When I was in 6th and 7th grade, I was a “patrol boy.” I was given a white Sam Brown belt (a 3″ white belt with an angled strap from one hip to the opposite shoulder). And I was given power. I was the capo di tutti capi (or one of them) for Lincoln School in Mt. Prospect. Donna was a patrol girl back in Rye, NY.
I stood at the street corner. When kids wanted to cross the street, I would thrust my arms out to the sides (“don’t go“). When traffic slowed, I would step into the street and shove my arm into the air – stop! And cars would slow and stop. It’s a patrol boy. Kids would cross. I would step back and motion the drivers with an “as you were” wave. 6th grade.
Today, you see crossing guards who are older than dirt. Some look old enough to be my grandfather (or grandmother). Now that’s old. Not as nimble as a patrol boy. They wear iridescent vests, reflective hats, and they carry a monster “STOP” sign. A few look like they’re geared up for a SWAT team. I remember seeing one old guy wearing a helmet.
I always wondered why the patrol boy era came to an end. Probably lawyers. And parents who worry about giving their child authority. Autonomy. Power. Risk. I frankly think it would be great if we could resume the patrol boy (and girl) era. Think about the sense of responsibility. Confidence. Growing up. Yes – I know it’s a different time. But it’s still the old protecting versus insulating children (see my offering of 11/21/13). We want to give children wings. And roots.