I have looked to this day for more than two years. For me, this day is a celebration of small-town strength and selflessness. It is also the day I will finish posting about the Chokio Bus Rescue. The blog will remain on my website indefinitely.
This project started and ended with the wonderful Chokio Review. Just three days after the heroic rescue in 1967, the brand-new owners of the newspaper had a nearly-full front page of information about it, including photos of the stalled bus.
This page has been saved and carefully preserved by many. When I found my mother’s copy, it sparked my interest in writing a book about the rescue. When reality set in, I decided to create instead a blog on my website, where I could write about the memories of those involved in or related to the Chokio Bus Rescue.
Kay Grossman, editor of the Chokio Review, was warmly enthusiastic about the project, and kindly used her news columns to invite participation. Later Nick Ripperger, owner of the Chokio Review, gave permission for me to post the original news coverage and images of the front page on my blog.
And finally, on January 19, Kay plans to reprise the story of the Chokio Bus Rescue in the pages of the Chokio Review, fifty years to the day since the original rescue coverage was published.
Community newspapers are the lifeblood of small towns.
Likewise, a school is the heart of a small town.
Chokio and neighboring Alberta combined schools the same calendar year as the Chokio Bus Rescue, beginning in the fall of 1967. This was just one of many decisions school leaders had to make over the years to keep their local schools viable and the children safe.
Responding to the crisis of a stranded school bus quickly became a community-wide effort on Monday, January 16, 1967. Everyone did what they could do and tragedy was averted.
And so, for most of the people interviewed for this blog, memories of the Chokio Bus Rescue are positive. The people I talked with tended to focus on the success of the mission and the uplifting outcome.
Readership of the blog was modest, as I had made no effort to promote it. For that reason, I am making a .PDF document available to those who would like the blog in its entirety in electronic form.
There is no cost for this copy. Simply email Julie@JulieSorenson.com and I will reply with an attachment of the .PDF.
While actually getting a book published might have better preserved the story of the Chokio Bus Rescue, at least this blog may have pulled the story of this heroic event just a few decades back from eventual oblivion.
And maybe, like me, there will be a little preschooler, safe at home on a blizzardy night, who hears the story of the Chokio Bus Rescue, and is touched by the wonder of what strong and selfless small-town folk can accomplish by working together.
With gratitude to the Chokio Review and all who shared their memories,
Julie Stillwell Sorenson
P.S. Special thanks to my mother, Donna Stillwell, and my sister, Lisa Benusa. Your unwavering support and encouragement made it possible for me to take this blog from an idea to a finished product.