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.

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Attawapiskat

The title of this post is a Cree Indian word meaning, “If white man and red man co-operate, we can really f**k things up!”  Attawapiskat is really the name of an Indian reservation on the western shore of James Bay, in Northern Ontario.  It’s so far north, you can barely see The Harem Master’s back door.

In colonial times things were often done that we are now not proud of, nor happy with the results.  The white men gathered all the Indians, who had made a subsistence living from hunting and fishing, and said, “In return for stealing all your land, you have to live on this reservation, but we will take care of you.”  For over a hundred years the government has thrown money at them, actually, a lot of money, but last year we found that sending money wasn’t the same as *taking care of them*.

Stories leaked to the press about Indians living in squalor, in moldy shacks, and tents, up where temperatures can get down to minus forty.  It doesn’t matter whether Celsius or Fahrenheit, at that level, they’re the same thing.  The white men stuck them on swampy ground.  They have no reliable water supply.  They have no sewage system.  People, especially children, are getting sick from contaminated water.

This is a little town of less than 2000 people.  White men taught the Indians how to live in a town like the white men do.  White men gave them money to support themselves, but white men didn’t teach them how to manage the money.  This is like Jeff Foxworthy talking about giving money to rednecks.  You just know that they’re going to buy a fancy belt-buckle, and an Elvis, Jack Daniels decanter.

In the five years from 2006 to 2011, the Federal Government gave ninety million dollars to the band.  Besides that income, they are receiving royalties from the recently opened Canadian diamond mines, so why are so many living in crappy conditions?  The government has tied its own hands.  All monies are paid to the band, and the government is forced to remain at arm’s length, and cannot tell them how to administrate it.

This town of 2000 has three chiefs, or mayors, each earning $100,000/year.  The tiny town has 18 councillors, each earning (well, let’s say receiving) $90,000/year, as well as other well-paid bureaucrats.  It’s unknown how many are in it, but the school board is also fully paid.  There’s a funny story about the school board.  The school also was full of mould, and derelict, so it was pulled down….and replaced with an arena.  And, now that they’ve got a new arena, they bought a Resurfice ice-machine, made in nearby Elmira, for it.  With all the extras, this machine cost $96,089.55, but it cost almost that much again, to have it shipped north.  It got trucked to Cochrane, sent by train to Moosonee, and sent by barge to the town.  The band already has a 1997 model in the arena they now plan to pull down.  They claim that income from bingo games paid for the new machine, more government money from a Southern Ontario casino paid to get it to Moosonee, and the barge company hauled it for free.

Despite the outrageous shipping-included costs of everything, these people are status Indians.  They pay no taxes, no income tax, no sales tax!  Their $100,000/yr. is like our $200,000/yr.  Other than the few local streets, they are two hundred miles from the nearest road, and yet there are a number of beautiful big sport-utes in evidence.  $40,000 to buy and $50,000 to ship, and gasoline at $4/liter to run them.  The government sent an investigator north to have a look at the situation, but he was perceived as a white man, interfering in Indian affairs, and was forced to leave.  He reported what little he found to a Federal judge, who finally ruled that there were no financial improprieties.

People were outraged; surely there are improprieties – but it’s the hands-off regulation again.  Within their community, they are allowed to make their own rules.  If they want to select three chiefs, if they want to pay them, and the bureaucrats, and the school board, if they want to tear down the school and put up an arena c/w brand-new ice machine, that’s their business.

I wrote recently about a man who asked if it was moral to kill pigs, just so that we could eat bacon.  Here is another place where it seems to be a good idea to ask the question, “Is it moral to revise the statute, so that the government can step in and take care of those who cannot take care of themselves and those they are responsible for?”  It’s the thin edge of the wedge.  I don’t trust white bureaucrats any more than Indians do.  President Ronald Reagan said the most dangerous words were, “I’m from the government.  I’m here to help.”  And yet, can we stand by and do nothing?

This situation spills over into other social areas.  Charities say that they are having increased trouble collecting funds for worthy causes.  Canada sent $25 million to Haiti after the earthquake and still the people have no homes, no food, no safe source of water.  What we do see is even more politicians driving Cadillac Escalades past the shanty-towns.  What we see is Somali war-lords taking Red Cross food before it reaches the people who need it.  I feel extremely sorry for the northern Cree, the common Haitians and the poverty-stricken Somalis, but why should I donate, when I see that my money will not help those in need?

It took several hundred years in England and Europe to establish the concepts of social equality and concern for others.  We can only hope that other sections of the world learn faster.  The Canadian troops have returned from Afghanistan.  BrainRants is still there with folks who are trying to teach them better manners, but it’s a long road.  We can’t even get rid of three petty warlords chiefs in Ontario, how can we change the entire middle-east?  Far too many outside North America think in hierarchies, first me, then my family, then my clan, then my village, then my valley.  Equality, democracy and concern for others are a long way down the scale.  It’s sad, but it’s a fact of global life, that we can only hope and try to change.