Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Looking Back

Paul asked if I've ever written about being bused back when I was a kid. I don't think I have. And I'm not sure I should. It was 20 years ago, and I've actively tried to forget those two years ever since they happened. Just thinking about it today has brought up some extremely unpleasant memories.

But since I was considering writing a blog entry, or even more than one, about it, I decided I'd better do some background checking first. I was very young when the busing started, and I know the history of it is completely muddled in my mind. And not just because I've tried so hard to forget.

I started by checking the on-line archives of the Seattle Times and the Seattle P.I. to see if I could dig up some stories from the era that I think the busing started. Unfortunately, neither on-line archive goes back that far. Then I tried the King County Library Question Line. They suggested I call the school district.

Instead, I called my Mom. She told me that my oldest sister did not get bused, but everyone after her did until Dimmitt Middle School was closed. I remember when the school was closed. I celebrated and said it was the best possible thing that could happen to my little brother, since he wouldn't have to be bused. I was also extremely angry that it hadn't happened a few years sooner so that I could've been spared the long ride.

Anyway, Mom's information meant that the busing had to have started in about 1976 or 1977. Mom said it was originally only planned to be for five years, and it was because the middle school closer to our home, McKnight, was overcrowded... not because of racial integration. However, every single student that was bused or affected by the busing when I was going to Dimmitt believed that it was because of race.

In addition, the original plan called for the group of kids being bused to Dimmitt to then be bused to Renton High School, which has the virtue of at least being a LOT closer than Dimmitt is to my house. However, since I lived two blocks from Hazen High School, being bused down to Renton would have been ludicrous. The parents fought the idea tooth and nail and won.

After calling Mom, I decided to try the school district after all. The first person I got was stunned by the question and foisted me off onto the transportation department. They hunted around and found the person who had been in the department for the longest and asked her, but she started in 1978 and the busing was already going on by then. To make it so that the call wasn't a total waste of time, I confirmed that the busing had stopped in 1987 with the closing of Dimmitt, then asked if there was any similar busing happening in the district now. Yes, students from Highlands Elementary are being bused to Dimmitt (which reopened in 1997), which is also a long ride. I apparently started quite a discussion in the transportation department with my request, as I was on hold for a long time and when they got back to me I was told that it took so long because they were discussing it.

I had to stop by the library to pick up a book, so I popped over to the microfiche area once I was there to get an idea of how far back I could hunt in the newspapers. I was surprised that the Seattle Times fiche only went back to 1980, and the Seattle P.I. was even less useful, going back to 1999. So I checked at the information desk, and they suggested I go to the Bellevue Library, the downtown Seattle Library Main Branch, the UW Library, or even to the Renton Library, since Renton isn't part of any of the library systems and might have its own files that would be of use.

As a very last resort, I called the Seattle Public Library help line when I got home and asked them. They decided it was a "research" question and got my information so they could send an answer when they find something out. I'm perfectly willing to do the research myself, but I suspect I'd end up spending days reading newspapers on fiche and find lots of interesting things that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. Hopefully the SPL folks will find a good starting point for me, and I can finish the researching on this myself.

I have written about Dimmitt before, when I went there for the 3-Day Expo. There's not a lot of detail there, but I did include a couple of pictures of the gym and some hints of what's lurking in my mind. I'm still not certain I want to write about it.