After more than 50 years of working three, and sometimes four, jobs, Arzell Teamer is finally going to get some rest.
Teamer, who is 87 and lives in the Tabernacle community, retired from the Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals earlier this year after serving in that role for 31 years.
In addition to doing that, Teamer drove a school bus over five decades, cleaned banks at night and maintained a farm at his home.
“I didn’t get many breaks,” Teamer said with a laugh when asked if he even had time to eat lunch.
For the better part of 50 years, Teamer would get up in the morning, pick up students, take them to school, drive his bus back home and hop on a tractor. Around 2 p.m. he would climb back in the bus, drive to school and take the kids home. About 3:30 he’d drive the bus back home and resume farming before heading to the bank and cleaning up there.
If you ask Teamer about all those jobs, the most interesting stories come from his bus driving days.
A couple of friends of his got him a job driving a bus in Mason in the mid-1960s. That was when schools were segregated and just about every little community in Tipton County had its own separate school system.
At first he drove only black students, but that changed when schools were integrated in 1969 and white and black kids occupied the same buses and schools. He eventually drove buses for Brighton High School and other schools.
According to Teamer, “Everybody got along just fine.”
Having children of different races on a bus was not the problem. The problems he had were just typical ones involving misbehavior.
“This one lady, a driver, called hers the bus outta Hell,” Teamer said with a laugh. “For a while they called mine the casino bus.”
It got that name when a couple of boys were caught gambling in the back of the bus.
To deal with those problems, Teamer used communication and faith.
One fellow bus drive gave him the following advice: “We were talking one day, and she said,’Every morning when you crank that bus up, you pray and you won’t have any trouble.’ Every morning I started doing that I didn’t have no trouble at all.”
Teamer also liked to stay in touch with parents.
“One kid got in trouble and I told him I was going to tell his parents,” said Teamer. “When we got to his stop he said, ‘Mr. Teamer, I’m going to make you a promise.’ I said okay. He said, ‘If you don’t tell my daddy, I guarantee you I won’t give you no more trouble.’ I didn’t and he didn’t.”
Another parent walked his three children to the bus on the first day of school and gave Teamer his phone number.
“He said if they give you any trouble to call him,” Teamer said. “I never did have to call him. When I got support from parents I didn’t get any trouble from their children.”
Jeff Morris, the Tipton County Schools director of transportation, is very aware of all the stories about Teamer.
“He loved the kids and really cared about the job,” Morris said. “That’s what makes a good bus driver. He built relationships with the kids and their parents. He’s definitely a legend.”
These days Teamer, who retired from bus driving three years ago, keeps himself busy by maintaining a two-acre garden with tomatoes, sweet corn and other vegetables. He’s battled prostate cancer and recently got news that he’s cancer free.
Now he takes as many breaks as he wants to.