Once upon a time, Verona children walked to school. By themselves. All the way. Their mothers–and yes, back in the day is was generally moms sending them off after breakfast–would bid goodbye at the front door and the children would walk to one of our four elementary schools. The same children would walk home at lunch, then back to school, before coming home again at the end of the school day. They got to school and back home safely, and their parents didn’t worry that they wouldn’t.
Children could do this because of crossing guards like Juliet Schill, who was for many years the guard at F.N. Brown on Grove Avenue.
She wasn’t my crossing guard when I was a kid, but I knew her and her family because they lived on the Laning side of town just like we did and she was what was then called the “lively arts” teacher at Laning.
When I moved back to town in 2003, however, Mrs. Schill was the crossing guard at the intersection of Newman Avenue, Otsego Road and Elk Road, a crazy crossing where guards, still to this day, often put themselves at risk for our kids. Despite it, Mrs. Schill had a smile for the kids every morning and afternoon–Verona was well past the days of sending kids home for lunch–and, perhaps more importantly, a pocket full of treats for our dog. No matter how late we were for the start of the school day, the dog would sit patiently at her feet and wait for his reward. She retired from being a crossing guard after breaking her wrist one winter and the dog was beside himself, and so were the rest of us.