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Safety Patrol

Sheriff Tex wasn’t a real sheriff as far as I know but he had a TV cartoon show every day and in the 50’s, us kids lived for it.  It was in the early days of television and Saturday cartoons were never missed.  Early in the morning, we would sit in front of the test screen with the picture of an Indian chief in the middle of a bunch of graphic calibrations which would shift as the engineers adjusted the picture for the upcoming cartoons.  Once the cartoons started, it was the sound and motion that kept us glued to the set for hours.  We called it the TV room, when it was really Mom’s sewing room where she mended our jeans, sewed Sister Molly a summer dress or worked on her Chiton collection.  

Chitons are a type of mollusk that cling to the rocks and are only to be found on certain beaches at very low tides.  Mom  soaked the sea animals in formaldehyde to rid the Chiton of its flesh.  She only wanted the bones; which she would re-assemble and glue together for the display case that Dad had built.  The glued white vertebrae looked like 5 or 6 flattened clam shells in a row.

The TV was big and flat and very heavy.  The screen was a meager 10 inches, but to us it was a god as we wasted our time in front of it watching for the cartoons or Sheriff Tex to come on.

Sheriff Tex always ended his show the same way.  He would hold up his right hand with the thumb and index finger together in the form of a circle and say: “Remember kids, Safety First” and clicking his tongue as you would do to a horse to make it go.

Our principal, Mr. Moore, never clicked his tongue, but it was a great day when he handed me the white belt and shoulder strap that made me school patrol.  My silvery badge had a red background which made me a sergeant while the blue background was for captain.  It was a very proud day when I held up my red flag to stop the cars and let the younger kids cross the highway in front of Vashon Grade School, about halfway between town and Vashon Community Care.

Mr. Moore was a shy balding man with a good sense of humor.  I know this because I was in his office too many times for minor infractions of the rules.  In other words, not all of us were good boys.  Not to offend anybody and I won’t mention names.  

Mr. Moore kept a rubber hose under his desk; but he only showed it to me once, he never used it, and we sort of became friends.  When I wasn’t being reprimanded, Mr. Moore would tell stories about his teaching days in rural Alaska.  He drove a Model A on the ice in the Winter as the ice was a highway.  Once on the ice, they removed the rubber tires from the front rims so the car would steer better.  If a passenger  complained of his ice driving, Mr. Moore would take off the steering wheel and hand it to the complainer.  There was no nut to secure the wheel to the steering column.

Mr. Moore gave chores to us trouble-makers to keep us out of mischief.  A new school was being built where the Harbor School is now.  They already had the lower grades in the new building but Mrs. Larson, our cook, was in the kitchen of the old building and the chore boys were asked to push carts of steaming food from the old school to the new school.  The carts were stainless steel and the pans of  food were set in trays of boiling water to keep them hot.  On turkey day, when we finished pushing our carts, we were allowed to sit around the kitchen and pick the turkey bones.   We liked Mrs. Larson’s cooking except for the way she fixed canned peas.  She always over-cooked the peas and they smelled like burnt cigars.

Three of us had to stay after school to improve our cursive.  It didn’t work.  Mrs. Marston was very kind but I never learned cursive and people can’t read it if I try.  Now, the schools are dropping cursive from their curriculum.

We weren’t in mischief all the time.  Mom read us a newspaper article about an Everett boy who lost his legs playing on the railroad tracks.  He was at Children’s Orthopedic in Seattle and his family was asking for donations.  “Could we collect money from the neighbors on Cove Road to help the boy we had never met”, I asked?  “Why don’t you have a small fair with games and prizes and raise money that way” she replied.

The idea caught on like wild fire as us kids thought up games we could charge to play.  Dad made a stand up clown out of plywood.  He had a big mouth and my sister sewed beans into bean bags, to be tossed into the clown’s mouth for the prize of an apple.

I had a docile old pack horse named Kiddy.  For a nickel, you would get to ride Kiddy around the peach orchard where the driveway was on both sides.

“Mom, can we stop pulling, our arms are getting tired”, Sister Molly asked.  The taffy was sticky and the pulling made it stiff; so it wouldn’t stick to your teeth or the top of your mouth.  Very carefully, Mom cut out little squares of waxed paper and we twisted the ends around the taffy and sold it for a penny or two.

There were lots of kids on Cove Road and they came to the fair from as far as a quarter mile away.  We made eleven dollars that afternoon and it was all sent to the boy with no legs in Everett.