Marty Burgenbauch talks drums, bears and buses
Like many Eastern Sierra residents, Marty Burgenbauch has a secret life—by day, he’s a mild-mannered school bus driver, and by night, he holds down the beat playing drums with local band The Jaded Haters.
“You always have to have a second gig in Mammoth,” said Burgenbauch, citing the oft-repeated manta how to make it in a ski town. His second shift, luckily for him, has always been playing music. He started playing the drums at the age of 13 in Costa Mesa (his parents had a garage, so they supported his noisy new hobby). He’s played in so many bands he can’t always remember them all, and sometimes trails off when trying to remember when he played with who (“What band was that when I played with Pat Hogan? County Line, I think…”).
Burgenbauch found his way to a life in Mammoth the same way so many do. “I thought I’d be here for five years, but 30 years later…”
He met his wife Judy when she was bartending in Santa Barbara, where Burgenbauch was attending school (he has a Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Art from UCSB).
“She applied for [teaching jobs] at Round Valley and in Bridgeport,” he said, because the couple liked to ski and they decided they’d spend some time near Mammoth Mountain. “Well, she drove up to Bridgeport, got there, and turned right around and drove back.”
She took the job at Round Valley, and the couple lived in Crowley Lake for 10 years before they both landed jobs in Mammoth and bought a house “right before [house prices] went totally crazy,” said Burgenbauch. Judy now works as a first grade teacher at Mammoth Elementary School.
They’ve managed to raise three kids here, all of whom seem to have the musical gene too. His daughter Cassie sings and writes songs for the Haters, and she also plays with local favorites Bodie 601. Burgenbauch said that sometimes his “second job” kept him up too late and away too long, and “I missed out on some kid time,” but “now I get to play music with all my kids!”
He said that “in a town like this, you have to find some niche that works for you.”
He started his career at the Mammoth Unified School District as a security guard in 1998, a job that was a far cry from his education and his former job at the sports shop at Canyon Lodge.
“When I first heard of the job, I thought, ‘A security guard? Me?’” said Burgenbauch, laughing. He spent two years there, and then a position for school bus driver opened up.
“I’d never driven a bus before, but I drove a Volkswagen van for years,” he said. “Those things make you use your mirrors!”
He’s now seen over 15 years of Eastern Sierra students grace the seatbelt-less vinyl benches of MUSD’s buses.
“I’m picking up kids now whose parents rode my bus,” said Burgenbauch after he extended an exaggerated ‘hello, Adriana!’ to Mammoth High School’s Attendance Clerk Adriana Madrigal, whom he used to drive when she was a senior in High School. “She used to make me call her ‘The Queen,’” he said with a grin, explaining his deferential greeting.
Burgenbauch went about his daily routine on the morning of Monday, December 18, loading bins of interdepartmental mail into the back of his rig to deliver to the various schools.
He joked that he takes a nap everyday in between morning and afternoon runs, but there’s truly no time for that. School bus drivers at MUSD keep busy while the kids are in classes—they help out the custodians, shovel snow, and keep busy around the campuses to get them their full 8 hours of work.
“We used to have a lot more runs,” said Burgenbauch of when he first started the job, “but now everything’s just been scaled down farther and farther” due to District budget cuts. “When people retire or leave, they just don’t fill the position,” (two elementary school teachers, Jeanne Oakeshott and Stacey Posey, left the elementary school last year and were not replaced, which The Sheet covered in “A Rock and a Hard Place,” November 23, 2016).
Burgenbauch himself hopes to retire this year after almost two decades of service. His plans? He and wife Judy just bought a Toyota Tacoma with a camper on the back, and they’re hoping to do some “gallivanting” around the country, though Judy is not yet slated to leave her position at MES.
As time has passed, has he noticed any changes in students? Not a whole lot, although, he says, more students busy themselves with games on their cell phones during the drive to school than they used to. “If kids read a book, that’s great, but not very many of them do.” He’s also seen an increase in parents who believe their children are infallible, which puts him in a tough position when he has to issue a dreaded behavioral violation. He doesn’t like to give those out, he says, but driving a school bus is different than teaching in a classroom—he’s got to keep his eyes on the road, which means that if kids misbehave, it’s dangerous. He’s had to pull the bus over on the side of Highway 395 (MUSD’s Red Bus picks up students in Crowley Lake and Sunny Slopes) more than once.
What’s the most awful thing that’s happened on his bus? “Vomit’s always fun. One day a kid stood up and peed right on the floor.”
Ever have a run-in with a deer on Highway 395? “No, but one driver hit a horse once in Lone Pine coming back from a football game.” Burgenbauch also said he’s had a close call with a bear on Old Mammoth Road. “The thing came skidding down a slope and ended up running along right next to the bus, I could see him in my side mirror. He finally bumped the bus, which sent up running back away from the road.”