Tuesday, January 30, 2007


As I said before, Dickerson Road and Shwab Elementary School (which is now PK-4 only) in Nashville, Tennessee hold a lot of memories for me. I was eleven years old, getting kisses under my belt (not literally, that came later), smoking my first cigarettes (more on that later), and working hard in school for the first time. Before the fifth grade, I do not remember working as hard as did for that teacher (cannot remember her name), and probably never worked as hard for another until Ms. Bunch for senior English in Harriman, Tennessee.

Kissing and smoking aside, I have always wanted to stand out as someone who worked hard and could be trusted. One of the few things I remember getting from my dad is his work ethic, “If a man pays you a dollar to work for him then give him a dollar’s worth of work.” I have always tried to uphold that philosophy in the workplace. I did not give the same effort in all my school studies, being able to make decent grades without hard study. I often wonder what else I could have become if I had applied myself, although, my career path turned out well.

The chance to be noticed in the fifth grade came during recruitment by the school for “Safety Patrol” members to assist the “Traffic Guard Officer” with traffic control before and after school.

Wow, those guys got to wear neat looking bright red-orange and reflective vest with white crisscrossed belts that met and fastened in the front with a shinny gold plated buckle! Plus, they carried long poles with a big red and white canvas STOP sign on the end. What color, what power, and who could miss me!

I went to a meeting where the Traffic Guard, a rather large black lady that talked very loud, gave her spiel and psyched several of us into volunteering for duty. She only had to hold up the uniform, as it were, neither my eyes nor ears ever saw or heard anything else.

After going through the routine several times in the gym, we were graduated “Safety Patrol” dudes and ready to protect our fellow classmates as the crossed the dangerous four lane Dickerson Road.

Along with another new recruit, I spent the first morning observing how the older guards performed their duties, before taking our turns when school let out in the evening. All I could think of was how proudly my girlfriend looked at me that morning as I passed her trailer on the way to “work.” The uniform had done its thing!

The Traffic Guard blew her whistle and shocked me back to life. This was going to be a cinch!

That afternoon, I got up in class before the bell sounded, another perk, and donned my “uniform.” Out of the corner of my eye, I could not help but see my girlfriend and others checking me out. My chest swelled as I strode to door and ran into the hall.

Out front, near the crosswalks, the others were gathering. I was handed one of the long poles, maybe ten feet in length, and I walked to my position while an experienced patroller stood nearby. “When she blows her whistle, just look back down the road and put your sign out in front of the next oncoming car,” he directed, “Nothing to it.”

In the distance I heard the bell sound and watched as kids poured out the front doors, headed for buses and waiting cars, and on toward the crosswalks. My stomach tightened a little and I looked back over my shoulder at the cars whizzing by the school. “What would it be like,” I thought.

Suddenly the Traffic Guard Officer raised her white gloves in both directions at the side of the curb and blew loudly twice!

Instead of looking around and stopping the next car with enough time to slow down, I immediately dropped the pole right in front of the next car. The poor drive had no recourse but to lock the brakes and slide in under and bumping my pole!

The sound of screeching tires and the smell of rubber was not easily missed and the Traffic Guard glared at me and pointed at my tutor, who simply shrugged his shoulders to say, “Ain’t my fault!”

I looked over at the driver, and he was yelling something in a foreign language I did not understand until the sixth grade!

I then looked around to see if anyone else important had seen me screw up – all was clear, and eventually I became an accomplished “safety patroller”, that even I was proud of.


Fathairybastard said...

Is that you in any of those pictures? Yet another great story, right out of Andy Griffith or Leave It To Beaver. I bet you ran the film projector too. The chicks did dig the uniforms back then. By the time I was that age it was the late 60s, the establishment was out of fashion, and I took endless hell from the other kids for being in the cub scouts. The chicks, fickle as ever, had decided the shaggy, unbathed look was preferable, and dad would have none of it. Haircuts every week whether I needed them or not. Pathologically uncool. Nice post. You fashioned a warm and fuzzy recollection there.

EC said...

I'm with commenter number 1 - your stories are the absolute best. Ever think about writing an autobiography or a book about all your great experiences? I'm being serious here, your recollections of past events have such a flair and excitement to them!

bozette said...

Wow You made that sound so dreamy.
I want to be a crossing guard now.
To bad I'm to darn old.

Ranger Tom said...

Ah, the good old days... I was a "SAfty Patrol Officer" myself in grade school...

Under the supervision of Sister Mary Adolph Eichman or the order of the Blessed Sisters of the Stormtrooper.

No wonder I became a cop later in life. I had it down pat by 7th grade!

michele said...

*L* What a great story,,,macho man in the making!

Mushy said...

Thanks guys for the great comments - yes, in fact, this will be self-published one day in order as best I can make it. However, it's for my grandchildren and will probably never go any further - just like Cross+Hairs!

Mushy said...

P.S. No, none are me, and I couldn't even find my 5th grade picture. Maybe it didn't happen!

Miss Trashahassee said...


I always wanted to be one of them safety patrols, but the P.E. teacher gotted to pick 'em all an' he ain't wanted me to be one.

You was one of the favored ones. Great story!

Jose said...

Gotta love your stories.

BRUNO said...

I wish I could make people feel GLAD to be "well-seasoned"(a.k.a., OLD!)like YOU do when you write! Always look forward to your "past adventures"!

phlegmfatale said...

Fantastic story - your Safety Patroller tale - it really conjures another time and place. Charming!

Anonymous said...

Well Mushy it did happen. I was a school patrol boy also. My spot was across the highway from the school, in front of, If I remember it was a little ice cream shop. All of the guys that were school patrol boys had the white across the shoulder and around the waist bands, with a big badge that said school patrol. We were a select few.
I recall doing the same as you one morning but I had been a patrol boy for a while. The longer we were school Patrol we got just a little bit more cocky i guess you would call it, every day.
Mushy you also didn't tell that the road we worked was called Dickerson Rd or 31W a four lane.
One morning during a mistying rain we all put on our yellow raincoats and hoods that went with them and started to go to our post. The back of the bright yellow rain coats said AAA school Patrol and also Davidson County sheriff's department. That was the kicker (sheriff's Dept) we were bad. We were also the envy of all the others and the girls really liked us.
That morning like yours started and became a little boring. I thought I would take my 10 ft cane pole with a red and white STOP flag on it and so some testing. I wondered how far a car would go if I just dropped the flag, right in front of it.
I decided to go ahead and try it to find out,so when the school mom blew the whistle I just dropped my pole and instead of a car it was a tractor Trailer Rig hauling cattle. Wow did he ever try to stop but couldn't. The front of the truck broke my pole and it went a few feet up ahead of me. As I looked with surprise I noticed that the truck was hauling cattle how cool could that be.
All of a sudden a stream of hot liquid came from the truck and just drowned my Raincoat and bottom of my pants in Urine, Cattle urine. Yuck what a smell...
I walked down to the school patrol mother and told her that the truck had tried to stop but couldn't and while standing there I got soaked by the cattle,
To make the long story short I did get to go home and take a bath and change clothes. My thoughts of ever doing that again ended at that moment.....

Josh Graves Jr.

Mushy said..., just now found that you had commented on this post. What a wonderful feeling to get a confirmation that it all did happen!

Thanks guy. And my God bless you and yours!