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Here’s a post for all those people who were Ottawa School Safety Patrols over the years keeping us kids safe at crosswalks and intersections. Thousands and thousands of people did this job while they were still in public school — just like this young lady from Manor Park Public in 1971.
So many people were safety patrols that this post got an incredible 362 comments. People wrote in from all over the city to say what school they went to and what intersections they patrolled for dozens of schools from Manor Park to Barrhaven and Orleans to Kanata, as well Gatineau, Aylmer and other places even farther away.
Every school had its school patrol back in the day, but not anymore. It’s mostly it’s done by adults now, but the experience really stuck with the kids who did it in decades past. They remember the responsibility they felt, the belts they wore, the occasional danger, as well as the cold! There were, as you will read, however, rewards.
This is a pretty story, so dig out your popcorn — or your safety patrol belt!
(City of Ottawa Archives CA050800)
Barbara: Is this something I should have thrown away 50-plus years ago?
Jean: Wow, Barbara, 1957! My birth year and you were already protecting the world.
Barbara: That’s right my “young” friend!.
Monica: I was a patrol at Rockcliffe Park Public School in the ‘60s, and we took this task very seriously.
Elizabeth: I was a patrol and remember being so proud to have that job!
David A: It was a great honour and a great responsibility.
Michel M: I wore my belt with pride and responsibility at Queen Mary Public School in 1966.
Minx: A couple of my younger brothers and I were patrols at Gowling in the mid-to-late 1960s. It made us feel very important and responsible.
Cecile: I was a patrol in Grades Five and Seven. It was weird. I felt like it was my duty!
Christine: It was a great opportunity, and a time when kids respected the role.
Sarah: I was a safety patrol for Mutchmor in the late-’60s. I loved the authority and the belt (channeling my inner army/police officer?), but I didn’t love standing on the corner of Fifth or Fourth and Lyon in February!
Tracy: Growing up we had bus patrols, and everyone wanted to be one because it meant you were the only one allowed to walk up and down the aisle of the bus while it was moving. Such power.
Sharon: I agree! I was a bus patrol on River Road near Manotick and if you were the front patrol you got to open and close the door!
Freddie: I was at Queen Mary School In the late 1970s. I remember we patrols had “police” badges according to our rank.
Kathy: I was a Captain! Pretty impressive stuff in the 1980s. I had to go up and down Anna Avenue for St. Elizabeth’s Elementary to check on each crossing.
Sue: I was a patrol at Grant Public and had to take orders from the Captain — my big sister, lol.
David G: I wore the sash at St Agustine’s in 1982-83, patrolling Fisher and Dynes as well as Dynes and Claymore. Was dusted by a car turning left on Fisher and Dynes. Police got the guy. The next year I was a Lieutenant.
Suzanne: École Samuel Genest. I was stationed on Chemin Marier in 1960 and 1961. I loved being a Brigadier.
Cocotte: I was a Brigadier, with the belt, the orange poncho and the stop sign. Enjoyed the camaraderie and the activities.
Peter: In Grades Seven and Eight at Connaught Public School on Gladstone Avenue, in 1958-1960, we were issued plastic white Sam Browne belts that froze solid in winter, as well as a tin badge.
Julia: I was a patrol at Bayview Public School for a few years. Loved my fancy white plastic belt.
Carol: At Woodroffe Public School we wore white belts … right?
Wendy: Yes! And I was pretty proud of mine.
Randy: I remember an orange belt and a badge.
Sharon: I remember the orange belts, as well.
Kenny: I was a patrol at St. Joseph’s. My corner was Wilbrod and Cumberland. Took great pride being a lieutenant and had a leather shoulder belt. No plastic for me!
David P: I loved being a patrol at First Ave Public School in the early 1970s. The challenge was — if you were sent to guard the corner at Fifth Ave, you could never hear the bell. Often you didn’t have a watch — so you were constantly late.
Natalie: At Bells Corners Public, all through primary school, the best part was getting to have a hot chocolate with marshmallow in the winter — and going late to class!
Stephen: I was a patrol for Hopewell. The reward in the cold winter was hot chocolate at my desk.
Jonquil: Likewise! And access to the heater in the front office.
Christine: I was a safety patrol at Holy Rosary Catholic School in the early ’80s. It was such fun and we all took our jobs seriously. Loved getting a mug of hot chocolate in the winter after we were done.
Stacey: Woodrooffe Elementary, 1985, our reward was picking up a mug of hot chocolate from the patrol teacher/organizer and sipping it during first period to the envy of others around you.
Heather: Yes! And taking extra cocoa mix to make it the consistency of paste.
Sharon: Do you guys also remember the appreciation events at the Capitol Theater?
Coccinelle: I patrolled at Cumberland and Guigues and Dalhousie and Guigues, and loved our outings to the Capitol Theatre.
Dale: I was a safety patrol at Hilson Avenue Public School for several years in the 1960s. I remember going to the Capitol Theatre for a huge event.
David S: They used to have double-bills for us at the Capitol on Saturdays. One drink and two chocolate bars, included.
Michael: Overbrook, late-1950s. We were taken to the Capitol for a movie — and a talk from the mayor.
Wendy: Grade 6, 1958. We were treated to movies at Britannia Park.
Ruth: Saturdays at the Odeon Theatre for us.
Joanne: Elgin Theatre. I think I still have my badge..
Ted: Rideau Theatre, too.
Nancy: Iris and Cobden, 1970s. Place de Ville for the movies.
Melanie: Patrol at Manor Park from 1973 to 1976. Movies one Saturday morning a month at Place de Ville. Abbot and Costello, Lewis and Martin.
Jim: I remember going to the Place de Ville cinema. Francis the Talking Mule.
Kim: Riverview Public. Loved the Saturday morning movies at Place de Ville!
Paul: Carling near Scrivens in 1975 and ’76. We got to march in a parade down Bank Street, followed by a circus at the Civic Centre.
Allan: Got to be in a parade on Parliament Hill for a Royal Visit, and tickets to the circus afterwards.
Doug: In Leeds and Grenville Counties the School and Bus Patrol program was supported by the Lions Clubs of these same Counties. I was very proud to be part of the group that annually brought over 350 school patrollers to the City of Ottawa to join in the annual parade and march off to a afternoon at the circus.
Vernon: I was there too. Didn’t we also get a boxed lunch? Parade on to Parliament Hill. I had to wear a stupid felt hat!
Beverly: Got to take the bus from Dunnville to Ottawa for the Jamboree.
Diane: I was a patrol guard. Loved the jamboree!
Steve: I was a Captain of the school safety patrol at Hawthorne back in 1988-’89. I believe in the summer we were treated with a trip to Le Grande Splash.
Michel R: I was a patrol in the early ’80s in a small town in northern Quebec. Our “pay” was a trip to Ottawa in May 1982 — my first time — with thousands of others from across Canada.
Andrea: If we signed up to be a patrol at Barrhaven in the early ‘90s, we got to go to school dances. So everyone in Grades Five and Six were patrols!
Mike: I was a patrol at D. Roy Kennedy in the early ‘90s. I think I mainly I did it for the water slide field trip we got to go on at the end of the year.
Sean: Lunch slot on Glasgow in late ’70s! I remember getting tickets to see the Rough Riders. From the bleachers …
David: I remember getting tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters at the Civic Centre.
Christina: At Manor Park in the ‘90s we got an annual trip to Mont Cascades, which was the main attraction for most kids who joined up.
Andrew M: I remember the pizza lunches we’d get and also coupons or free meals at McDonald’s or Subway, etc. Free small personal pizzas!! Mmmm.
Mano: I remember being chosen to have lunch with the police constable in our area. We were driven in his official Acadian to have burgers at McDonald’s. I’m glad they recognised our free child labour in different ways.
Ken: I remember the police officer would give the crossing guards a ride to school in his motorcycle sidecar at the end of their “shift.”
Gord: We must have been patrols at the same time. Got to ride in a motorcycle side car when the police came to check on us.
Coreen: Nobody mentioned the free Saturday mornings at Skateway! Of course, that was a very limited time period. Probably ‘79-‘81
Andrew S: Anybody remember having “Patrol Court.” Patrols could report students for disobeying and they had to come to Patrol Court. Every Thursday at recess on CTV.
Rob: Oh, yeah, Andrew. You had to make those young criminals pay. Let’s see, I still have my patrol card around here somewhere …
Andrew S: Yes, Rob, but if you did report anybody, you had to spend recess in Patrol Court, too. So a doubl- edged patrol sign!
David D: I was a school patrol at Alta Vista Public School in 1956/57 at Kilborn and Alta Vista. At the School Patrol picnic the entertainer was Paul Anka singing Elvis songs. At that time he was an unknown.
Hunter: In about 1964, a school patroller from Alta Vista Public was hit by a car following a collision at the corner of Kilborn and Alta Vista. She was pinned against a tree by one of the cars and suffered a broken leg. These scenes stay with you.
David G: I was part of a hit and run. Luckily I was merely grazed. That Spring I witnessed an accident in which a car turned left without looking and was T-Boned. The car went flying towards me, but I was just able to run out of the way, blinded by dust in the eyes from the impact. It was a very eventful morning. You don’t forget the images. They sit on on the back burner of your mind.
Carole: I was a safety patrol at St. Patrick’s School on Nepean Street back in the early ’60s. My spot was always at Kent and Nepean (not the volume of traffic there is now and it was two-way traffic at the time). A very nice police officer, Constable Soucie, always came by to check on us. In the winter, the corner store owner would let us warm up inside.
Leslie: When I was a patroller, Constable Armand Soucie was the policeman who checked on us at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Years later, when I was working at the crown attorney’s office, Detective Soucie and I crossed paths and had a little chat about those earlier days! What a nice guy he was.
Max: So what did happen to the school patrols? They seem to have faded out, and now we have paid crossing guards.
Debra: I think the student crossing guard went the same way as letting your kid walk or bike to school. Fortunately, I did both.
Janice: We had children crossing guards in Ottawa in the ’90s, but it gradually changed over to paid adults in the 2000s.
Philip: Safety was the reason, and liability. Can you imagine putting children on street corners today with the speeds, and volume of the traffic, and the inattention?
John: It appears CAA still runs a school safety patrol programs with student volunteers. I guess it’s up to each school or school board whether or not to implement.
Marianne: Ottawa still had some student safety patrollers as late as 2004. The school I was teaching at then had them. The next year the teacher running the program moved to another school and although I moved into her grade and classroom. I didn’t take over the program. A year or so later the school was granted an adult crossing guard.
Joyce: Crossing guards are now supplied by the Ottawa Safety Council and earn approximately $17-20 and hour (depending on seniority).
Fiona: My daughter’s school has student safety patrollers today in 2019, so it all depends on the school and school board.
Sharon: They still have them on Wellington Street.
Andréanne: They still do it on the Quebec side. For the big intersections it’s adults and the other streets it’s older students.
Peter: Being a school patrol at Connaught was my first non-paid public service job.
Carole Anne: I went to Percy Street school, which is no longer there. I think it was 1967 and I would have been in grade 6. Being a crossing guard made me feel special. It was a volunteer position, and just maybe the start of my volunteer career. Thanks for the memory!
Nancy: Nineteen Fifty-Seven at Crichton Street SchooI. I loved being a patrol!
Allan: I’m still doing it now! Crossing guard at Parkdale and the Westbound Queensway ramp.
Barbara: I went to York St. Public School and remember thinking I was quite able to cross the street without having a patrol tell me when I could cross, than you very much. Attitude! Thank goodness, we all grow up.
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