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In 1971, LIFE magazine published a special double issue called, simply, “Children.” In the issue, LIFE’s editors sought to peer into what they characterized as “a secret world”—the world of childhood. One of the sweetest features in the entire issue was a series of pictures by Ralph Morse chronicling the goings-on at school bus stops near his home in northern New Jersey.
As LIFE put it to the magazine’s readers, when introducing Morse’s photographs:
Here, LIFE.com fondly recalls Morse’s photo essay, and the images that capture the intense, singular, “bouncy little society” of the suburban school bus stop, circa 1971.