Safety Patrol

When I needed to go to elementary school, the school building was too small.  There were eight rooms.  I’d have thought that grades 1 through 8 would have fit nicely.  A couple of the rooms must have been used for music or other training.  My grade 1 class was in what was known as the band-room, in the town hall, two blocks from the school.  The town band had practiced there and the town council had used it for meetings and weekly bingo games.

Back then, a grade 8 education was considered adequate, with many students getting jobs on nearby farms, or in one of the four factories in town.  The eight-room high school was under-utilized.  My grade 2 was in the high school building, next to the elementary, with rowdy teen-age boys running us down.

In grade 3, I finally moved into the “proper” building.  A steel bar had been installed from the ceiling to half-way down the rail of the front stairway, to prevent boys from sliding down the banister.  The building is now part of the Bruce County Museum, and there is a note at the top of the stairs.  You can stand at the top and sight down a 3/4 inch deep groove in the treads, on the rail side, caused by boys dragging their feet, as they slid down.

Grade 4 was across the hall.  The first day back after the Easter vacation, we all picked up our desks, and marched across the playground to our home in a freshly finished new school building, which now included a Kindergarten.

Forward-thinking for 1954, one of the new things established, was a safety patrol.  Four or five students from both grade 7 and 8 were chosen to help safeguard the welfare of the other children.  They had to be level-headed, somewhat of a leader, and of sufficiently high academic standing.  School hours were from 9 till noon, and 1:30 to 4.  The Safety Patrols were allowed to leave fifteen minutes early to go to their assigned intersections, and were expected to stay until all students had passed on their way back to school, so they might be a bit late.

The Patrol Officers (ooh, that sounded important) were given a bright-white waist/chest belt combo, with a shiny shield clipped to it.  There were no lollipop paddles or blocking a street for children crossing.  Cars had the right-of-way.  Patrol Officers stood at various nearby corners and watched for cars.  If an oncoming auto was spotted, they were to raise their arms, and students were expected to wait till the arms were lowered, to cross safely.

As I came through grades 5 and 6, I kinda thought I might enjoy the prestige of being a Safety Patrol, but I didn’t hold my breath.   When I entered grade 7, I was not surprised when I wasn’t tapped for the job, but about the end of September, I was surprised when the Assistant Principal told me I was in.  Apparently Miss Safety Patrol couldn’t fulfill her duties and I was the first runner-up.

Not only did I get the sparkly white Sam Browne belt and shiny badge, I got a book of summonses.  I could write tickets.  If I saw things like fighting, bullying, running out into the street, throwing sticks, stones or snowballs, I could hand out a ticket.  I gave the duplicate stubs to the Asst. Principal, and the offending student had a week to report voluntarily, to get a lecture and warning.  I had to issue one to myself.  The kindergarteners and Grade ones were let out the same fifteen minutes early, to keep them from being buffeted by the older grades.

I was nearing my assigned corner and thought I’d toss a snowball at a post.  I missed the post, but hit a Grade 1 girl in the face, when she suddenly ran up and dashed around the corner.  I got my lecture, and an explanation of why not to throw snowballs.  I also had to go to her house and apologise to her and her mother.

The next year, I was assigned a more dangerous intersection on the highway.  There was a Grade 1 girl who I was supposed to escort to the corner, and assure she crossed safely.  I guess I didn’t exude enough authority.  She would not walk with me, insisting on running ahead, and crossing on her own.  The street we took was in full view of several classrooms, and I was often spotted running after her.

The Asst. Principal called me in for a talk, and I thought I might be chastised, but he just told me that he was aware of her behavior problem and had a talk with her.  From then on she held my hand and behaved well.

Child Safety Patrol Officer to adult Security Guard, that’s about the extent of my social powers.  The recognition is nice, but I’m too much of a loner and free-thinker to want to control others.  Although, if I could get one of Paul Blart’s Segways, I might want to patrol a mall.