Kiddie Kops

A while back, several of my fellow bloggers were participating in a meme in which they posted geeky photos of themselves as youngsters. I didn’t participate because, well, I’ve always been handsome and sophisticated and thus had no such pictures.

This was reinforced by the photo shown below, which was unearthed by my wife yesterday as she cleaned out a dresser drawer. It was taken when I was in the third grade, attending Comanche Elementary School in Fort Stockton. The motley crew in the photo comprised the school’s Safety Patrol, the name given to the group of boys who were selected to serve as crossing guards on Rio Street, which ran in front of the school.

Photo of crossing guards, circa 1962

As you can tell, we were studs. We got wear those funky white helmet liners (most of which had obviously seen better days) and those awesome white Sam Browne belts (complete with Official Badges which we apparently did need), and four of each crew got to carry the Official Crossing Flags — yellow cloths affixed to white wooden poles (PVC pipe having not yet made its way to west Texas).

Rio Street had the distinction of being the only street in town that had a median, about a block long, and the school crossing went through the middle of that concrete divider. On school days, a team of five Safety Patrollers would solemnly parade out to the front of the school, four carrying the flags and one — which I recall was designated as Captain, the most coveted of all titles — carried nothing except the full weight of the authority of the Fort Stockton Independent School District. Two flag carriers would station themselves on the east side of Rio, and the other two would set up on the west side, with the captain in the middle, on the median.

Whenever civilian pedestrians would approach the crosswalk, the captain would assess oncoming vehicular traffic (most kids walked or rode their bikes to school, so there wasn’t much, ever) and determined the optimal point at which we could cause the most disruption to the drivers’ routines, and called out “Lower the Gates!” (I never understood why they were called “gates.” But, then, there were a lot of things about the third grade I didn’t understand.) Once the civilians were herded across like the helpless sheep we knew them to be, the call rang out, to, um, unlower the gates. Actually, I can’t remember that command. “Raise the gates”? “Lift the gates”?

This photo is somewhat interesting from a cultural perspective. Girls were not allowed on the Safety Patrol. Also, this is a representative sampling of the ethnic makeup of our school…but not of our town. In the year 2000, Fort Stockton’s population was almost 65% Latino. I don’t think the percentage was quite that high back in the 60s, but it was surely around the 50% mark, and yet the boys in this photo are all Anglo. That’s primarily because most Hispanics went to a different elementary school, one that was figuratively and literally “on the other side of the tracks.”

However, the photo is valuable to me because of the memories. Many of the boys in the picture were still in Fort Stockton and in my graduating class almost a decade later. I know the whereabouts of many of them today, even though I haven’t kept up with any of them.

Plus, the photo serves as a reminder of how handsome and sophisticated I’ve always been, even if it cost me a chance to participate in a blogger’s meme.

17 comments

  1. No circles or arrows? How can we make fun if we don’t know which one is you? Are you the 2nd one from the left, front row? The thought of you all on the street in those helmets causes a bit of a giggle. 😉

  2. Sophisticated? Okay, I’m changing my vote to the only one wearing a solid white long-sleeved dress shirt (it probably has the Fire Ant Gazette logo on the back). 😉

  3. Eric, we lived in Fort Stockton just long enough for younger boy to attend kindergarten at Alamo, that school on the southside of town.
    Alas, Commanche was closed, and the students consolidated in the two remaining campuses, Apache on the northside, and a brand new Alamo. The Commanche building is still there, I believe.
    As for ethnic ratio, Hispanics have long comprised 65% or more of the general population of Fort Stockton and Pecos County. Once did a story for The Pioneer that took me back to the 1880s – the last time Pecos County elected a Hispanic to any office, until the 1970s.

  4. Hey, who sent you my second grade class picture?
    It’s eerie how similar looking they are.
    But what’s even scarier is looking ahead about 30 years when every male in Harris County will be named “Ryan.”

  5. I was in a Safety Patrol thingy when I was in elementary school, as well! I’m not sure, really, why we were around, as the crossing guard duties were handled by an official police officer, but I got to wear one of the nifty vests. 🙂

  6. I was in the fifth grade — about age 11 or 12. I mentioned to my parents that I couldn’t quite make out the sign on the wall at church where they posted the attendance numbers (a practice that fell out of favor many years ago, in most places).

  7. So, I was going to guess that you were the only kid not looking at the camera, but given the glasses clue I can’t pick him. :o) So, my guessing is obviously off today. The picture is quite entertaining however. Reminds me of pictures of my dad when he was young. :o) heehee.

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