On Dec. 11, 1951, the late Dorothy Hamill, former writer for the Johnson City Press Chronicle, covered a story at South Side School concerning the first Girls Safety Patrol troop in the city.
Four times daily, ten young ladies, from a carefully selected sixth grade pilot group, assisted students cross school intersections. They further directed traffic and insured that signs were positioned in their proper places. Not only were they having a joyous time as patrol girls, they treated their responsibilities with utmost seriousness.
“Perhaps it's the motherly instinct in little girls,” said Miss Nancy Beard, principal of the school, “but instead of merely halting traffic for the little ones to cross, some of the patrol girls guide smaller ones from one curb to another. Impressively, one patrol girl was observed carrying a handicapped child to the bus stop.
Above: Susan Givens and Carolyn Brimer Safely Escort Young Shelia Steffey from Her Car. Two Other Patrol Girls, Barbara Lingo (left) and Patsy Sanders, Also Stand Guard.
According to Miss Beard, being trained under the able leadership of students, Nelson Blackburn (captain) and Bobby Wilson (lieutenant), the Girls Patrol proved to be prompt, efficient and obedient. Since they proved their worth on patrol, she said the boys and girls alternated the critical activity for the remainder of the school year.
The young ladies in the patrol were Lynne Rabun, Susan Givens, Sonia Gail Laws, Sharon O'Dell, Joyce Haynes, Nancy Heath, Carolyn Brimer, Barbara Lingo, Patsy Sanders and Kay Rhea. In rainy weather, they used the boys' caps, raincoats, belts, badges and flags with their own boots.
“Not only do the girls prove themselves capable of assuming responsibility,” Miss Beard continued, “they show their physical prowess by moving the heavy stop signs, a job that, at first, they refused help from the boys. They didn't need them. In addition to forming a patrol, the girls helped run the book store and assisted with cafeteria chores. They secretly hoped that the boys would be called upon to lend a hand with cooking.”
The expressed reaction of the girls serving on the patrol was nothing short of enthusiastic because they felt important and they were. “It's a lot of fun,” Lynne Rabun declared. “We've just been on for a couple of weeks, but our Girls Patrol is doing a fantastic job. We hope to keep on, too. And when the boys' turn comes to take over, we promise to be good sports and obey them just like they complied with our commands.”
The Girls Put Out the Heavy Signs While the Boys Watch at a Distance
The young females were asked what they would do if a big snow covered the ground, causing students to began throwing snowballs at one another. Lynne had a ready answer. “We'll teach them to behave.” “It's fun to take over a big responsibility like this,” Barbara Lingo noted. “I surely hope we can keep on with it.”
Joyce Haynes was equally happy over the chance at being a patrol girl. “It's a big responsibility to help the children cross the street safely,” she stated earnestly. “We must keep the students in safe hands and we try hard to do our very best. Fortunately, the drivers are very courteous people and obey us when we signal them to stop.”
“Even the boys have been cooperative,” Sharon O'Dell said, “They do as we tell them to,” she remarked. “And ever since we've been on patrol, we've only had to report four children. With the boys, sometimes more than that number is reported in one day. And we don't mind the rain at all. We have boots and slacks we can put on when needed. I think it would be fun to patrol in the snow, even if it meant harder work for us.”
Drivers passing by the school displayed keen interest in discovering that girls were directing the school traffic. One driver stopped to remark, “Say, you girls certainly look prettier than the boys'.'' Another halted long enough to inquire about directions to nearby Jonesboro.
The troop uniformly agreed that their captain and lieutenant were very nice and helpful to them. As for the opinion of the other boys at the school, their response was totally predictable: “No comment!”
If anyone can supplement this story or participated in the program, please drop me a note.