Members of Detroit’s Houghton School safety patrol listen attentively to traffic safety officer Anthony Hosang in 1950. (64.167.536.16)
Like clockwork, fall’s arrival brings with it a return to school for children throughout the United States. Whether they walk, ride a bike, take a bus, or get dropped off by an adult, the students’ daily trips to and from class will be safer thanks to the dedicated efforts of the AAA School Safety Patrol. Established by the American Automobile Association in 1920, the program’s core mission – to encourage safety awareness among young people – remains unchanged.
Automobile Club of Michigan Safety Patrol Armband, 1950-1960. THF153486
AAA School Safety Patrol members generally are chosen by their teachers or principals and, with their parents’ permission, given training in traffic safety – typically over the summer, so they’re ready to go as soon as the school year starts. These young patrollers are then stationed near the school at crosswalks, bus unloading areas and carpool drop-off locations to ensure that their fellow students remain cautious near motorized traffic.
More experienced patrollers may be promoted to officer positions like captain, lieutenant or sergeant. These ranks bring with them additional responsibilities like keeping daily records, writing regular reports, or assigning other patrol members to specific duties or stations.
AAA School Safety Patrol Lieutenant Badge, 1950-1965. THF151056
It’s important to note that safety patrol members work together with – not in place of – adult crossing guards and traffic officers. Nevertheless, the patrollers play an important role in keeping students safe. And they learn early and important lessons about responsibility, too. Not surprisingly, many safety patrol alumni go on to careers characterized by public service or proven leadership. Former patrollers include Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and notable Michiganders like Governor William Milliken, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, and Detroit Tiger Al Kaline.
The Official Song of the Safety Patrol, 1937. (87.135.1661)
The Henry Ford’s artifact collection includes armbands and badges worn by AAA School Safety Patrol members over the years. Our archival collection includes a copy of the sheet music for “Song of the Safety Patrol,” written by Lucille Oldham in 1937.
We salute these conscientious students working tirelessly throughout the school year to keep their classmates safe. Today, there are more than 654,000 children serving as patrollers in schools across the United States. Thanks to the program these students are empowered with a sense of responsibility and leadership as they protect their classmates going to and from school each day.
One-Room School is one of The Henry Ford’s longest-running programs. It has made memories for generations; current teachers and staff members remember coming to Greenfield Village for this program as children themselves. And now we have revised our One-Room School Teacher’s Guide to update the program.