By Dawn Pearson
Carmel didn’t have any roundabouts when Gene Baker began driving a bus for Carmel Clay Schools 49 years ago. At his surprise retirement party Nov. 17, he remembered those times as “the good days.”
“One of the reasons I gave it up is because there is so much more traffic and traffic is so bad in the roundabouts. The roundabouts are not bus-friendly, and the new structures in the center of the roundabouts make it very hard to see in front of you,” Baker said. “Personal drivers don’t follow the speed limits and think (the roundabouts) are their personal Indy 500 track.”
Baker began driving buses in August 1969. His wife, Renaye, drove a bus for CCS from 1979 to 2006. Between the two of them, they drove Carmel students to and from school a combined 75 years.
The Bakers met when he was managing the old Carmel Theatre and Renaye became a concessioner in 1965. They fell in love and married in 1968. When the theatre closed, Gene suggested she start driving a bus, too. She didn’t know if she could but eventually gave it a try.
Gene drove more than 1,000 kids during his career.
“Some of the kids I started off driving back in 1969 are grandparents now, and I’m driving some of their grandchildren,” Baker said.
He is waiting to get through the holidays and into the new year to figure out what he wants to do next.
“The first day not driving was just another day for me, but I have enjoyed the kids all these years,” he said. “The kids themselves have been pretty good. They have all without exception brought me joy and happiness.”