Tony Simmons will be 74 this year and he’s been involved with school buses for some form or fashion for an incredible 50-plus of those 74 years.
He grew up at Asbury and he started riding the bus to school at age 6. He rode it all 12 years of school.
“I never remember being taken to school in a car, truck or van,” he said. “I always rode the school bus.”
When he graduated high school, he kept on riding the school bus. There was a program then where a bus ran from Asbury school to Northeast State Junior College. Tony has shared many times how he might never have gotten to go to college without that.
“I rode the bus 70 miles round trip every day to Northeast,” he said. He ended up graduating from Jacksonville State.
A few years later, out of 56 people who had applied for the job of transportation supervisor of the county schools, Tony was one of two finalists.
The late Jimmy Carlton, a longtime School Board member, conducted the interviews. He asked the other gentlemen what his experience was on school buses. The man said he’d never ridden a school bus.
“I was there and I thought, ‘I sure hope he asks me that same question,’” Tony said.
His wish came true and that same question was asked.
“I told him I’d ridden the school bus for 14 years,” Tony said, “and 756,000 miles.”
Mr. Carlton recommended Tony be hired and he recommended to the other Board members that they vote for him. He was hired.
“I rode school buses for another 30 years as the transportation supervisor,” Tony said. “And now I’ve been a Board member for 10 years and we approve the hiring of bus drivers and the purchase of buses. So I’ve been involved with school buses for going on 60 years.”
His affiliation with buses doesn’t end there.
“My three sons rode buses for 22 years and my granddaughters rode school buses for 11 years,” Tony said.
The last couple of years, Tony has been doing a popular history segment with Bruce Underwood on WTWX Radio called “Do You Remember When.” They talk about the old days, what it was like growing up in the 1950s. It's every Tuesday morning at 8:05 a.m.
Tony gives a “Do You Remember When” talk once a month at the Douglas Senior Center, on the last Monday of each month at 10 a.m. There’s a member or two of the Douglas Center who only come on that day to hear Tony’s stories.
He and two friends have threatened to write a book about their growing up years, tentatively titled “MAPS – Martling, Asbury & Poplar Springs.”
Tony has written some of his stories of those days out in longhand on a legal pad.