SHELTON, CONN. – Shelton retiree Raymond "Joe" Hansen says he knew right off the bat that he had made the Big Leagues when he joined the AAA School Safety Patrol.
It was the late 1940s in South Arlington, Va., when the sixth-grader signed on to work with teachers, police, and crossing guards to ensure the safety his classmates.
Those duties had a big role in shaping his future life, says the former engineer.
“It’s made me responsible by being attentive to my duties. It developed in me a perseverance to do what’s expected,” he recalls. “In a way, it was my first job and I appreciated the opportunity to participate.”
AAA Northeast, part of a federation of motor clubs and a nonprofit service organization, recently feted Hansen as a “Traffic Safety Hero” at its annual luncheon in Bridgeport.
The club also recognizes police departments and individual officers for contributing to traffic safety.
Hansen, who attended the luncheon with his wife, Liz, also was one of several hundred AAA members and former school patrollers from Litchfield, Fairfield, and New Haven counties, who responded to a request earlier this year from AAA Northeast CEO Mark Shaw to share their patrol memories.
Most, if not all, described how the safety patrol’s philosophy of leadership, responsibility and traffic safety influenced their lives.
Hansen, who was a school at the Nellie Custis Elementary School in South Arlington, says his fondest memory is of a march in Washington, D.C.
He and fellow patrollers paraded down the Capitol’s Pennsylvania Avenue to much fanfare, Hansen says.
For him, he says, the day was a grand slam not only because of the parade, but because he also got to go to his very first professional baseball game with hordes of other patrollers from throughout the country.
And it was a great game, Hansen recalls.
The Washington Senators took on the Cleveland Indians and at one point, “a relief pitcher came in for Cleveland,” he says. “He was throwing with a wind-up like no other pitcher (did).”
His name: Leroy “Satchel” Paige, a trailblazing black ballplayer with a scorching fastball that landed him in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The largest safety program in the world, AAA has more than 600,000 patrollers in 33,500 schools nationwide.
In AAA Northeast’s territory, which covers Litchfield, Fairfield, and New Haven Counties, there are 135 schools with an estimated 2,000 students who serve as school patrol bus, playground, and hallway monitors.
They also assist teachers in walking students to corners and safe areas of school driveways; and monitoring bus loading and unloading zones, and carpool areas.
“The program helps students develop leadership skills and encourages academic achievement and commitment to community involvement,” says Fran Mayko, AAA Northeast’s School Safety Patrol coordinator.
“Their duties earn respect and recognition from peers, school administrators and community leaders,” she says.
Hansen belongs to an elite group, AAA says.
Many patrol alumni, both local and national, end up choosing careers in government, law enforcement or community service … and they credit the influence of their patroller experience, AAA says.
Famous former patrollers include: Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; Vice President Joe Biden; Olympic Medalists Eric Heiden, Caitlyn Jenner, and Edwin Moses; Baseball Hall of Famers Joe Garagiola, Tom Seaver, and Al Kaline; several Supreme Court Justices; U.S. senators; governors, and astronauts.
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