A teacher asked, “What is big and yellow and comes in the morning to brighten a mother’s day?” And a student answered, “The school bus!”
Frank Cyr was born on a small Nebraska farm in 1900. He would go on to earn a Ph. D in education. But it was while touring rural one-room schools as part of his doctorate dissertation, that he would make his mark in history. There, Frank would see every kind of vehicle imaginable carrying boys and girls to class (from horse-drawn carriages to pick-up trucks to flat-bed trailers) and how unsafe so many of them were. And regularly he would read of terrible accidents, with numerous boys and girls losing their lives. Mr. Cyr thought to himself, there has got to be a better way. So he approached The Rockefeller Foundation for a financial grant to hold a national conference of school administrators. He got the funds and in 1939 just such a meeting took place in New York City. And from that seven-day get-together came the modern school bus. There were 44 standards adopted, covering everything from body length to aisle width to ceiling height (representatives from the car and truck manufacturers were present). Included in those guidelines was also the colour of the bus. Dr. Cyr had scientists from Dupont Chemical speak on colour recognition. The chemists informed those gathered that yellow is the most immediately visible, attention-getting hue. That in their peripheral vision tests, humans notice the colour yellow 1.24 times faster than even the eye-catching red. And also importantly, yellow is particularly more seen in the early morning and early evening light (when school buses are on the road). The same is true for fog. Plus, the easiest lettering to read is black on yellow. Dupont then provided the delegates fifty shades of yellow to choose from and the one chosen was like unto the hue of the inside of a mango (a colour mixture of lemon, banana and orange). It was named “school bus yellow” and today, by law – no other vehicle can be that exact same shade.
(Traffic Lights – Red is at the top because it has the longest wave-length for the human eye to notice at a distance. Yellow is in the middle because it has the second longest wave-length for the human eye to notice at a distance. And green is at the bottom because it has the third longest wave-length for the human eye to notice at a distance. In other words, when approaching a traffic light, the colour emphasis is on slowing and stopping, not on speeding up. It’s also why generally there is a descending bulb size order, from bigger red to smaller yellow to smallest green.)
In North America, each class day, 30 million school children (60% of all pupils) will board 500,000 yellow school buses. It is the largest mass transit system in the world and also the safest. Students who take a school bus are 70 times more likely to arrive safely than those who come by car, bike or walk. Yes, there are yearly fatalities, but less than one percent of the total.
The bottom line? Frank Cyr was a Christian man. And little did he know that the school buses he designed for the public school would one day also be used for Sunday Schools – that he was not only helping to save countless lives, but also countless souls.
Trivia – The word “bus” comes from the Latin word “omnibus” which means “for all” … The original school buses started out as horse-drawn carriages and the door to get on and off of these buses was in the back, so the kids wouldn’t startle the horses. Buses today still have that back door, but for emergencies … The original school buses had all the children sitting outside so they face each other. But the school bus seats were eventually changed to rows as a safety feature with those tall, close-together seats acting like eggs in an egg carton or ornaments in a divided box.
Your normal, everyday school bus can travel up to 100 km/hr, pretty fast. But if you are worried about being late for school, there’s a guy who built a jet-powered school bus. It can reach speeds of up to 600 km/hr. It also shoots out a 24-metre flame from the back. So maybe stand a littler farther away at the bus stop.