Safety Patrol GIRLS at Memphis City Schools?



I've written many times before about the quasi-military Safety Patrols that guarded the lives of children attending schools in Memphis. Most of those stories were written in the "dark ages" — before the Internet — so I can't even provide you with a handy link to them here.

But some of you surely remember the Safety Patrol boys, with their white sashes (yellow if you were lucky enough to be elected "captain" of the squad), wide-brimmed white plastic helmets, and wooden poles with the red warning flags. (In bad weather, you wore bright yellow raincoats and clunky black rainboots, which made the uniform complete.) These brave children would stand on street corners around the city's schools and help their fellow students cross the streets, by walking out into traffic and blocking the oncoming cars and trucks with their red flags.

Most of these jobs went to boys, and girls were usually relegated to hall-monitor duties.

But what about the all-girl schools around town? Well, as this photo from their 1961 yearbook clearly shows, St. Mary's School for Girls did indeed employ females on their Safety Patrol squads, and they got to wear the same gear as the guys.

And look, St. Mary's even got one of those cool "street cop" signs — brightly painted metal policemen that you rolled out into the street (they had two wheels mounted at the base) to warn drivers to SLOW DOWN because this was a school zone.  Some of these turn up now and then in antique malls, selling for hundreds of dollars.

Memories of a long-ago time, huh? Does any school in Memphis still have Safety Patrols? Or do the kids just play dodge-em with the traffic?

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Ask Vance

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

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