Today is Crossing Guard Appreciation Day, and the Town of Pelham would like to extend a sincere thank you to those stationed throughout town, rain, snow, or shine, to help kids get to and from school safely. For many crossing guards in Pelham, they have been providing the vital service for many years; the waves and smiles of passers-by on foot or in vehicles are testaments to their presence.
A special thank you to Bill Park, Russ Seniuk, June Warrack, Betsy Waters, Violet Steingart, Tim McArthur, Kim VanVliet, Henry Wutzke, Diana Kun, and Sharon Johnson.
Bill Park, stationed at Haist Street and Highway 20, recalled how he became a stalwart at this particular intersection in a previous edition of the Town’s Life in Pelham Guide, and this is what he had to say:“Back in the spring, a former work mate asked me, “Bill, what the heck were you doing standing on Highway 20, last week, in the pouring rain?”“I’m a Crossing Guard in Pelham,” I told him.Cue a spluttering reply. “You’re a what? How did you end up as a ‘Lollypop Man’?” (Yes, he’s a Brit, and ‘Lollypop Man / Woman’ is how British kids fondly refer to their crossing guards).A few years ago, I was riding my bike up Haist Road hill and about half way up I ran out of steam. I stopped to chat with the Pelham Bylaw Officer who was training a new Crossing Guard.I had been thinking of looking for a volunteer gig, and at this chance meeting an idea was born.Once I made the decision, events happened quickly, and before long I was being issued a set of very brightly coloured jackets, a stop sign, and instructions to acquire a pair of safety boots. Safety boots! Just what had I allowed myself to get talked into?Four years later, here’s a partial, light-hearted, list of attributes that I found helpful (I’m only talking about me, I would never presume to speak for the other guards):
- Children come first: Every child at my crossing becomes one of my kids. Remember that Motorist! Every child has heard me say, “walk don’t run, those drivers only think they’re in a hurry”.
- A 360 degree swivel instead of a neck: Look left, right, left again, behind, right again, etc, and then step off the curb, repeating the above.
- Not enough sense to get out of the rain: On some days in the spring, I’ll stand on that corner in a pouring rain and wonder “Why am I here?” Then along comes a single child, and I know why.
- Learn how to wave: Every police car, fire truck, and ambulance will wave. Every Town of Pelham truck and school bus will acknowledge you. Add every parent, school child, and some teacher. Pelham obviously appreciates the work we do because random people wave for seemingly no reason at all.Stand on Highway 20 in the middle of February; I must be nuts! Yeah, I guess I am. And I love it.”
Ward 3 Councillor Wayne Olson was also a crossing guard in Pelham, and offered his thoughts on the importance of the role:I loved being a crossing guard.It was an opportunity to practice my integrity by coming through day after day for the community. It was an opportunity to practice my perseverance by going out twice a day in all kinds of weather. It was an opportunity to be model service leadership for my grandson. It doesn’t get any better than that!Being a crossing guard requires a degree of skill and presence. They are required to coordinate and communicate their intentions to upwards of a dozen drivers and pedestrians and some of those people are moving at fairly high speeds.Aided by the lights, a high visibility jacket, the rules of the road, courtesy and a sign, you need to let everybody know somehow what they are expected to do. It gets harder when the weather is poor or the drivers are impatient.You quickly learn that a crossing guard’s personal leadership involves direct eye contact and a friendly wave. The drivers are pretty good and they will, almost always, take care of the crossing guard. Always, but always, try to finish up with a polite salute and thank you.Your crossing guard is an important part of the Town staff and service community. After I retired, I missed the social contacts at work. When I became a crossing guard, I once again had wonderful colleagues.I was treated as an integral part of the school community as well and I got to meet so many young families and their dogs. It was always great to see smiling faces in the morning. I can honestly say that I never left my corner feeling worse than when I arrived.