There’s no doubt that young ladies were attracted to those cool uniforms we School Safety Patrol guys wore. Not only did we have bright yellow helmets, Sam Browne belts and bright raincoats, but we also had the STOP flags that could capture the cute girls until you gave them permission to proceed.
Key post at Keller and Themis
Our patrolman bundles up against the rain falling on his post at Keller and Themis. That’s my 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon at the curb (mentioned for the car collectors who specialize in it).
White boots and rolled cuffs
This was the era of white boots for girls and rolled-up blue jean cuffs for boys. I mean, you had to buy them long because of expected growing spurts. Just like bikes were bought big enough that you had to put wood blocks on the pedals so you could reach them until you grew into the two-wheeler.
Not allowed to stop cars
We were strictly informed that we weren’t supposed to actually stop cars. Our flag was to hold back the kids until we were sure the street was safe to cross, then we would swing out flag out to reinforce to any approaching car that they were supposed to stop.
I did, in my role as Captain, turn in the tag and description of a car that failed to stop at the stop sign I had rolled out into the middle of the street. Whether he turned it into the cops or not, I never knew.
We took our jobs seriously
I am proud to report that all of our charges always made it across the street safely. Surprisingly enough, I don’t recall any of our peers mocking us for our duty. Maybe it was because we could sneak out of class early to take our posts. We wore our rolled-up white Sam Browne belts attached to our belts when we were off-duty.
Trinity and St. Mary’s Patrols
When I spotted this carload of kids shot back in Ohio in 1969, I thought back on more innocent days when we counted on plastic statues on the dashboard to keep our precious cargo safe. The only restraint system most kids encountered was Mom’s arm hastily flung out in front of them.
These icons would have a tough time sticking to today’s padded dashboards that replaced nose-bending metal ones.
You can say what you want to about how “they don’t build them like they used to,” but that’s a good thing. My 2000 Odyssey van just turned over 170K miles. I used to have to trade cars about every two years when they had less than a third that much mileage. It’s true that cars suffer damage at lower speeds than they used to, but that’s because they are designed with “crumple zones” that eat up the energy of a crash rather than transmitting it to the vehicle’s occupants like the old solid-frame cars.
Seatbelts in the Buick LaSabre
My folks figured I needed more than plastic statues, particularly after I hit a bridge before I had driven 150 yards during Ernie Chiles’ attempt to teach me how to navigate the highways. They equipped the family’s 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon with some of the first after-market seatbelts to hit the market. My car and I were covering the Buck Nelson Flying Saucer Convention in Mountain View in this photo. You’ll read more about that later.
There was nothing automatic about those first belts. In fact, I’m not even sure they had quick-release buckles; you might have had to thread the belt through the buckle every time. I don’t remember if the wide front seat had two sets of belts or three. If it was the former, that was probably Mother’s idea of safety – it kept my date on the far side of the car.
I give Dad credit: he put them in the car for me, but he wore them religiously, if only to set a good example. Working hundreds of wrecks made me a seatbelt fanatic. When I encountered a passenger who didn’t want to buckle up, I’d give them a choice: buckle up or walk. Here’s a site that gives a good explanation of why seatbelts save lives and how they work. They’ve come a long way since my fabric belt bolted to the floor.