If George Pinks had followed the wishes of his parents, there wouldn’t be a Pinks’ Bus Service in Geneseo.
It was in the spring of 1946 and George Pinks had completed a three-year tour of duty with the US Army. He served in World War II as a medic and entering the field of medicine was something his parents, Edward and Alice Pinks, hoped for their son.
Despite his parent’s wishes, George Pinks was not interested in medicine, but was interested in the transportation business.
Beth Pinks Carton, daughter of George Pinks and president of Pinks Bus Service, said her father was interested in getting into the transportation business and it was just a matter of whether it would be buses or trucks.
“My grandpa didn’t want him to do either,” she said. “He was very much against it, but told my Dad that if he insisted on one of those, to buy the buses because kids always have to get to school.” He took his father’s advice and bought a pair of buses and started Pinks’ Bus Service on April 18, 1946.
Beth Carton explained during those first two years that bus transportation was not free, but was paid for by parents, so there were not many students who rode the buses.
The Geneseo School District became the community unit district in 1948 when the State paid for bus transportation and Pinks’ Bus Service began transporting local students in 1948 with a fleet of 14 buses.
Currently, Pinks’ Bus Service oversees 29 regular daily bus routes across the 220 square miles of the Geneseo School District and serves about 1,750 eligible student bus riders. There are also additional routes transporting students with special needs and early childhood students.
Seventy-five years after opening, the company is still going strong transporting students to and from school in addition to numerous athletic events across the state.
Even though parts of the 2020-2021 school year involved remote learning with students in school at home online, the bus company survived and was determined to get students and teachers back in the classroom for the 2021-2022 school year.
“It wasn’t easy,” Beth Carton admits and added that there continues to be a shortage of bus drivers….”Our office staff, Sue Keegan and Nikki Smith and my son, Erik Carlson, and I each have morning and afternoon bus routes.”
She said even with the periods of remote learning last year, Pinks’ Bus Service totaled 385,576 miles, including rides to athletic and scholastic events.
Carton credits her father for the success of Pinks’ Bus Service and said “he was nice, but firm, and tough but fair when it came to business.”
“He was honest, and he really cared about the work,” she added. ‘He learned pretty quickly that as long as he did a good job and operated the right way, Pinks’ Bus Service would be around.”
George Pinks died in 1982 and the family discussed selling the business. Even though many bids were received to buy the business, Beth Pinks made the decision to stay with the business.
“I grew up here,” she said. “I started out painting bus wheels when I was nine or ten years old, and the business has always been part of my life. My brothers, (Bruce and Rod Pinks) left the area, but I made the decision to stay.”
She was at the helm of the business and when she married Jim Carton in 1988 the couple worked together at the company…”Jim became a bus driver and led the safety drills,” she said.
Jim Carton died in February of 2021, but the team of Beth, Sue Keegan and Nikki Smith continue to run the day-to-day operations with a clear cut top priority.
Beth Carton said, “Everything we do and ask the children to do is for their safety. When you’re driving a bus, you’ve got 60 kids behind you. It’s not like you’re in the front of the classroom looking directly at them. Our drivers are tasked with watching the road and traffic, as well as keeping an eye on the children. There’s a lot of responsibility and we take it very seriously.”
She said, “We’re trying to tell our drivers that they truly are essential, but they just don’t get enough credit for what they’ve done over the years, especially since the pandemic started it really speaks to their dedication.”
Many of Pinks’ bus drivers have been with the company for decades and that speaks not only to the vision George Pinks had in starting the company, but also to the dedicated efforts of Beth Pinks, Erik Carlson, Sue Keegan and Nikki Smith, who work together to provide a vital service.
“We’ve always been fortunate to have a lot of good people driving our buses,” Beth Pinks said. “We take pride in what we do, and we go with the flow.”
She noted that there is a need for more bus drivers and anyone interested should contact the company office at 309-944-6417.
IN A SIDEBAR
Beth Pinks Carton, owner/president of Pinks’ Bus Service; and her colleagues, Sue Keegan and Nikki Smith, were recognized at the recent Geneseo School Board of Education meeting and presented with Maple Leaf medallions by Superintendent Dr. Adam Brumbaugh.
“We take so much pride in providing all of our students with a healthy and safe learning environment, from the moment they board the bus to the time they are dropped off,” Dr. Brumbaugh said. “Pinks’ has played a very important role for an incredibly long time, and we can’t thank Beth, Sue and Nikki and everyone who drives buses enough for all that they do. We’d also like to acknowledge Beth’s late husband, Jim Carton, who for over three decades was instrumental in transporting our students.”