Friday, May 15, 2015

Sepia Saturday: On Patrol

 Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt inspires thoughts about danger and safety. Every day parents entrust their children to bus drivers who might follow a car too closely or forget to check for sleeping students at the end of their run. At school, students pass through metal detectors and walk down halls monitored by uniformed guards. “Lock-down” is in everyone’s vocabulary. Since the massacres at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech, students’ safety in the classroom is no longer a given.

When I was a student in the 1950s-60s, chewing gum in class was a capital offense. The most dangerous thing we did was run in the halls. There was no uniformed guard to slow us down although maybe a teacher or the principal would call out a warning. Most often though our safety was in the hands of our own:  The Safety Patrol.

Safety Patrol Cradock Junior High 1956
Cradock Junior High School 1955-56

I am not in this photo, but if the school photographer took pictures of the Safety Patrol six years later, then I was in that one. And I was likely smiling as proudly as the members of the 1956 squad.

The Safety Patrol at Cradock Junior High School was a volunteer position. We simply went to the office and signed up. If there was a slot open, we were in. I am not aware of any background check to ensure that we could actually model safe behavior.

Members of our Safety Patrol served several functions. One group stood inside and monitored the halls making sure no one ran. The other group was posted outside on the steps. That was my assignment. We made sure no one entered the building too early – we had to wait for the bell. In the afternoon, I’m not sure what we did. I suppose we held the door and made sure no one fell down the steps. Whether there was more prestige in being assigned inside or outside, I did not care. I actually liked standing on the top step where everyone could be in awe of my little white belt and shiny badge.

During my brief tenure with the Safety Patrol, I was more interested in wearing that belt than recognizing my role in a respected national program to promote safety. Until this week when the prompt sent me scrambling for a topic, I did not know that

  • The School Safety Patrol program was organized in 1920;
  • The American Automobile Association sponsors the Safety Patrol;
  • Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were patrol members, as were a number of astronauts, a Nobel Prize winner, governor, baseball player, and chief justice;
  • The belt has a name:  Sam Browne.
Proceed safely to Sepia Saturday for more stories and old photos.

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. A fun read! I don't think we had an official Safety Patrol Program like this at our schools in Canada.

  2. I have a Junior High Yearbook with a similar binding. I don't think we had a safety patrol in my school.

  3. How cool to be part of something like this in your school days! Our school had the kids that were positioned at the cross walks except the only kids that could do that were boys (which I'm sure has changed now :)


  4. An inventive take on this week's theme. I had not heard before of School Safety Patrols. At my high school in the 1960's, prefects (students in the top class elected to their role) fulfilled some of these duties such as monitoring behaviour in the corridors and on the stairs at break time etc. They all had a badge denoting their proud status! .

    Family History Fun

  5. Safety : In response to a tragic accident, now given much publicity at:
    I want to warn all readers that in UK and Europe, and likely elsewhere, childrens' dressing up clothes (Halloween, fairies, birthdays etc) meet only a fire standard for TOYS and not stringent standards for clothes. Make sure everyone knows this and the inherent dangers. I did not, luckily my girls never caught fire, and I shiver to remember what we bought for them on occasions.

  6. When I was in the 6th grade the school district decided to allow girls to be on the schools' Traffic Safety Patrol Units - Patrols that kept traffic back so kids could cross the street safely to school. There were three girls in the Patrol at my school - my best friend, me, and a third girl & we were "Sign Officers". We carried stop signs & stood out in the street with 'em, stopping traffic. We wore special red sweaters with over-the-shoulder white belts and red & gold hats. It was so 'cool' to be on the Traffic Patrol. Gosh, I haven't thought about that in years!

  7. How interesting. I had never heard of safety patrols before, they sound like an excellent idea. That is a great photo - full of history.

  8. I was a Patrol girl in Portland, Maine in the 1950s; had a belt with badge, just like those in photo. There was a very clever way of folding/winding the belt into a compact roll, with badge on the top! We thought we were The Chosen Ones, you know?

  9. We didn't have a safety patrol but I was a ball monitor- balls were checked out and returned at recess. I was also a cafeteria worker....we served up those canned peas and peaches and entrees like Yankee Pot Roast...back when the cafeteria ladies actually cooked the entire lunches from scratch.

    I loved looking at the spiral binding on the yearbook...we still have that type of binding machine at my school!

    I also noticed that all the girls were wearing dresses...I think until 7th grade I had to wear a dress or skirt to school...then finally we were allowed to wear pants.I am sure it was the same there.

    Happy Saturday!!

  10. I don't think anyone would have volunteered to be in a Safety Patrol at our school. That was the job of the prefects, for which they got all sorts of privileges.

  11. We only had safty patrols in elementary school. The boys could join the one that helped students cross the streets safely on the way to and from school. The girls could join the one that stood on the stairs and told people to walk. You had to be in the 6th grade (highest elementary grade). The boys wore belts like those in your photo. We wore blue arm bands. I especially enjoyed sliding down the banister after everybody was in class.

  12. I suspect that Safety Patrols are an American tradition; I'ver never come across one in the UK unless you count escorted 'crocodiles' when pupils are moved from place to place and the use of lollipop ladies/men for road crossings outside schools.

  13. Great spin on the theme, Wendy. The school safety patrol always seemed to highlight irrational anxiety about unlikely accidents. Tragically in our modern era of paranoia, there are now adults advocating insane ideas to arm teachers and maybe even the safety patrols kids too.

  14. What a fun memory, Wendy. Now who wouldn't be more excited about the belt and badge than the actual job?!

    The school I attended for first through 3rd grades was on the opposite side of a state route from the street where I lived. I don't remember crossing guards, or even a school crossing sign, for that matter. They eventually put a stop light in front of the school. The children could press a button and the light would change so the children could cross. As far as I remember there were never any children harmed by having to cross the street.

  15. I went to a county school and we were transported by bus, and the hiway outside the school had lots of fast traffic -- in those days, Slow Down for School Crossing , only got a passing nod. However, I had a friend from a town school who was on the School Safety Patrol. I was quite envious of her badge and belt. great bit of nostalgia

  16. What great memories you've brought back. I was on the elementary crossing guard patrol - we would stand at designated corners and put up the sign in the cross walk so kids could cross safely. I loved being on station 1 and 2 with my friend - it was at the front of the school and involved two crosswalks so one of us got to stand in two different crosswalks for those kids who had to cross both streets. Station 7 was the one I used to go to my house but it was pretty quiet and we had to stand there alone waiting for kids - hard for someone like me to stay quiet that long.

    How in the heck can I not remember what I had for dinner last week but I can remember the various station numbers from my elementary school?

  17. I wish there was a 'like' button in the comments because I want to like Debi's post above:)
    We never had your Safety Patrols in my school but I would have enjoyed the status symbol of the belt and the little bit of power.

  18. You learn something new everyday. We had Monitors for doing duties around the cloassroom.