Sandy Sturges (center) has been a school bus driver in Hamilton, Ga., since 1977. She's shown...

Sandy Sturges (center) has been a school bus driver in Hamilton, Ga., since 1977. She's shown here with Harris County School District's transportation director, Michael Dover (left) and Justin Finney, the district's assistant superintendent of business services and technology (right).

Photo: Harris County (Georgia) School District

Sandy Sturges first drove behind the wheel of a Harris County School District bus on Oct. 1, 1977. This year, the district's transportation department interrupted a routine safety meeting to celebrate her 45 years of service.

Michael Dover, HCSD's transportation director, and Justin Finney, assistant director of business services and technology, presented a bouquet of fresh flowers and a plaque to mark her accomplishment.

"To stick with this profession the number of years that she has is impressive," Dover said. "This is a unique and special recognition for a unique and special person."

"I'm speechless," Sturges said. "I'm shocked. I really do love my job. I know I complain...sometimes. You really have to love it to be a driver. If you don't love the kids, then you don't need to sit in that seat."

Finney recalled some of the stories she's told about the evolution of school transportation during her decades on the job, including how high school seniors once drove the bus.

When she started, Sturges said, "you just picked up children standing on the side of the road. There were no route sheets like there are today. I made $200 for the entire month. And if a bus broke down, you would remove all the children off the bus and take them to the nearest home with a phone."

Sometimes, during the holiday season, if children aboard the bus spied a Christmas tree they liked, the bus would pull over and they would cut it and take it to the elementary school aboard the bus, Sturges recalled.

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