Wednesday was a special day for local school crossing guards.
Ontario Traffic Council organized the first Crossing Guard Appreciation Day in municipalities across the province – including Tillsonburg – recognizing the individuals who help ensure students commute safely to and from school each day.
Allan Morrison, who assists students on Tillson Avenue in front of Annandale Public School (K-8), has been a crossing guard in town for the past nine years.
“I was over at Rolph Street to start with,” said Morrison. “And then I was up a Quarter Line / Concession, and then I came here (Tillson Avenue).”
Morrison, 68, has three shifts each day – mornings (8:30-9), noon hours (for the older students) and afternoons (3:20-3:50).
Retired after working for the provincial government for 30 years, he continued to work odd jobs for various businesses.
“Then what I said was, ‘What I’d really like to do is be a school crossing guard – have the summers off and set holidays – and that week there was an advertisement for a position in the paper. It was just the right timing.
“I like the hours, the time off. And it pays for my ‘mad money’ for golfing, fishing… my entertainment. Go to the movies, go out for dinner once in a while.”
He doesn’t know students names, but he recognizes many faces each day.
“Like this year one, she’s always first out the door at 3:30,” Morrison smiled.
Occasionally the weather is one of the drawbacks to the job, said Morrison, especially when it’s slippery.
“Cars don’t always slow down the way they should… it’s a 40 km/h zone but they go through here at 60. And when it’s wet and damp and snowy…”
Morrison, who received an official thank you from the Town of Tillsonburg Wednesday, was also thanked by students. But that’s not uncommon, he said.
“These kids are pretty polite – some of them I see three times a day and they thank me every time.”
All vehicles and cyclists are required by the Ontario Highway Traffic Act to stop and wait until children and crossing guards have cleared the entire roadway at school crossings before proceeding, and for the most part drivers are cooperative, said Morrison.
Now and again he gets a ‘what are you holding me up for?’ snarl. And even an occasional grumble from a parent with child.
“I say ‘I’m not working for you, but I will help you get across – don’t grumble at me,'” he laughed.
Phil Barrett, 66, a third-year crossing guard, works the morning and afternoon and afternoon shifts at Quarter Town Line and Concession.
“I love the kids,” said Barrett. “Talking to them, seeing them each day. I really enjoy it.
“Retired? I was retired… until I started doing this,” he said with a smile.
Like Morrison, Barrett notes the weather might be one of downsides of the job.
“I can’t say it’s one of the best things… but it’s Canada. I manage it, I dress for the weather. It’s what it is, you can’t change it. On days like this (Wednesday) it’s awesome.”
Barrett received a thank you card Wednesday from Dan Smukavich, the town’s Communications/Crossing Guard Coordinator-Supervisor (also Property Standards and By-Law Enforcement Officer), and a thank you card from Westfield Public School on Tuesday signed by students.
“Most of the students I get are from Westfield, I don’t get many from Monsignor O’Neil.”
Even though the Quarter Town Line and Concession corner has a four-way stop, Barrett said a crossing guard is necessary because motorists do not always abide by traffic rules.
“This is a race strip – slow and go through – some don’t even stop. I think it’s because they didn’t have stop signs here years ago.”
It’s also a unique intersection for crossing guards because he needs to keep changing corners to accommodate the students.
“My eyes are always going, my head is always turning.”
The students, he said, “are very good, they’re awesome – the kids are good.”
CROSSING GUARDS NEEDED
The Town of Tillsonburg employs eight school crossing guards, and is currently looking to fill
positions. If you are interested in serving your community in this capacity, please contact the
Tillsonburg Customer Service Centre at 519-688-3009.
“We greatly appreciate the services our crossing guards provide,” said Mayor Stephen Molnar in a media release.
“They’re out there every day, in all kinds of weather, ensuring our youngest residents remain safe when crossing busy streets. There’s no question their services make our community safer for everyone.”
Tillsonburg residents were encouraged to show their support and appreciation for neighbourhood crossing guards on Wednesday, March 20, but you can show your support year-round by remembering to… S.T.O.P.
Stop – when a school crossing guard raises his or her stop sign.
Take – notice of whether a guard is on duty and slow down when approaching school crossing locations.
Obey – the law by remaining stopped until all children AND the guard have completely exited the roadway.
Proceed – with caution, obeying posted speed limits, and observing all ‘No Stopping’ and ‘No Parking’ signs.