Is a school bus an important piece of history? If you live on the Gunflint Trail, then yes!
Schooling always presented a problem for Gunflint Trail families. Through the 1940s, children were sent to Maple Hill School, just outside of Grand Marais for their elementary schooling, boarding during the school week with area families close to the school. Eventually the Maple Hill school closed and homeschooling or boarding their children in Grand Marais during the school week was the only option for Gunflint Trail parents, although for a brief period of time, from 1946-1948, Grace Boissenin operated a one-room schoolhouse on Clearwater Lake for Gunflint Trail children.
Cheryl Dailey, daughter of Al and Mary Hedstrom, who owned End of the Trail Lodge on Saganaga Lake through 1965, remembered in an oral history interview with the Gunflint Trail Historical Society the experience of boarding in Grand Marais during the school week: “We’d pack our suitcases Sunday night and so however we got to town over the years, the school bus, Bud Kratoska [owner of Trout Lake Resort] used to come all the way up for us on Monday morning and we’d take our little suitcase and the suitcase would sit at the front of the bus, you know, right where you’d get into the bus and then we’d walk our suitcase down to wherever we were going, you know, staying, and then on Friday morning, we’d have our suitcase packed up and we’d go home.”
Jean Dailey of Seagull Resort drove the school bus from the late ’50s through the mid 60s. She said in A Taste of the Gunflint Trail: “It was quite a task to drive the Trail in the winter. Of course, it was not paved at that time. Many mornings I had to get up early to put an electric heater under the motor to get the bus going. It was often like driving in a tunnel as the snow was so deeply piled on the sides of the road.”
In 1960, when the Marks and their three daughters moved into Tuscarora Lodge, the bus began making daily trips up and down the Trail. Marie Mark remembered in Taste: “Joe [the bus driver] said he would retire when the last of the Mark girls graduated from high school. When we went out to meet the bus on that last day, it seemed to be pulling in slower than usual. To our surprise Lindy [our youngest] was driving the bus and Joe was sitting in a back seat.”
Heading to school remains an adventure for Gunflint Trail children, one that’s been highlighted in both an article by the Duluth New Tribune in 1988 and a feature by MPR in 2010. During a single school year, Gunflint Trail kids will spend 14.5 days on the school bus!