When it comes to driving buses, one Jackson County man has years of experience.
William Kenneth McKain II grew up in Seymour, but if you call him William or Bill, he won’t know who you’re talking to.
Kenny McKain, 74, recently retired from the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department, where he was a bus driver for senior citizens for 11 years and four months. Before that, he worked there for three years as a part-time employee.
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McKain grew up in Seymour, and his childhood home used to stand where the the Verizon store is now on Tipton Street.
“I was 2 years old when my mom, Alma Mann McKain Russell, married my stepdad, Wayne Russell. My biological dad, William Kenneth McKain, was killed in the war, where he was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force,” he said. “The McKains were from Cortland, and Mom’s maiden name was Mann, and her family was from the Freetown area.”
McKain said back in those days, going to ballgames was big stuff. You had to fight to get tickets for the ballgames, and those who wanted to go to the sectional had to get tickets through a drawing, and the seats were assigned.
“I worked several places after I graduated from Seymour High School in 1964,” McKain said. “I was working as a machine operator at Cummins when I joined the National Guard in November 1965 and had to go to basic training. That was during Vietnam time.”
He said the reason he joined the National Guard was because some of the guys he worked with joined. He was the same age as them, so he thought that was something he could do, too.
“I was in the National Guard almost 37 years, but I’ve never been to Iraq or Iran or anyplace like that,” McKain said. “But I’ve been through riots and hurricanes. Then back in the 1960s, I went to Gary, Indiana, and walked down the street with a loaded machine gun because there were riots over who was going to get elected, but the right guy won.”
McKain’s unit got deployed, but he stayed because he worked for the National Guard full time at Camp Atterbury.
“I was a mechanic in the military, and mechanics had to drive everything they worked on, and I worked on Jeeps, Dodge trucks, Chevy Blazers and Humvees,” he said. “One day, you might work on a tank, and the next day, it might be a little generator. So I did that for over 20 years, and when I retired in 2005, I was the heavy movable equipment foreman.”
McKain said he had to go out of state several times, including Aberdeen, Maryland, Fort Carson, Colorado, and other bases inside the United States, for training, schools or one thing or another.
McKain and his wife, Vicki Peters McKain, married in May 1968, and they have a son, David McKain, who lives in Seymour, and a daughter, Ann Stanton, who lives in Columbus.
“I met Vicki one night when I was standing on the street corner in the middle of Seymour with a bunch of guys, and she came through town in a convertible with some girls,” McKain said. “The one guy I was with said he knew one of the girls, so by the time the light turned green, we were in the car with the them, and away we went.”
Vicki was from Vallonia, and that was the first time McKain had ever seen her. Little did he know she would one day become his wife.
“After I retired from the military, we went on a couple of trips that we enjoyed, but when we were back home again, I got bored and there was nothing to do,” McKain said. “I went to the school and got my commercial driver’s license training. Then after that, I started working part time for the school and part time for the transit here, too.”
McKain said after awhile, he starting subbing for the school, the transit and the Seymour Parks and Recreation bus.
“So when the parks and rec job became available, I decided that would be more fun. You can drive a busload of kids or you could drive a busload of seniors and stop at Dairy Queen,” he said. “You don’t have to tell them to sit down, and they’re pretty laid back as long as you’re taking them somewhere.”
McKain said he enjoyed that part of it, and some of the places they went were to Seymour City Hall, Seymour police and fire departments and Amish country in Loogootee.
“We also went to the landfill in Medora and drove the bus all around, and they really enjoyed that,” he said. “Then there was the Belle of Louisville and Derby Dinner Playhouse, and at least three or four times a month, we’d go to nursing homes to eat and play bingo.”
McKain worked with Brenda Wolka, activities director for the Seymour Community Center.
“She planned all the trips and made all the calendars for where we were going, and we worked on those things together,” he said. “Now I don’t know when they’ll be able to do those things again.”
Wolka said Kenny was great with the seniors, and they all love him.
“I only worked with Kenny a few months, but he was a pleasure. He really took pride in his work,” said Stacy Findley, director of the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department. “He loved to tell jokes and make others laugh.”
McKain, who still subs as a bus driver, said it wasn’t too hard to learn how to drive a bus.
“You’ve just got to watch the other guy,” he said. “Drivers don’t want to get stuck behind a bus because they know you’re going to turn those flashers on and let somebody out.”
Now that he’s retired, McKain said he is still halfway bored, but he and Vicki still go on short trips once in awhile. Also, he has a garden and likes to visit with the grandkids, and he’s happy they live close by in Columbus.