One hundred Yellow Buses and the Man Who Owns Them All
Stationed along U.S. Highway 2 on the outskirts of Rugby, more than 100 buses sit in a lot belonging to Hartley’s Buses.
Hartley Hageness got his start in the school bus business in 1969 when he petitioned the Rugby School Board to take over a few of the district’s bus routes.
He then started Hartley’s Buses in 1970, eventually becoming a Bluebird bus dealer in both North Dakota and Montana in 1973.
“We have seven school bus routes in Montana and another seven or eight in North Dakota,” Hageness said in an article published by the Minot Daily News in April of 2014. “We furnish the buses and the drivers. We also have charter buses that operate on the road. We’re quite busy with that.”
In August, Hageness counted a total of 154 buses on the property. Since then, around 30 have been sold between Central and South America. The question on everyone’s mind still remains, why all those buses?
The obvious use is for the schools, but Hartley’s does much more than provide school transportation and yellow school buses. Hageness said church groups use some of the buses for trips and transportation, while others buy the older and cheaper buses to use as chicken coops or for storage and parts.
“This time of the year is especially busy for us because a lot of places are calling for new buses for the start of the school year,” Hageness said. “I’ve got a lot going on here.”
As he finishes that thought, he takes a call to confirm an order. Hageness laughs with the customer on the phone often, mixing in business talk with a joke or two. “I have the bus, it came in this morning. It’s being cleaned and having lettering put on it,” he said. “Did you still want those pink polka dots put on it, too?”
Hageness described himself as a people person who has done a lot in town. He grew up on a small farm near Rugby and has served on many boards, been a member of multiple community organizations and has taken part in a lot of the goings on in the Rugby area. In his lifetime, he has served as Rugby Chamber of Commerce President, has been active and held more than one position in the Lions Club, and was a member of the Port Authority. As a pilot, he also has flown many Rugby High School students over the years on Prom Night.
“I like dealing with people,” Hageness said, simply, when asked why he continues going to work everyday. “I told someone, ‘I’m going to work until I’m 85, then I’ll be shot by a jealous husband.’ That’s just me.”
Hageness is scheduled for surgery on his back next week, but he hasn’t let that slow him down when it comes to his business. “I hope to be doing better, soon,” he said.
For someone who has been running a business for 46 years, he still loves what he does every single day. “I’m still the same guy. I’m still in the same place.”
In a large office that is decorated wall-to-wall with congratulatory plaques all stating his outstanding efforts in the school bus business, Hageness looks fondly out the window at his 100-plus buses on the lot. It is a sight to see, and one that will be remembered by all those who pass.
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