Photos Rob Smith
Native Roman Bobby Goosby had a dream when he was growing up in East Rome. He wanted to be a bus driver. That is all he ever wanted to be. He made good on that dream at age twenty-five; fifty years later, he is still driving buses through the streets of Rome, going strong.
Goosby was born in Rome in the wake of World War II. He grew up with his five siblings, including twin sisters, in the home of single mother Eliza Goosby. The family home was half of a duplex in East Rome that was in the very center of present-day Banty Jones Park. Charles “Banty” Jones, for whom the park is named, owned and operated a one-pump service station located where the park’s basketball pavilion now stands and lived with his family in a house next to it. Jones was a neighbor who Goosby remembers as an important influence in his life, always there to give help and offer wise advice.
As a boy, Goosby was fascinated with buses and dreamed of growing up to be a bus driver. When nine years old, he would run a make-believe route through his family’s home, pretending he was driving a bus, loading and unloading passengers at different imaginary bus stops scattered throughout the rooms.
About the same time Goosby taught himself the rudiments of how to drive. Capitalizing on the presence of an old, junk car, he would sit behind the wheel, pressing the clutch with his left foot and moving the gear stick through the gears, pretending he was accelerating and slowing down by working the foot pedals. He had only an inkling that he was preparing himself for his life’s work.
After finishing at East Rome’s Mary T. Banks Elementary School, Goosby attended Main Junior High School, a distance away from East Rome. He rode a bus every day to and from school, which fed his interest in buses and bus driving. The only bus service for school kids at that time was that offered by Rome Transit Department via its city route buses at a cost of ten cents one way. Mrs. Goosby was paying $3.00 per week to transport three children to school, not an insignificant amount in those days.
Notwithstanding the monetary cost to his family, riding the bus to-and-from Main Junior High was not idle time for Goosby. Each run, he would position himself at the front of the bus for the sole purpose of observing the driver’s movements and routines in driving and picking up and unloading passengers. The dream of being a bus driver remained an indelible image in his mind.
An extraordinary work ethic
Goosby continued riding the city bus during his three years at Main High School, continued observing the driver, imagining himself behind the wheel. Though he did not participate, he vividly remembers the day his sophomore year when a large number of Main High School students marched from school to downtown Broad Street and simultaneously visited four different lunch counters, sitting in seats they were not welcome to sit in, to protest Rome’s restaurant segregation practices.
At age eighteen, just before his senior year, Goosby quit Main High School. Eliza Goosby was having difficulty raising her family as a single mother and Goosby felt the responsible thing for him to do was to forego completing school – he later would earn a high school diploma via GED – to help his struggling family.
For the next seven years, Goosby worked a series of jobs to provide income for his family. His first job was as a delivery truck helper for Coca Cola; he then worked in the Coca Cola Bottling Plant on Fifth Avenue, where the Rome/Floyd County Law Enforcement Center is now. Upon leaving Coca Cola, he took his first driving job, driving a delivery truck for Hank Sanders Wholesale Grocery Supply. The desire to be a bus driver was still vivid in his thoughts.
It was in doing these jobs that Goosby began developing an extraordinary work ethic. He had the foresight to try to learn as many work skills as he could, should he need them to find work in the future. As he says in looking back on his work life, “I always worked, was always giving my best.”
His boyhood dream realized
Not long after he turned twenty-five, Goosby heard from a friend on the Rome police force that the transit department was seeking a driver. Securing a reference from his police department friend, he applied and on October 1, 1971 began driving a bus for the Rome Transit Department, his boyhood dream finally realized.
Back then, Rome Transit drivers worked roughly sixty hours of straight time per week – there was no overtime. Every two weeks, Goosby netted around $300.00 pay for his family to live on.
Finally, Goosby was living his boyhood dream. Part of that dream, however, had always been that he wanted to be a boss, someone who drove a bus but who was also in charge of other drivers and routes.
His work ethic, his drive to always give his best paid off. After only four years as a driver, he was promoted to a newly created position, becoming Rome Transit’s second route supervisor.
For thirty-eight years Goosby would remain both a driver and route supervisor until his retirement from Rome Transit Department in 2009.
Commitment & love for the job
Retirement did not mean he stopped working. Though no longer a supervisor, he continued working part-time for Rome Transit as a driver, still working a near-full week. When Rome Transit was forced by GDOT to relinquish its school bus system and it was taken over by the Rome City Schools, which began new service October 1, 2020, Goosby went over to RCS and began driving a regular school bus route.
Christina Buffington, Regular Education Route Coordinator for Rome City Schools, recalls when Goosby started with RCS at age 73. “I had the pleasure of doing some of his training because at the time he didn’t have the required school endorsement on his license. He was concerned about it but kept putting in the hours, doing the training and was able to obtain the endorsement. Bobby helps us get the job done. His commitment and love for the job is like none other I have seen. We feel fortunate to have him by our side doing what he loves best.”
Each day Rome City Schools is in session, Goosby comes to its bus yard at 6:10 AM to pre-trip his bus and go out on his route picking up kids for school. When they are delivered and school has started, he parks his bus, then heads over to the Rome Transit bus yard to drive a para-transit bus for a few hours until it is time to go back to the RCS bus yard for his afternoon school run. At age 75, between his two jobs, he puts in a forty-hour week, still doing exactly what he dreamed of as a boy.
Someone cares and loves them
One of the measures a person may be gauged by is what they give their time to. Goosby has spent his life living his dream, driving buses and supervising others. That is only part of what he has given his time to.
Sometime in the early 1990s while transporting school kids of all ages, he noticed that many of them were less fortunate than others. They often lacked the books and school supplies needed to do well in school. He determined to do something about it.
Goosby founded Members Only Civic Club. When asked what the purpose of Members Only was, he replies without hesitating, “To urge kids to stay in school, to be drug free, to go to church and Sunday school, and to let all kids know someone cares and someone loves them.”
The main thrust of Members Only was an event held annually the last Saturday before Rome City Schools began in the fall. The event was called “Kids’ Day.” Fittingly, Kids’ Day was held in Banty Jones Park because, as Goosby says, “That is where my homeplace was.”
Kids’ Day was no small event. There was plenty of food prepared by individuals as well as served by local vendors. There were numerous games and activities for the kids to absorb themselves in. Members of the local law enforcement were present, not for security but to mingle and show the kids that they were their friends. Each child was given a large bag with a full array of school supplies and other necessities with which to start the school year. All kids were welcomed and there was no admission charged.
Usually between five and six hundred kids attended. Many, with the help of Rome Transit Department, were bused in from all parts of Rome.
He had help from interested friends of Members Only and some help from local churches, but Goosby was the driving force. For every Kids’ Day a program was printed. Each year he would work on Kids’ Day for six months leading up to it, visiting area businesses (after a full day’s work) to sell ads for the program and garner donations. He spent additional time overseeing the logistics of food, activities, transportation, procuring the school supplies for the kids’ bags and other details. Goosby is candid to admit that it took a great deal of work, most of it done by him in his spare time.
For twenty-five years Goosby gave of his time, his efforts, his thoughts and his prayers in putting on Kids’ Day through the arm of Members Only Civic Club.
There is heaven, and that’s it
When Goosby is asked his view of Rome and what it was like for him as a Black man born before the era of civil rights and living his life in the rural, small town South, his answer is thoughtful, given with a strong measure of feeling. “I was born in Rome, I was raised in Rome, I am familiar with Rome. I love Rome. I don’t really talk about it. Life in Rome is not perfect, but it is better now than when I was growing up. I just work, go to church, mind my own business, and I’ve tried to get along with everybody. There is no Black heaven and there is no white heaven. There is heaven, and that’s it.”