From the late-1960’s to 1980, a big, green bus was often seen at Central Catholic. Fondly known as the Shawn, Shawn the Leprechaun, the mini-bus served as transportation to and from football games as well as for two different groups of students – a service group called YCS (Young Christian Students) and the Lance staff (the high school students who worked on the yearbook).
Shawn included a variety of amenities not often seen in buses, including odds and ends sofas and chairs, an 8-track deck, a cooler, and an awesome green hue. With no seat belts and the unconventional seating, the bus held 20-30 kids, which allowed everyone to travel together as a group. The students would tell stories and sing songs, furthering a sense of camaraderie.
“It was like going down the road while sitting in someone’s living room or apartment,” said Rena Loro Aiken, class of 1976 and photo editor for her senior yearbook. “We loved it. It was really a fun way to travel.”
Shawn was driven by Fr. George Loner, who was the staff adviser for both the Lance members and the senior class YCS group. The trips the students took with Shawn and Fr. Loner offered an opportunity to broaden the students’ horizons and gave them a chance to go on trips they otherwise would never have been able to take as a kid. The trips were definitely fun, but educational, too. The 8-track tape deck provided a variety of popular music as Shawn got them to their destination. The Beatles, Chicago, Simon and Garfunkel, Boz Skaggs, and Earth Wind & Fire all made the trip go a little faster. But Fr. Loner also encouraged the students to listen to classical music and experience other activities outside of their comfort zone.
“Fr. Loner would plan special things – special restaurants – along the way,” said Aiken. “He was always good at trying to gear the excursion to what we were into…but he would also try to bring some class to the trips.”
Some of the excursions included service trips for YCS, such as the Appalachian spring break, or the annual Lance staff trip to Clarksville, Tennessee to pick up the finished yearbooks. But many of the destinations were simply for fun. Some of trips included:
- skiing in Michigan and Wisconsin
- camping in Brown County
- visiting horse farms and a dinner theater in Lexington, Kentucky
- attending a Bachman Turner Overdrive Concert
Shawn took a major detour on the Clarksville, Tennessee trip to St. Louis where Fr. Loner ensured that the students were able to experience some of the city by going to a Cardinals game, listening to jazz on the river, and visiting the botanical gardens. And with a priest as the chaperone, Mass was offered on all of the trips.
“I’m just really glad Fr. Loner gave us those experiences,” said Aiken.