Harold Cooper, Favorite School Bus Driver

Harold Cooper was our school bus driver our last couple of years at the Dexter (Iowa) Public School. He was a real gem.

Dexter was a small school. My 8th grade class only had 13 students. We all went to the same big brick building on the north end of town–the same one our parents and one grandmother attended. So there were kids of all ages–kindergarten through high school–who rode the bus.

bus (2)
This reminds me of our school bus, and also of the way we used to dress to go to school. And no backpacks.

Every spring Mrs. Sellers, our music teacher, ended the year with an entire-school extravaganza, and many of us knew the same songs–from the lilting “Kentucky Babe” to “Down in the Valley.”

The actual climax of the May evening was always something uplifting. In 1954, it was a concert version of “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.”

Well, we sang on Mr. Cooper’s school bus. We didn’t just sing the melody. The bus was filled with rich chords in spite of young voices. Yes, we sang “Joshua Fit the Battle” on the bus.

And Mr. Cooper didn’t mind.

When our bus driver saw our parents on the street, he would greet them and tell them what nice children they had–and how he enjoyed it when we kids sang on the bus.

On the last day of school, he would stop at the Dairy Queen to buy a nickel cone for every kid on the bus.

We were delighted to find that Mr. Cooper also was our bus driver the fall of 1958 when reorganization sent all of us Dexter kids in Madison County to go to Earlham to school.

My sister remembered even more about having Mr. Cooper for a driver than I did. She said he put up with candy wrappers on the floor of the bus every Wednesday, as we’d been allowed to walk uptown to the library from school to borrow books. Then we’d go across the street to Isenberg’s Drug Store and buy candy.

MrCoop1961 (2)
From the 1961 Earlham yearbook.

She also had memories of Mr. Cooper allowing us leave our cumbersome horn cases at the front of the bus, rather than wrestle French horn cases to the back. And he let the bigger kids leave their snow boots on the bus during the day.

Later when we had another bus driver, he stopped the bus and made us stop singing. We couldn’t believe it!

School bus drivers at Earlham, 1963. Mr. Cooper is at the right.

What a blessing it was to get to ride with Harold Cooper, a school bus driver who actually liked kids.


Information from Harold Cooper’s great nephew, Tom Cooper of Stuart:

Harold was born south of Stuart in 1900 to Harry and Nellie Cooper. Nellie died in 1912 at age 38. There were seven children. Harold was 12 and there were four children even younger.

The family moved  to South Dakota for a fresh start Harold, Charles and the oldest son Verne all married there before eventually moving back to Iowa–Verne and Harold married sisters!

Harold Cooper married Catherine “Kate” Dodge about 1925 in South Dakota. They had three daughters: Mildred “Mid,” Eunice, and Irene.

Cooperwedding1925 (2)
Wedding picture. Standing: Catherine and Harold Cooper. Seated: Eunice and Charles Cooper. About 1925, South Dakota.


Mildred married Harold Cook, who died when their daughter was young. She and her daughter Sandy moved back to Iowa to live with her parents. Harold’s granddaughter Sandy Cook went to school in Dexter.

Harold Cooper, 1941, Stuart, Iowa

Harold and Catherine (Kate) Cooper are buried at the Dexter Cemetery.



Here’s another story about Mr. Cooper.


  1. What a heart-warming story! I so enjoyed it. The yearbook photo of the four bus drivers could have been taken in my home town of Enosburg Falls, Vermont. My first thought was I saw it was, Hey, don’t I know those guys?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.