When Hampstead resident Harry Griffith, 86, saw that AAA Mid-Atlantic was seeking story submissions from former safety patrollers for its 100th anniversary, he didn’t know his would get him back onto the scene for the first time in 75 years.
Griffith was a safety patroller as a seventh- and eighth-grader from 1945 to 1947 in a four-room school in Vinco, Pennsylvania, but has lived in Hampstead since 1967.
And at the end of his story submission he wrote, “I … wish I could patrol one more time.”
So AAA Mid-Atlantic and Spring Garden Elementary School in Hampstead coordinated to make his dream come true, inviting him to speak to the Carroll County school’s safety patrol on Friday, March 15.
“They sent me to camp for a week after seventh grade, sent me to safety patrol for a week,” Griffith told the Times on Friday. “When I came back after, for eighth grade, I knew I had a big job to do, big responsibility.”
He said it was great to see the program thriving.
“These kids are doing the same thing I was taught to do 75 years later,” he said.
Captain of Spring Garden’s safety patrol Carly Rohrer, 10, said after his talk it was great to learn about where the program came from.
“It’s really cool to see other safetys and hear about how they acted and how the posts had changed,” she told the Times. “He had to guide kids across the road, across the highway — and now we just come to school, get our belts and go to our posts.”
Although patrollers don’t have to act as highway crossing guards today, Griffith told the kids he used a long flagpole to do it in the 1940s. He would hold it out in front of the kids, he said, and when the road was clear he would lift it so they could cross.
Unlike today, girls couldn’t be safety patrollers then.
“Back then it was all boys, just like the Boy Scouts,” he laughed. “Everything’s changing.”
After classes were dismissed Friday, Spring Garden safety patrol lieutenant Kenny Kuehne said he likes being able to help his fellow students get home safely.
“We just don’t want any kids not knowing where to go,” he said. “And we don’t want them going to the wrong place.”
And Safety Patrol Coordinator Terry Greenberg said that the leadership is exactly what the program strives for.
“We tell them they are like role models, leaders in the school,” said Greenberg. “Many safetys make friends with first graders and kindergartners — and one day they could become a safety.”
Respect, responsibility, honesty and effort are values Spring Garden’s safety patrollers embody, she said, and she is proud of the students continuing the tradition.
“AAA is wonderful support for the safety patrol,” said Greenberg. “They provide everything we need. We couldn’t have a safety patrol if it weren’t for AAA.”