At one time, school buses did not serve South Hill

South Hill Historical SocietyMarch 19, 2014 

Going to high school on South Hill is now a routine experience. There are two exceptional schools that serve the area: Gov. John R. Rogers High School to the north and Emerald Ridge High School to the south.

Students have few problems getting to those schools since the Puyallup School District has established an extensive bus system. However, the hill was not always so well-served.

During early developmental periods, there were no high schools. Settlers formed elementary schools early, but not high schools.

Rogers High School, for example, was not started until 1968. Prior to that, Rogers students had to make their way to higher educational facilities somewhere off the hill. The most common destination was Puyallup High.

Getting to Puyallup High from the hill was not easy, yet generations of students made the effort. During the periods before World War II, there was no locally organized educational transportation system, and many stories have been told about various routes that were taken when students walked to high school from the hill.

Horse and buggies were sometimes used. Other accounts tell of hitching rides in various ways. It was not until about World War II that an organized bus system was started.

Many old-timers remember the first bus as “that old double-decker.” It was a vehicle previously used by, or perhaps leased from, the Blue-Gray Lines, a well-known local company. It was a Pickwick, painted blue and grey, had two decks and had seats for about 30 students. The stairway to the second level was inside.

It was said that you could sit in the upper part and look down into the lower half through the cracks in the floor. It was used until June 1950, when it was replaced by a single-deck vehicle.

The reason for the change was probably the damage that resulted when students overturned the double-decker.

The bus route was from Puyallup, up the hill and south on Meridian. It went back the same way. During snow storms, the bus didn’t run. It couldn’t get up the hill from Puyallup.

Student pickups were made at various places, but the bus initially didn’t travel off Meridian. Moreover, it did not go very far south.

Bob Ballou remembers it turning around at 152nd Street. Mary Glaser recalls that, in about 1959, the route went as far as Thun Field. It all depended on the number of students who needed to be transported.

Later, there were some side routes, especially through the Rabbit Farms. Students had to get from their homes to the bus route on their own. Most walked.

Joan Parks Vosler and her sisters walked from around present-day Rogers High School to Meridian, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile. They waited for the bus in Lyman’s gas station.

Ballou lived on Meridian but walked to Firgrove School for pickup. Don Glaser recalled walking about a mile and a quarter. Katie Gabrielson Bennett walked from 86th Street — just more than one mile.

It was an interesting period for education on South Hill.

Carl Vest, Ph.D., is the research director and a founding member of the South Hill Historical Society. He can be reached by email at

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