CENTERBURG — A historic school bus, a 1923 Model T Ford, the first Centerburg School District bus, will become a part of the Centerburg Historical Society after the Centerburg Public Library and Historical Society voted Thursday night to pass a resolution to accept the donation from Mel and Patty Hardin.
The Hardins recently purchased the bus at an estate auction. Mel told the News he made arrangements to borrow the money to make the purchase after he learned there were two people from out-of-town interested in buying the piece of Centerburg’s history.
The vehicle has been a point of interest at the Knox County Agricultural Society Museum at the Knox County Fairgrounds for the past 20 years. It was owned by Centerburg residents Holly and Wilma Hall, who restored it and loaned it to the museum. Both have passed away and the Hall trust decided to sell it. Hardin, who is an antique car collector, said there were collectors from Florida and Arizona who were interested and he felt it should stay in Centerburg.
With the library and the historical society on board to accept the vehicle donation, Hardin is working to restore the bus as well as looking for community support to help him pay off the loan.
The bus was first built on a wagon and pulled by horses. In 1928, the bus body was removed and mounted on at 1923 Ford Model T truck chassis. It carried 13 students. It served until 1936, when it was set aside. Holly Hall discovered it 20 years later axle-deep in mud. Already an antique car collector, he pulled the Model T out and did an extensive restoration that included rebuilding the wood spoke wheels and acquiring an engine, according to Hardin.
The vehicle was driven several years, usually in parades in Centerburg and other events. Then Hall loaned it to an antique truck museum in Erie, Pa., in 1966. With the Knox County Agricultural Society Museum well established he returned it to Mount Vernon. Hardin said he will, with the help of other antique car restorers, work this winter to put the old bus back in working order. The wood body is in good condition with the Model T mechanical parts needing the attention
Hardin has set up a fund with the First-Knox National Bank in Centerburg, which has already received donations. Hardin said the doesn’t feel raising the money will be a big problem. He said he will canvass businesses in the area for donations.