ST. GEORGE – While the job of a crossing guard may be easily overlooked by many, Eralee Fowkes, who covers the crosswalk at 540 North and Valley View Drive in St. George, has made an impression over the last couple years for smiling and waving at everyone who passes by.
Fowkes stands at the crosswalk twice a day, five days a week during the school year, smiling and waving at passing traffic and passersby while waiting for the school children to arrive. When they do, she picks up her stop sign and waits for the right moment to halt traffic so the children can safety cross.
“She’s made a reputation for herself in that she waves at every car that goes by,” said St. George Police Sgt. Craig Harding, who currently supervises school crossings in St. George. “She wants to make it an enjoyable experience for those that are crossing.”
Fowkes has been a crossing guard for nearly three years, Harding said. She does it with her husband, who works at another crosswalk in the area.
“I love being a crossing guard,” Fowkes said. “It gives me a fulfillment of helping others.”
At first, waving at the passing traffic was just a way to pass the time. However, it became a part of what Fowkes would consider her regular duties when she started seeing how people reacted.
“I got smiles when I did it,” Fowkes said.
As cars passed by, people honked and waved in return. Many called out “Welcome back” as they did.
Not only has Fowkes’ waving and cheerful demeanor won warm returns from passersby, it may have also had an overall effect on the safety of the crossing, Harding said.
“I’ve noticed that, as a supervisor of the crossings, this crossing is actually one of the safer crossings even though it’s a five-lane road,” Harding said. “There are fewer problems here than in other places. … When (drivers) come down this road, all of a sudden they are going to pay attention because they are going to get a wave.”
Harding grinned when he mentioned two contrasts of how people have responded to Fowkes. Once a woman contacted the police to ask them to get the crossing guard to stop waving because she felt it was distracting – an opinion that obviously didn’t win the day. Conversely, a man stopped at Fowkes’ position while Harding was present to tell him how much he enjoyed Fowkes’ presence there.
“He feels good about going there knowing he’s going to get a wave,” Harding said. “(People) really like and respect her at this crossing.”
Aside from the waving, Fowkes said she likes the job because she loves children and gets to help keep them safe.
“I love children a lot,” she said. “And so I feel good that I’m keeping them safe to cross and teaching the cars the rules of the crossing.”
The love of children and keeping them safe is also shared by the city’s longest serving crossing guard, Kathy Bruhm.
“I love the kids; they’re so much fun,” Bruhm said as she watched over the crosswalk at 700 South and 600 East. “I get them to talk to me, and sometimes I regret it because they talk too much. Most of the time they’re just a lot of fun.”
Bruhm has been a crossing guard for approximately 28 years and has come to know the names of the children she helps cross the road.
While her interactions with the children are positive, Bruhm said it isn’t always the case with drivers.
“You always get a few idiots,” Bruhm said before sharing some crazy stories about the many crashes she has witnessed while serving as a crossing guard. One of them included a five-car rear-ender on 700 South in which she believes the driver that caused the fiasco was texting.
While the job can be fun and rewarding, some of the risk and matters of safety can directly impact the crossing guards, Harding said.
Some drivers don’t pay attention while driving and will blast on through the crosswalks. On occasion, some drivers may even confront the crossing guards for trying to get them to slow down.
Once, Harding said, a woman a crossing guard had shouted at to slow down as she raced past got out of her car and got in the crossing guard’s face. She threatened to spray the crossing guard with pepper spray if he kept telling her to slow down – and ultimately she did.
The woman was found by police soon after and cited for interfering with a crossing guard’s duty, Harding said.
The police sergeant also pointed to a traffic cone along the crosswalk that was scarred on one side, noting that someone had driven too close to it. That cone could have been a child under different circumstances, he said
Without the aid of crossing guards, some pint-sized pedestrians may not stand a chance crossing the road otherwise, as both they and motorists can be unpredictable at times.
“Kids are unpredictable,” Harding said. “They’ll get out to the middle of the road, then all of a sudden forget something and run back. … The crossing guards are here to make sure the kids get across safely.”
Harding, Fowkes and Bruhm all said the same thing regarding safety at the crosswalks as far as motorists are concerned: pay attention and SLOW DOWN.
Even with the risks, both Fowkes and Bruhm said they find their jobs fun and rewarding and would encourage others with the time to look into it.
“It’s real rewarding,” Bruhm said, “especially with the kids.”
Some positions will be opening up soon, Harding said, when the St. George Police Department shuffles some crossing guards over to Legacy Elementary on 100 South once it’s completed. The Police Department is also currently looking for people who can substitute for their regular crossing guards.
Anyone interested can contact the St. George Police Department for more information, Harding said.
About the series “What’s in a job”
Labor Day invites us to give “tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” according to the Labor Department.
St. George News brings this “What’s in a job” series of stories over Labor Day weekend to recognize workers whose contributions may go unnoticed, who may be less visible to the general public than others and to unpack some of what goes into everyday jobs performed by everyday people in our communities. Work is a good thing. We honor it and those who do it.
Other stories in the series:
- What’s in a job: Jazzy crew’s secret ingredient to the hotspot
- What’s in a job: 1 man keeps 21 radio stations on the air for you
- What’s in a job: Farmer at heart keeps the fruit rolling in
- What’s in a job: The house that Ray built
- What’s in a job: From county queen to fairy godmother and Prince Charming
- What’s in a job: Cornfields, murder and big business define 1 deputy’s patrol
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