Yellow school buses filled with excited and boisterous children pulled into Holdingford schools’ parking lots the morning of Sept. 7, the first day of school. One by one, the buses lined up. Drivers wished students a good day at school as they opened their doors, releasing students onto the sidewalk. 

This scene, however, was missing something, or rather, someone. For the first time in 52 years, one person would not be there for the first day of school, nor the days that follow. Holdingford’s longtime school bus driver, 80-year-old George Platz, made the difficult decision to retire from his bus driving career.

“Retiring was not an easy thing for him to do. He didn’t want to stop,” said Platz’s daughter, Heather Zeimetz. 

After years of wear on his body from farming and bus driving, back issues forced Platz to resign from the position he cherished.

“It took time to admit it and resign,” he said. 

March 2021 was the end of his career. On his bus, bus No. 12, a number he had for the last 20 years, he called the school to say, “goodbye, bus No. 12 signing off.”

“It’s hard for all of us,” Zeimetz said. 

Platz, fondly called “Homer” by friends and family, is known for his sense of humor. With a pin in his hat and a badge on his vest commemorating his 50-plus years of bus driving service, given to him by Zeimetz, he joked and shared stories of his time bus driving.

“I wish I would’ve kept a diary, I could’ve written about something every day,” he said.

Platz has driven every route in the Holdingford district along with driving students to field trips and for a few civic organizations, mainly the Knights of Columbus. For several years, he drove five routes a day, 

“There’s probably not one road I haven’t been on,” he said.

For 17 years, he had the kindergarten noon route, where he became known as the “singing bus driver” by students. He would sing and the kids would sing along with him.

“We never needed a radio,” he said.

The children were what he enjoyed most. Seeing their little smiles each day made Platz happy.

“He loves the kids and the kids love him,” Zeimetz said.

“And they all respected him,” added Kaitlyn Zeimetz, Platz’s granddaughter. 

Platz learned patience, understanding and respect for the children, and he loved driving. Driving in inclement weather conditions did not faze him. He embraced it.

Throughout his career, he drove his four children, four of his 10 grandchildren and even his future wife, Doreen Platz, who is 10 years younger than him.

“We used to joke we drove to school together,” he said.

Platz, who was 25 when he started driving bus, met Doreen a few years into his career. Doreen rode on Platz’s bus route as a high school junior and senior.

“She caught my eye,” he said. “I guess that’s what I enjoyed most from bus driving, I met the love of my life.”

Fourteen years after Doreen graduated high school, in 1983, the two married.

In his career, Platz had two bosses, the last 25 years, it was Rodney Ebnet.

“Ebnet was a great boss. It was a pleasure driving for him,” he said.

Platz chose to drive bus as a side job for extra income while dairy farming on his family’s farm. The two jobs worked well together, he said.

In addition to dairy farming and bus driving, Platz held several other jobs throughout the years, including being a Holdingford police officer in 1962 and ’63 and working at several area creameries. He retired from dairy farming January 2001. His son, Joe Platz, took over the farm where he currently raises black Angus beef cattle. 

“I still putz around on the farm,” Platz said. “I take care of the thistles around the fences. That’s my job.”

Platz and his black lab, Buddy, are nearly inseparable. Together, they ride in a side-by-side Ranger, visiting the farm and family.

“He’s got his seat, I got mine,” Platz said.

“That dog is so spoiled,” Zeimetz added.

Platz figures he will be doing more Ranger rides with Buddy, now that he no longer drives bus. Along with the beef cattle, the Platz farm has goats, chickens and cats that Platz likes to care for. He plans to find other hobbies to fill his time. 

Platz has no regrets choosing to drive bus. He loved every moment of it and will cherish the memories for years to come.

“If I could live my life over, I would definitely be a bus driver again,” he said.