'It was just me and him': Al Roker's fond memories of dad
With Father's Day drawing near, TODAY's Al Roker is remembering his late dad, Al Roker Sr., a longtime New York City bus driver.
To Roker, he had the greatest job in the world.
"He was the best bus driver there was and he took a lot of pride in what he did," Roker said.
Every morning, Roker Sr. would get his bank of money and his transfers. Then he'd go out into the yard, get his bus, check it over much like a pilot checks over his plane and take it out for that day's service, Roker recalled.
He had different routes, but Roker always remembers him driving on Flatbush Ave.
Roker used to cherish going with his dad in the morning and seeing people saying, "Hi Mr. Roker, how are you?" or "How you doing?"
"I wouldn't trade that time for all the tea in China. It was just me and him, even though there was a bus full of people. I was watching him driving the bus," Roker said.
The father and son would stop for a bite to eat, get sandwiches, and then sit in the bus and eat their lunch -- usually accompanied by a Yoo-hoo chocolate drink.
"You couldn’t have a trip on the bus without a Yoo-hoo," Roker recalled.
Roker's dad would sometimes sit with the child on his lap, then he'd work the pedals and the younger Roker would steer.
At that time, the quintessential bus driver in New York was Jackie Gleason — “Ralph Kramden” — and the family used to call Roker's dad “Ralph” behind his back, Roker recalled.
In fact, the depot that Roker's dad worked at — the Fifth Ave. depot — was torn down, rebuilt and renamed the Jackie Gleason depot.
Roker had a lot of friends and he didn't know what their dads did for a living, but everybody knew that Mr. Roker drove a bus.
"He took a lot of pride in what he did," Roker said. “I was just as proud of him as he was of all of us.”
By the time Roker's dad retired, he was an inspector but one of his proudest moments was getting his dispatcher's badge — it is one of Roker's most prized possessions.