AAA is proud to celebrate its School Safety Patrol program’s centennial anniversary. For 100 years, Patrollers around the world have provided school-age children an extra sense of safety and security when going to and from school.
Closer to home, countless students across the Northeast have participated in the program and gone on to become leaders in their fields and communities. But no matter where life has taken them, they still fondly recall their AAA Safety Patrol experience.
Here are just a few of our members’ stories.
I very distinctly remember my Safety Patrol experience. It was during my fifth grade school year (1973-1974) at Washington Elementary School. We were handpicked to be patrollers by the teachers assigned as our councilors. Being a patroller taught me how to work successfully, independently and also as part of a team. We were the first ones at school in the mornings getting ready to man our assigned posts, school driveway, each corner of closest intersections with crossing guard, U.S. flag duty, etc. It taught me great leadership skills I still use to this day. Both my daughters were Safety Patrollers at their elementary school in fifth grade, with one taking her patroller experience to the next level to become a police officer.
As I look back on it now, it was such a rewarding leadership position that I still talk about to people to this day.
I was a Safety Patrolman at Locust Avenue Middle School in Danbury, Conn., from 1955-1956. I was the first to volunteer in my school because I was already a Boy Scout and felt this was just a calling and it sounded like something very special to do. I became the captain of my group because I managed to get eight of my classmates to also join. This may have very well been my first leadership role that led to so many new experiences and leadership roles.
I have been a member of AAA since the 1970s, as a young adult. I am now 67 years old and have used AAA services many times. It has always been a great experience and helped me more times than I can count, especially when I experienced a predicament with a car (such as my dead battery a year or two ago in subfreezing temperatures, out on the road).
In 1962, I was Nancy Carlson. I was 10 years old and attended Margaret L. Keefe grammar school on Pine Street in Hamden, Conn. (It is now the Keefe Senior Center.) A teacher organized the patrol and described it as a great responsibility and service to my school. I thought it would be great to help kids, especially the little ones. I remember being assigned to a specific street corner and making sure kids crossed safely. It was great to feel that I was helping kids stay safe on their walk home from school. There were no buses, only walkers. I was introduced to the patrol in fifth grade, and in the sixth grade, at age 11, I was elected as captain of the Safety Patrol. It was probably my first experience with leadership, although I do not recall the specifics of my responsibilities. It gave me confidence and a sense of pride and responsibility that started me on a road to helping others. I became a speech pathologist in the public schools in Bristol, Conn., and recently retired after 39 years. I mostly worked with special education preschoolers, continuing my feelings of confidence, responsibility and pride in my work. I am attaching a picture of my captain’s Safety Patrol pin. I still have it after all these years!
From the first day I began kindergarten at West Boylston Street School (Worcester, Mass.) in 1966 I wanted to be a patrol leader! In those days, students were home for lunch and at the end of the school day in lines patrolled by one older student. I was excited to be able to wear the belt and yell “lines out” as the head patrol leader would shout everyday if the students behaved well!
However, such an honor was bestowed by the principal on fifth and/or sixth grade students only. My year would come when I was offered the junior patrol leader position in fifth grade. I would lead the youngest of the students home. I could not have been more excited! To wear that patrol belt and lead was such a thrill for me. My sixth grade year would begin with the honor of head patrol leader. I still can feel the excitement on a sunny day screaming “lines out” as we neared a few of my last neighborhood streets!
David L. Clark
In 1954, I was a 10-year-old fourth grader when I was appointed as captain of the Safety Patrol at the Waterford School in Blackstone, Mass. As noted in the records of the Blackstone Historical Commission, the Waterford School was constructed in 1865 by Welcome Farnum, a local mill owner. Blackstone is located on the banks of the Blackstone River, which was a well known center of the textile industry in the Northeast. The school was a two-story wood building on a raised granite block foundation consisting of four large classrooms. It has since been replaced by a CVS.
This was indeed a proud moment in my life and instilled a sense of purpose, duty, service and responsibility. My post was at the intersection of Blackstone and Main streets. Upon my command with a raised arm, the other patrollers would lower their flags to stop traffic and allow students to safely cross a busy Main Street. I felt like I was an integral part of the law enforcement community in that part of the world. Upon reflection, perhaps that experience was the basis for my ultimate career choice: I was an FBI special agent for 31 years.
The school safety position taught me another important lesson about not exceeding the limits of my own authority. While I was on duty, a motorist intentionally disregarded the patrollers’ lowered flags and came to a sudden stop directly in front of my post. I immediately recognized the passenger as the local bully named Alex. When I confronted Alex about the reckless behavior he responded by picking me up and throwing me into the bushes!
Dr. Dick Lejava
My school patrol duties started in about 1950 while in Garfield, N.J., Grammar School (#4) Washington Irving. The reason I wanted to be on the school patrol was that I felt like I was helping my classmates to stay safe while attending school each day. Being on the school patrol taught me that I had a duty to my fellow student’s safety as well as always being on time and to never shirk my duty. It taught me to be responsible each and every day, no matter the weather! My classmates also looked up to each and every school patrol member and we all did it with pride, satisfaction and responsibly. All these lessons stayed with me all my life, and I guess it helped me to achieve my goal in later life to become a doctor.
One side story: I was voted as the captain on our school patrol.In my last year I did not have a steady post but walked around to each post to make sure everyone was at their duty assignment. I struck up a friendship with one motorcycle patrolman on our police force as he would be at the busiest corner each morning and afternoon. At times, while he was helping to direct traffic, I would somehow manage to be at that corner to say hello and somehow I’d manage most times to sit on his motorcycle, which being a 12-13-year-old was the greatest!
In 1952, my last year on the school patrol, my friend the patrolman gave me a silver dollar. I am sorry to say that a few years later while the motorcycle patrolman was leading a funeral procession on his motorcycle he was struck and killed in the line of duty. From then on I squeezed that silver dollar he had given me a little harder and cherished it and always kept in in my pocket until I moved up to Cape Cod to practice. One day my receptionist who worked for me lost her brother who also was killed in the line of duty due to a traffic accident in my hometown and I saw how it had affected her and her family. I thought about my friend and said I had to try and find his son to give him the gift his dad had given to me. With my persistence I found him living in New Jersey; I think he became a principal in one of the schools in one of surrounding towns. I sent him the coin with a letter explaining how I had obtained it. In return I received a beautiful letter thanking me for my kind gesture and how appreciative he was. I hope he still carries that coin in his pocket. I know he will pass it on to his son and think of his dad as I did, and what a beautiful person he was and what an inspiration his dad was to me.
I attended School No. 5 in Paterson, N.J. I was a safety patroller in seventh and eighth grade in 1952-1953. I wanted to protect my fellow classmates. You had to go stand out there and cross kids in the morning. You had a strap and a badge. I had a captain badge, a blue one. I think I was picked because I was the oldest of six kids. It taught me to always abide by the rules (laughing). We always did follow the rules, especially when my husband became a police officer. We could never do anything wrong!
I served as a fifth grade safety patrol guard at Clifton, N.J., elementary school #9. My most remarkable memory was of Nov. 22, 1963. I served with a male classmate as the guard on the kindergarten bus, as those students were picked up and dropped off separately from the other students. An announcement was made over the loudspeaker that school was being dismissed early and to prepare for immediate departure. Puzzled, my fellow safety patroller and I headed out to the kindergarten door. When we got to the bus, we found the bus driver in a state of shock, listening to the radio. He told us the president had been shot. At the end of our school year, we traveled to Washington, D.C., to march in the 1964 Safety Patrol parade. The evening before, after dinner, we climbed to the top of the Washington Monument. It was extremely hot and very crowded but the view was amazing!
I recently retired as an audiologist after more than 40 years and always found many of my early experiences working with and interacting with small children extremely beneficial to my career. Serving on the safety patrol also helped greatly in developing time-management skills, you had to be on time for the bus and you had to be all set with all your books and assignments at the end of the day. It gave me an early lesson on the value on being depended upon. Thank you.
Edward P. Welsh
As I recall, back in 1965, there were two things I wanted: the new Ford Mustang I saw at the New York World’s Fair and to be a member of the AAA School Safety Patrol. I did get the Mustang as part of the Aurora HO Scale Electric Race car set that Christmas, but the School Safety Patrol badge was something that had to be earned. The upperclassmen students that participated in the School Safety Patrol were highly respected by all and represented the best of us at PS 100 in Queens, N.Y. Most of the kids I hung around with wanted to be a part of that elite cadre. Being a good student and staying out of trouble were key attributes for those who wanted to join.
It was a proud day when I took my post as a member of the School Safety Patrol. My shiny badge had the famous three AAA’s embossed on its surface. We learned that AAA protected the rights of motorists and my job was to help protect fellow schoolmates under the supervision of Mrs. Grinnell. The most important lesson I learned was the value of service to others. That lesson followed me throughout my life.
Many years later, my affinity for AAA was renewed when I applied for and was hired by the AAA National office to work as an automotive field representative in New York state, which was the beginning of a 34.5 year career. Until my retirement, I felt the same pride working every day at AAA as I did standing on the corner at PS 100 helping to protect my classmates. I credit much of my success to those lessons learned as a School Safety Patroller and will be forever grateful to AAA for allowing me to wear the badge.
Just saw the article celebrating the 100 years of School Safety Patrollers and it brought back fond memories. I attended Elementary School PS 154 (Queens) and was a patroller from 1965 (fifth grade) until graduation in 1966 when I was captain of the squad. I signed up because a friend was on the squad. I remember having the vinyl safety sashes and badges. It was an honor to be selected. I learned how to be dependable and to schedule the morning, lunch and afternoon coverage of the four intersections around the school and any after-school activities. It was a great experience. Although it was 54 years ago, I have the small metal plaque that I was presented by the school principal to recognize my involvement on the squad when I graduated from sixth grade.
Thanks for the memories.
In the 1940s and 50s, I grew up in the Bronx and attended PS 114. As did most of the boys in my class, we went to Hebrew School four afternoons a week, Monday through Thursdays, though our families attended synagogue only on the three days a year of high holidays in the fall. (I would join my father and uncle for a bit during the services.) An ultimate aim was to be bar mitzvah (age 13), which I was in June 1956. (Girls at that time had an age-15 “confirmation,” not the bat mitzvah many Jewish girls, including my daughters, have these days.)
When I was perhaps 10, in 1953, I decided that I might as well learn how to run a service, so I went on a Saturday morning to a children’s service. We attended Temple Adath Israel on the corner of the Grand Concourse and 169th Street; the auditorium for the children’s service was entered from the 169th Street side. I sat in the back one Saturday and started to take notes. Almost immediately, someone came over and told me that I wasn’t allowed to write! In principle, I had known that in that “conservative” denomination, you weren’t supposed to write (or drive) on Shabbos, but everybody I knew (and my whole family) did.
Anyway, banished from the religious service, I devoted more time to the school safety patrol. I had a white belt that went over my shoulder and around my waist, of course, and a badge. Soon I had the red-backed badge as lieutenant, as I recall, and then I got the blue-backed captain’s badge. So I remember my school safety patrol captaincy as my main religious responsibility for much of those three years until my bar mitzvah.
It has been joked that if you have mice in your house, just bar-mitzvah them and they’ll never come back! That’s what happened to my friends and me, once we had our religious services and bar-mitzvah receptions. Mine was at the Concourse Plaza Hotel, with friends/cousins and others present. And I no longer had responsibility for the school safety patrols, though I always feel especially kindly toward the crossing guards I see.
I was on the school Safety Patrol at Covert Avenue School in Elmont, N.Y., from I believe 1954 thru 1957. We had the white belts as I remember. Also the captain had a blue shield and the lieutenant and sergeant had red and green. I signed up because I wanted to help the school and I also was in the Cub Scouts at the time. I figured it was a good way to “do a good turn daily” and “always be prepared.” During one afternoon in 1956, I was patrolling the school bus pickup area at the school. As one of the busses left with the students to take them home, a student didn’t see the bus moving and ran in front of the bus. Somehow I just ran after him and pulled the boy to safety on the other side of the drive. As other adults came running, the driver who was quite upset for not seeing the boy thanked me for my deed.
Later that year at an assembly, I was presented with the AAA Distinguished Service Award for my actions. I still have the medal engraved with my name and “1956” in my possession. From then on I always seem to be volunteering to assist others through Boy Scouts (where I’m still an active leader), American Legion vice commander, official Red Cross volunteer, BOE inspector and volunteer at the VA Hospital in Northport, N.Y.
In 1957, I was a School Safety Patroller at Randall Holden Elementary school in Warwick, R.I. I was in the sixth grade and assigned to help children cross Warwick Avenue. April of 1958, I, along with a boy at my school, was chosen to travel to Washington, D.C., and march in a big holiday parade. I don’t recall the holiday. We traveled by train and stayed at the Annapolis Hotel for the weekend.
During our stay we were taken to many of the sites by bus. When visiting the White House I saw President and Mrs. Eisenhower get into their limo. I was so excited! After leaving the White House one of the three buses transporting us was in an accident. I don’t remember anyone being seriously injured.
The day of the parade was beautiful! I can remember being so proud to represent my school, city and state. After the parade we made our return to Rhode Island. It was an experience I never forgot.
Kathryn R. Levine
I do not recall whether I actually applied to be a patroller and really don’t think that was the case. Rather, I believe the school authorities asked if I would take on that role. I considered it an honor to be asked to do so. I was issued a white safety patrol belt and badge and I believe I may also have had a flag on a pole. It was my job to help safely cross students from the opposite side of the street to the side on which the school was located. I believe I had the job when I was in the sixth grade at Warren A. Sherman Elementary School in Warwick, R.I., and that would have been the 1957-58 school year.
Although I was proud to be asked to serve in this leadership role, my greatest memory from my participation in the program was that I was one of the patrollers selected to go to Washington, D.C., to represent our state patrol program. Kids came from all different states and we got to visit the national monuments, sleep in a hotel and march in the Cherry Blossom Parade! For the parade we had to dress all in white and were issued red safety patrol belts to wear just for the occasion. We felt mighty important indeed!
I am not sure if any studies have ever been done looking into the connection between school safety patrol programs and later leadership roles or volunteer work done by former patrollers. I think that would be a worthwhile study. As for myself, I went on to become a school psychologist and then a director of special education. As a young mother I fostered newborn infants and cared for them until they were formally adopted. I also taught Sunday school and raised two boys of my own. Later, I became a hospice volunteer and, in connection with that service, I became and remain a member of a hospice threshold choir. Our group sings at the bedsides of those transitioning from this life.
I cannot say that being a safety patroller directly led to any of these lifetime activities. But I can say that I was then and am now very proud to have held that position. Oh, and one last thing: My husband was also a School Safety Patroller!
Michelle G. Traub
I was amazed to see your call for stories on being in the School Safety Patrol because I had just been telling my boyfriend how much I had enjoyed that role. I was a patroller at Tiogue Elementary School in Coventry, R.I., from 1985-1986.
We were allowed to join at the end of fifth grade. I had admired the sixth graders who helped patrol the school and knew I wanted to join as soon as I was old enough. I was actually attending Washington Oak Elementary School at that time. I remember we were meeting in the gym to discuss who would be captain of the patrol. My friend Michael nominated me unexpectedly, and then it was taken to a vote. Two of us were selected as the final candidates. We had to turn our backs to the group while our peers voted. I was sure I wouldn’t be picked, as the other girl was much more popular. When I learned that I had won I was amazed and so proud. But then a few months later we learned that our school districts were being reassigned and I would be attending Tiogue. I was a bit worried that the new school might not have a safety patrol. However, once the school year started the new principal already had me assigned to the role. My task was to walk the kindergarten students to their bus. They were always such bundles of energy and nerves. Since I remembered being a very shy and timid 5-year-old myself, I loved being able to comfort and support them as they made their way home safely. I still remember the little ones who were on my bus. It felt like they were my siblings.
I think the role gave me a lot of compassion for children. I had initially planned to be an elementary school teacher, but once I started college I found a greater passion for health promotion. I ultimately went on to become a registered dietitian and am now a writer. However, my love of children never left. I have utilized that in a very important role as an aunt to 13 nieces and nephews.
Cathy Rounds Waldron
In 1960, when I was in sixth grade at Park School in Warwick, R.I., I saw the principal talking to my teacher. She stood at the head of my class and announced that Cathy Rounds was chosen to be a Jr. Police! (That’s what we were called.) I was given a red sash and a red flag with the word “Stop” on it. My post was at the top of my street where it met the main drag going to my school. It was pretty calm every day because back in 1960 everybody walked to school since most of our moms stayed home and most families had just one car, which dad took to work.
Then, towards the end of the school year, I was chosen to take a trip to Washington, D.C.! We went by train (my first time), stayed in a hotel (my first time) and of course saw all the sights: the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Arlington and many more exciting things. As a young girl who had never really been anywhere, it was quite the experience!
Learn more about the AAA School Safety Patrol program.