Nancy and the “Wilson Schoolbus”

In the mid-1920s, the Wilson’s landlord not only attended the Presbyterian Church, which he lived near, his house and barn were near the Dexter school.

Delbert and Donald, just arrived home from school. Donald’s 7th birthday, September 14, 1923, SE of Dexter, Iowa.

The landlord allowed the Wilsons to use the “nice gentle pony” Nancy. Their father Clabe saddled the horse each morning so oldest sons Delbert and Donald could ride Nancy not quite 3 miles to school, leaving the horse in the landlord’s barn all day.

Kids were given authority a lot younger in those days, at least rural ones.

Decades later, Leora Wilson wrote in her memoirs, “They did pretty good, even did grocery shopping. I would send a list of groceries to get when they left for school and they would get the groceries after school. Clabe, their father, fixed a grain sack with a draw-string to hang over the saddle horn. Once they came home and no sack of groceries. They went back and someone had picked the sack of groceries up and hung it on a fencepost–all the groceries were there.”

Nancy ready to give Delbert, Doris, and Donald a ride to school in the “Wilson school bus.”

When Doris started school in 1924, Clabe taught Delbert to hitch Nancy to a rig and drive the “Wilson school bus” to town. He was 9 years old.

While they lived on this farm, Leora ordered a sewing machine from the Sears Roebuck catalogue. It was too large to carry with the rural mail delivery, so the postman left a note to pick it up the post office. As soon as the kids got home from school, Leora drove Nancy and the rig back to town for her treasure.

It looks like the younger Wilson kids also got to enjoy this gentle horse.

Alas, there’s no date. Darlene, Dale, Doris, and Danny Wilson.
In November 1926, five siblings rode this “Wilson bus” to school.

Doris noted that sometimes when just the three kids rode, the wind blew so hard she couldn’t get her breath. When it rained, their mother sent an oil cloth to hold over themselves. When Dale and Darlene started school in 1926, Clabe made a cover for a two-seater buggy so all five could ride to town and back.


    • Thank you, Michael, for your comment. Children were certainly given more mature jobs in those days. Delbert was 9 when he started with the horse and buggy, then just 11 when all five kids were in school.

  1. The evolution of the school bus is quite revealing! Kids today have it so easy! And to think of how many times I’ve left a bag of groceries in the bagging area at Walmart but NO ONE alerted me to the fact. Probably took it for themselves. 🙁

  2. My wife used to walk to country school in Iowa every day. And even though I lived in New York City, I walked to school every day, and went home for lunch every day. We’ve lost something precious by keeping our kids sheltered, with no responsibilities.

  3. I walked or rode a bike to school from kindergarten to second grade, unsupervised. I would have loved the horse option.🙂 How wonderful they took so many photos!

  4. Great story! My dad was born in 1925. He told me he rode a horse to school in Elida New Mexico until My grand dad started driving a school bus. (I’m not sure what constituted a school bus in Eastern New Mexico in those days. There seems to have been a lot of variation in the 1930’s.)

    • The youngest brother of the Wilson kids was also born in 1925. The family moved to another farm and went to a country school for a year, then moved to Dexter, where the kids could walk to school. I wish you could find a photo of the bus your granddad drove!

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