When I was in early elementary school in the mid 1960's, I was selected to be on safety patrol. Now that was a huge honor. I got to have an official whistle and wear a blaze orange belt that had two parts, a strap over one shoulder that attached to a regular belt-like strap. The belts hung in the office on pegs, and before and after school, the safety patrol kids would race to grab their belts and whistles, sling them on, and calmly with authority walk into the hall to enforce civility among the masses.
Sometimes I was selected to be a cross walk guard and I got to take the long wooden pole with a safety flag on the end to the crosswalk and protect all my classmates from speeding Corvairs. I would stand at attention at the edge of the road and hold the flag parallel to the ground, keeping the children behind it and safe from being squashed by a car. When traffic cleared, I walked out into the street, blocked traffic with my flag, and ushered the little kiddies to the other side of the road. I was in fourth or fifth grade at the time. Can you imagine that today? We were given so much more responsibility in those days...
One of the other major duties of safety patrol was to put up and take down the flag of the United States of America, which flew proudly from our flagpole in front of the school. And no, nobody got their tongue stuck to the pole in the winter.
It so happened I had just taken down the flag and was trying to fold it without letting it touch the ground, an offense punishable by death in those days, when I saw a naughty boy running on the sidewalk, a clear violation of the school's safety rules. I blew my whistle loudly and shouted "Hey kid, stop! No running! Stop! I said stop!". Of course he ignored me. But what could I do? I was holding the sacred flag of the U.S. trying to keep it from touching the ground when I wasn't much taller than it was wide. I could feel my blood pressure rise. How dare he ignore a direct command from a safety patrol officer! I wadded the flag up and gave chase, but he had too much of a head start. Grumbling, I finished folding the flag and made my report to headquarters, the principal's office.
My safety patrol experience taught me many things about life.
One, if given responsibility, kids stand up to the task.
Two, parents in the 1960's must have been stoned to let their little children be crosswalk guards.
Three, kids don't listen to other kids in positions of authority.
Four, I love to be the boss.
Five, that rule about not letting the flag touch the ground? It is a hindrance to carrying out law and order in the schoolyard.
Thank the good lord they don't have safety patrol these days. I can imagine kids dressed in camo with tasers and 9 mm furnished by the NRA. The naughty little boy that did not head my whistle? Today he might have been toast.
Ah the good old days...