Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

June 23, 2013

Ed Hungness: Looking back on patrol boy days

In the fall of 1949, I went to school for the first time. My mother took me by the hand, led me to the kindergarten teacher and left me there.

It was an exciting day for me and my first time away from home. The elementary school was located a short block away from our house. I was fortunate to live so close to the school and came home for lunch every day. Like most of my classmates, we walked to and from school no matter what the weather conditions and the only danger we faced was crossing the street. Our safety was ensured by the watchful eye of a fifth- or sixth-grader who acted as a “patrol boy.”

Patrol Boys were recruited from the fifth-grade class and were required to be trained in crossing-guard duties and safety before going on active duty during their sixth-grade year. Patrol Boy training included standing guard with an experienced sixth-grader who taught the newbie all the nuances of a full-fledged Patrol Boy. When school ended for the summer, the trainee received his Patrol Boy Belt and Badge which he was allowed to take home.

As little kids, we looked up to the Patrol Boys. They were the big guys and we were instructed by our teachers to always obey them. To a kindergartener or first-grader, a sixth-grader seemed to be almost an adult. Any student who didn’t obey Patrol Boy orders was pulled out of class and given a scolding by the school principal. The disciplinary action also included a note to his or her parents, which usually was worse than the scolding. Parents never liked getting notes from their child’s teacher.

There was a Patrol Boy stationed at every corner around the school property. He stood on the edge of the curb with both hands extended out from his sides, which required students to line up behind him and await his permission to cross the street. His responsibility was to look in all directions and allow only the students under his guard to cross when no vehicles were approaching the intersection. When all was clear, he would walk to the middle of the street and allow the children waiting at the curb to cross.

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