“It was long hours and a lot of responsibility,” David recalls about his year—1965—in the AAA School Safety Patrol. “But being out there—you started to learn about public service and leadership.”
David remembers the busy corner he patrolled: 112th Street and Ewing Avenue. The intersection carried the most responsibility for a patroller outside Annunciata School in Chicago. He shared the corner with a Chicago police school crossing guard. Her eyes stayed on the traffic; his stayed on his classmates. When she stepped into the intersection to stop traffic, David helped hold back younger students until it was safe to cross. When kids tried to cross the street away from the intersection, David would guide them back to the corner.
He volunteered five days a week, three times a day (students could go home for lunch and needed help then, too). David would arrive at school earlier than other kids and get home later. And he endured the bitter cold winds blowing off nearby Lake Michigan. But what the work lacked in perks, it made up for in life skills.
“No matter how hot or how cold it got, I never wanted to quit,” David recalls. “I learned perseverance, staying out there and toughing it out. That was the beginning of finding out about leadership—not only worrying about myself, but other people, too.”
Serving in Safety Patrol had a profound influence on David’s career. After working in a steel mill out of high school, he spent 42 years as an officer in the Chicago Police Department, rising to the rank of district commander. In his job, he had to evaluate crossing guards twice a year, and he would tell the guards about starting his career in Safety Patrol.
“The school guards got a kick out of that,” says David, who remains a member of AAA today.
A worthy tradition
David’s dedication to public service runs in the family. His son, Nick, attended the same school, and when Safety Patrol called for volunteers, Nick stepped forward.
“More than anything, it was Dad’s example that he set in terms of volunteerism,” Nick recalls as a reason for joining, citing his father’s work as a Cub Scouts leader and Little League coach. “This was an opportunity to volunteer and help others the way Dad always did.”
Nick spent three years in Safety Patrol, serving as a captain in eighth grade in 1995. He didn’t patrol the same intersection as his father, but he found similar life lessons through the experience. Nick remembers one message from his patrol advisor: “Even when you don’t feel like doing it, you made a commitment to Safety Patrol, and you need to see it through.”
“That was a very important lesson,” Nick says.
Like his father, Nick works for the public good. Since 2007, he has been with AAA’s The Auto Club Group, currently as a public affairs director. When he started the job, Nick’s mother dug through family keepsakes and found his Safety Patrol captain’s badge. It’s now framed and sits on his office desk.
One of Nick’s favorite annual tasks is reviewing nominations for Safety Patroller of the Year. “I get to hear about these amazing students who are volunteering their time,” he says. “You can tell they’re going to do great things in their future.”
The Jarmusz Safety Patrol story doesn’t end with Nick. His son, Peter, joined the patrol last year as a fourth grader at his elementary school in Wisconsin.
AAA School Safety Patrol: Through the Years
Charles M. Hayes, then president of the Chicago Motor Club, is credited with building the infrastructure and providing the resources so other AAA clubs across the U.S. could protect school-aged children walking to and from school. Hayes witnessed several children at a school crossing get killed by a speeding car. He pledged to help prevent such tragedies from happening again.
Three national organizations—AAA, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, and the National Safety Council—collaborated on Standard Rules for the Operation of School Boy Patrols. These guidelines were updated over the years to become the operating standards for AAA School Safety Patrols.
The Lifesaving Award Medal—the highest recognition bestowed on patrollers—is established. More than 430 patrollers have since received this award for saving the life of a person who was in imminent danger.
Celebrating its centennial, the AAA School Safety Patrol Program includes more 679,000 patrollers in 35,000 schools nationwide.