PASCO -- It was the year the first Boeing 747 was delivered. The Beatles' Hey Jude topped the charts. The nation mourned Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. A sandwich called the Big Mac went on sale nationwide.
It was 1968 when Marilyn Van Hollebeke took a temporary job driving a school bus for the tiny Star School District northeast of Pasco.
She stuck around a little longer than anticipated -- Van Hollebeke drove her last route this week. The septuagenarian retired after 43 years in a little yellow bus in the little district.
Twelve students are enrolled in the district this year, according to state records. All of them go to a small elementary school on the windswept plain of farmland between Pasco and Kahlotus.
Never miss a local story.
Once they reach middle school age, they can choose whether to attend schools in Kahlotus or Connell, said Star Superintendent Rich Puryear.
In the beginning, Van Hollebeke drove kids to the little schoolhouse among the fields. But for at least two decades, she has driven farm boys and girls to Connell, logging about 140 miles each weekday.
She said she has no idea how many miles she has driven over the years. But given the length of her route and the years she spent driving it, she safely transported kids across at least 800,000 miles of rural Franklin County roads.
What was the hardest thing about driving all those miles?
"Winter," Van Hollebeke said without a moment's hesitation. "It's a little different up here on top."
Much of her route is at a slightly higher elevation than the Tri-Cities, and roads get icy sooner in the cold winds blowing across the fields. She and the other drivers have adapted to driving under those conditions, Van Hollebeke said.
It was slick on Tuesday, when she made her last run. But that wasn't hard -- saying good-bye to the kids was.
"I get emotionally involved with them, like (I'm) their grandma," Van Hollebeke said.
She often carries homemade treats on the bus.
"Kids are hungry when they get out of school," she said.
The veteran driver used to decorate her bus for the holiday season, but state law prohibited that some years ago. She does still play recordings of an old-time radio show called Cinnamon Bear, which was popular in the '30s.
She will miss the kids who live on farms spread out across the county, she said.
"They're all such good kids," Van Hollebeke said. "They have such good discipline and manners."
And they have provided her with stories to tell.
One time, bumping down a gravel road, a little boy in the back shrieked with delight, "There's a kitty in the bus."
The boy bent down to pet the "kitty" -- and it fluttered away. A bat had hitched a ride.
"After I stopped, it landed right on the steps by the door," Van Hollebeke said. "I gave it a little heave-ho with my clipboard and we moved on."
Another time, a boy known for his vivid imagination was riding the bus. When Van Hollebeke pulled up at the boy's stop, he said, "Oh, there's my pet snake."
Never sure if that young man was dealing in fact or fiction, Van Hollebeke asked him to get back on the bus, pulled up a bit and went to check the spot.
A rattlesnake sat on the side of the road, and Van Hollebeke flung it aside with a stick.
"It was just another adventure," the driver said. "If you don't have fun and adventures, there's no sense in living."
Anyone under 40 who lives on farms near the Pasco-Kahlotus Road at some point relied on Van Hollebeke to get to school.
"It's been a blessing to be part of the community and the kids, and to watch them grow up," she said.