Patrol Boy!

Another aspect of getting to and from grade school in Buckeye, Arizona back in the early sixties was getting across Monroe Street, otherwise known as “main”. It was also Highway 80, which would take you to Phoenix if you went east, and to Gila Bend then Yuma, if you went west. It was, by far, the busiest street in town, and therefore the most dangerous to cross. Patrol boys were charged with seeing that the other kids got across the street safely.

Unlike the crossing guards of today, the patrol boy did not accompany the others across the street with a big red stop sign. The patrol boy’s duty was to watch the approaching traffic until there was a sufficient lull for the kids to get to the other side. As you might have guessed, there wasn’t a lot of traffic, even though it was the main thoroughfare. And even if a car came along, they would slow down or stop until the children were across the street.

What the patrol boy did, actually, was stand on the side of the street opposite the school in the morning, and on the school side of the street in the afternoon, with a long pole. The pole was about an inch—maybe an inch and a quarter—in diameter, and approximately six feet long. The patrol boy would hold the pole in front of him horizontally, indicating that the other students were not to pass that point. When traffic cleared and it was safe to cross, the patrol boy would turn the stick vertically, allowing the other kids to pass and cross the street. Pretty clever, eh?

Not just anyone could be a patrol boy. I don’t recall what the criteria was but size didn’t matter, and as far as I know, grades were not an issue. It seems to me it was more of an exclusive club, and you had to be recruited by an existing patrol boy, and approved and accepted by the captain. I do remember it being considered an honor to be asked, and should one be a patrol boy long enough to rise to the top and become the captain of the patrol boys, you had made quite a name for yourself in some circles.

I’d guess the patrol boy is a thing of the past now, and any crossing guards are no doubt adults. I’d also guess that like the schools I see around here, Buckeye Elementary is no different, and there is a line of cars a couple of blocks long each morning and afternoon, dropping off, or picking up the young’ns.

Things change, and you can’t control that with a seventh grader and a long pole.


  1. Sherry Mashburn said

    What? No patrol girls?

  2. gary said

    yes it was an honor and your office was next to the popcycle stand.

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