My mother is calling me to wake up and get ready to go to school. I can’t believe that its morning. I’m still wiped out from our fishing trip to Sheepshead Bay yesterday. I drag myself out of bed, wash my face and get dressed. I’m sitting at the kitchen table sipping a hot cup of espresso coffee with milk and three lumps of sugar. Wow, is this coffee strong. It took only a few minutes for me to get a jolt of energy. I grab my books and head out to PS 27 that’s only a block away. I’m lining up with my class and someone smacks me in the head, I turn and see Prospector Frank standing right behind me “What the hell was that all about?” “It’s just me to remind you that we have to start working on the rocks I put together for our Treasure Chest Game. I hope you didn’t forget to meet me after school this afternoon.” “Okay, okay, cut the shit, you don’t have to smack me, I’ll meet you at the vacant lot like we planned.” The school bell rings and we all march into our classrooms.
After taking attendance, Miss Kent starts our reading lesson. We have three groups, the smart kids don’t need much direction, but I’m in the last reading group and I’m still working on the Dick and Jane reading books from last year. Even though I’m not the brightest star in our class I think Miss Kent likes me and she is trying very hard to get me to read at the higher reading level. But I don’t know what it is I just don’t see the printed words the way the smarter kids do. As I sit there struggling to read my Dick and Jane book Miss Kent walks over to my desk and says, “Pepino, please walk with me out to the hall so I can talk to you about something.” Holy shit, I’m in trouble, I know I’m not doing well keeping up with the rest of the class so this it, they’re going to put me back into a lower grade. My parents are going to kill me. When we got to the hallway she closed the classroom door, looked at me with her beautiful smile and said. “Pepino, I can see that you’re having a hard time with your classroom work, but I also know that you are trying as hard as you can. I have an idea that may help you. Timmy McCarty transferred to another school and he was our AAA crossing guard for a couple of months. So I put your name in as his replacement.
It won’t be easy, you have to take a safety course, but I think that you will do a great job. The junior safety patrol was designed to be a student role model program. With the increase of cars in the streets there were concerns for student safety when crossing the streets walking home from school. A Motor Club in Chicago started a School Safety Patrol around 1920 and many schools around the country started the same program. A policeman named Sargent Frank Hetznecker who lived in St. Paul Minnesota made Sam Brown belts that buckle around the waste and shoulder so the drives would notice them crossing guards. Later the American Automobile Association, in the 1930’s made AAA badges for the school student police patrol. Once you completed a safety course you will also receive a belt and badge.
You probably noticed the guards around the school wearing a white safety belt around their waste and sash over their shoulder with an AAA badge on it. The student police patrol can only direct children in crossing the streets they are not allowed to stop or direct traffic. I came out in the hall to talk to you about it because I didn’t want the kids in our class to know about what I proposed to you until you agree. So, what do you say, do you want the job?” I just stood there looking at her like she was for outer space. She wants me to be a school cop? Is she really talking to me? I finally closed my mouth and whispered “Yes” I think my eyes were starting to tearing up a little. She put her arm around my shoulder and said, “Okay, Let’s go back into the classroom. We’ll talk more about it later.” As we walked in the room the whole class was looked at me as if they heard every word that was said to me out in the hallway. I did my best to keep a straight face as I sat down and picked up my Dick and Jane reading book again. I never thought that I would be a Crossing Guard because the kids who are picked for the job are the best students in the school. I’m not one of the schools better students but Miss Kent must believe in me and I’ll do my best not to let her down. The school day blew by, before I knew it, the three o’clock bell was ringing and we were on our way home.
I burst into our apartment and I told my mother as best as I could, in Italian about my new job. I don’t think that she got the gist of it. But she knew it was good news because of the big smile on my face. I’ll have to wait for my sister to come home to help me explain what a school Crossing Guard is all about and what a big deal it is. Now I’m all hyped up about the trust Miss Kent has in me. I rush over to meet Prospector Frank to help him break and grind the rocks he collected for the glowing Silver flakes. I walked over to the vacant lot on Huntington Street and I see Frank, Pecker and Mike Tomato busy at work. They had hammers and they were pounding away at the pile of rocks in front of them.
Some of the chunks of Silver rocks that broke off looked really good. They are gleaming when the Sun light hit them. I always loved the look of the Silver dust and flakes the best. The shine was unbelievable because they looked like real Silver. We worked our tails off and we put aside about fifteen pounds of these gems for our Treasure Chest. We are all sitting around covered with Silver dust and broken rocks at our feet when Prospector Frank’s mother shows up with a ice cold six pack of Pepsi Coke bottles.
She gave each of us a bottle of Pepsi and walked away without saying anything about how dirty we looked. She always let the boys be boys without the yelling and fusses that some of our mothers would have put us through. So we built a camp fire right next to the lean to Frank built for our camp site. Mike Tomato brought about two dozen potatoes that his grandfather Mr. Pauli gave him. We threw the potatoes into the fire and we started talking about all the neighborhood fights and the Halloween games we were planning. I didn’t want to tell my friends that I’m soon to be a School Cop. I wanted to wait for the AAA badge and sash to be in my hands; otherwise they would never believe me.
It was dusk and it was getting cool but the camp fire was nice and warm. The glow of the fire was making me sleepy, that’s when I heard Mike Tomato say “They’re done.” The Potatoes in the camp fire were nice and black. Mike took a stick and rolled the potatoes out of the fire to cool off. When I picked up a potato it was still hot and I started to bounce it around from one hand to the other. I broke my potato in half with my hands and I sprinkled some of Frank’s mother’s salt and pepper on it. It smelled so good, as I took small pieces of the potato into my mouth.
I did my best not to eat any of the burnt black stuff around the potato but it did get on my fingers and my lips as I shoved it into my mouth. When I looked up I could see the rest of the guys trying eat the hot potato the same way and then it dawned on me how funny we looked with all the black stuff around our mouths. We all looked at each other and started laughing at the same time. We could not stop laughing for almost twenty minutes. That’s when we started throwing the leftover potatoes at each other. We kept on laughing and we kept throwing potatoes for another half hour before we calmed down. I finally said, “That’s it, I’m going home.”