. He can be reached at