How Times Have Changed!
By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, March 27, 2018
The photo is NOT me but I did wear a white belt with a student traffic guard badge on it. I remember when it was issued to me; one of the proudest days of my life. In the 6th grade I was selected to be the Captain of the Student Traffic Guards and that too was a special day.
For those who do not recognize the photo, let me explain. Approximately 15 minutes before school would let out and/or start for the day, the student traffic guards would go to the Administrative Office of the school to pick up the 10’ aluminum poles with the STOP flags at one end and then check to see which intersection each guard or guards would be assigned.
We would use the poles to stop the students in my elementary school from crossing the intersection(s) until such time as it was determined to be safe to do so. Then we would step out into the street and extend our poles across the roadway for the purpose of stopping any cars that may come along.
Several things come to mind when I saw the above photo. First and foremost is the responsibility that the schools gave to its 5th and 6th grade students to do the right thing and be accountable for the safety of other students in the school. We learned the value of being selected for the responsibility, for showing up on time regardless of the weather and then acting in a responsible manner while performing our duties.
The second thought I had was that drivers back in the 1950s seemed to be much more respectable on the road than they are today. I currently live on a corner in my subdivision. The corner is a 3-way stop intersection. I have not done a scientific study of how many cars/trucks ignore the stop signs but I can assure you that it must be close to 30%. Of the 30% who ignore the stop signs, more seem to be pickup truck drivers. It is NOT a matter of just slowing down like you might in a rolling stop; they just blow through the intersection with no attempt at stopping or slowing down. Using elementary school students to combat such drivers might be a bit much to ask of today’s students.
Then I thought of how most of us would walk to school every day, rain, snow or sunshine; school buses were used only for students who lived a great distance away from the schools. I don’t remember exactly how far the school was from our home but it would be my guess that is was at least a half mile. So the kids in my area would walk about a mile every school day. Compare that to today’s students who are driven to school every day either by their parents or on a school bus.
As soon as we would arrive home, most of us would immediately grab our sporting equipment as determined by the season of the year, get on our bikes or put on our snow boots and head off to the local playground to play baseball, basketball or skate in the winter. No one was driven, we all rode our bikes or we walked. We would play baseball until it was too dark to play and then go home. I remember skating until 9:00 pm when they closed the park and then trudge home in the snow in the dark.
In 2018 my parents would be arrested for permitting us to do what we did growing up in the 1950s. And if all that were not bad enough, consider this, most of us would drink water directly from the garden hose.
Oh how times have changed. We recently went out to eat at possibly the nicest restaurant in our area. What did I see? Children AND adults on their cell phones while sitting at their tables. I saw men coming in wearing t-shirts and flip flops. Oh how times have changed. It is hard for an “old schooler” like me to accept what appears to be the “new normal”, a “normal” that I don’t particularly like or endorse.
When did parents forfeit their parental duty of instilling manners in their children to the smart phone and tablets? When did it become acceptable to intentionally not stopping at stop signs or traffic lights? When did it become acceptable to dress down when going out? Been to a wedding lately?
Oh my God, I sound like my parents. Who knew? They were right!