Although Margaret Spencer hasn’t donned her school crossing guard attire in 11 years, she often recalls the days when ensuring the safety of children walking to and from Central Elementary School in Beech Grove.
“I remember well my first day as a guard,” Spencer said. “I walked into the street to stop traffic ... and the kids had followed me into the traffic. I told them, ‘I’m not the mama duck. You can’t follow me. You have to wait until I stop traffic.’ ”
Spencer was on the job for 37 years at the corner of Albany Street and 10th Avenue in Beech Grove, where more than 50 children crossed the street in the early days of her career.
But that number had dwindled to about five when she retired after having spine surgery in 2006. “A lot of parents didn’t think it was safe for their children to walk to school anymore.”
Spencer, 74, didn’t want to quit, but she had difficulty in standing for any length of time after the surgery. “That’s when I started working at Southwood Baptist Church. I like working there and will do so for as long as I’m able.”
Her morning guard shift ran from 7:30-8 a.m., the afternoon shift was from 2:30-3 p.m. And when children used to walk home for lunch, she was also on duty.
“It was a rewarding job,” said Spencer, who resides in Cambridge Square, an independent living community in Beech Grove. “Since I didn’t have any children, I loved all the kids like they were mine. They were so well-behaved, and they had a lot of respect for the adults. I would have loved to taken some of the children home with me.
“I made a lot of good friends, and I met many parents who drove their children to school. Occasionally when I’m out shopping, I’ll hear someone say, ‘There she is; she is our old school crossing guard.’ ”
Spencer was employed through the Beech Grove Police Department, which supplied her vests and coats. The department still has about 10 guards, she said. “I remember some nasty weather, but winter never bothered me because I was always properly dressed. We had nice rain suits.”
Spencer was also a math and reading tutor and custodian at Central Elementary. “The children were really bubbly and adorable, but they liked to talk more than reading and working math problems.”
A widow since her husband, Lee, died in 2000, Spencer attended Holy Name Grade School and Beech Grove High. She started working at St. Francis Hospital after graduating.
In addition to her secretarial duties at the church, Spencer likes to knit, read, attend Bible studies and take part in activities at the Beech Grove Senior Citizens Center.
“I like to listen to the karaoke singers at The Music Box, but I don’t sing because I’m afraid I would clear the place out.”