Archive

19 years later, Latrobe crossing guard, 82, still enjoys keeping kids safe | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

19 years later, Latrobe crossing guard, 82, still enjoys keeping kids safe

Paul Peirce

John Dickson of Latrobe can immediately recall the date of the favor.

“Jan. 2, 1999,” Dickson, 82, said as temperatures rose to a balmy 7 degrees along the sidewalk outside of Latrobe Elementary School.

That was the day the late Latrobe Fire Policeman Fred Strickler first asked fellow Fire Policeman Dickson, then a recent retiree from Standard Steel Co., to temporarily fill in as crossing guard at the school due to illness.

Sadly, Strickler was never able to make it back. And Dickson has never left.

Day in, day out, five days a week during the past 19 years, Dickson has taken his normal spot outside the school on Ligonier Street. Sometimes it’s in temperatures below zero or above 90 degrees, but Dickson is there.

He often shows up an hour early, at 7:30 a.m.

“Sometimes some of the kids get here early. … I wouldn’t want to see anything happen,” Dickson said.

He comes back about 3:30 p.m. to help them cross the street on their walk home.

Dickson said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Oh, I like the kids … enjoy being around them. Some of them high-five me on their way in … and a lot of them call me John,” Dickson said. “They’re almost like my own grandkids.”

Dickson said 99 percent of the parents are great. But he admits he’s been called a few names, too … especially if he scolds a parent if they attempt to stop their vehicle to let a child off in front of the school.

“I’ve been sworn at … called a few choice names. But to keep the children safe, you’ve got to take it, and you got to watch you don’t lose your temper,” he said.

Dickson pointed out that stopping and pulling out on the Ligonier Street side of the school creates a hazard because of the traffic sight lines, with kids crossing the street combined with passing traffic. And the drop-off is at the rear of the school, he said.

“Now, we might make an exception if a kid is on crutches. But other than that … no exceptions,” Dickson said.

Not even for his wife, Doris, who used to drop off his grandchildren.

“I’ve treated everyone the same. You’ve got to,” he said.

Although Dickson said he’s been bumped by a car now and then, there have been no serious mishaps as he helps the children, who attend kindergarten through 6th grade.

“Oh, no, never an accident, and I pray we never do. We had a couple of close calls, but nothing,” he said.

Kindergartner Blair Bernard’s grandfather, Fred Rost, has seen Dickson in action over the past five months, and he’s impressed.

“He’s really an asset and knows what he’s doing. You can tell he really cares about the kids,” Rost said.

Dickson works in front of the school, while former Latrobe councilwoman Kim Vingin is crossing guard about a block away at Lehmer Street and Ridge Avenue. Fire Policeman Ed Chemski assists children and parents crossing at Irving and Ligonier streets.

Both Vingin and Chemski praised their co-worker’s commitment for the job that pays $12.75 a day, split between the city and school district.

“Oh, and the kids really love him,” Vingin said.

Vingin recalled the time she took Dickson’s post while he recovered from surgery.

“All I heard was, ‘Where’s John? Where’s John?’” Vingin laughed.

Dickson cracked a smile.

“You should have seen all the handmade cards I got in the hospital,” he beamed.

“Starting your day, being around the kids, helping … it’s a lot of fun.”

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.


gtrdickson1012918
Paul Peirce | Tribune-Review
Crossing guard John Dickson of Latrobe outside Latrobe Elementary School.
gtrlatcrosswalk092414
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Crossing guard John Dickson directs traffic at a stamped concrete crosswalk in front of Latrobe Elementary School.
gtrdickson3012918
Paul Peirce | Tribune-Review
John Dickson of Latrobe helps students cross the street outside Latrobe Elementary School.
gtrdickson2012918
Paul Peirce | Tribune-Review
John Dickson of Latrobe helps students cross the street outside Latrobe Elementary School.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.