Bester Elementary hosts safety fair

April 22, 2002|BY ANDREW SCHOTZ

A meeting with the firemen was in order.

Teresa Teaford suspected her 7-year-old son, Shawn, didn't appreciate the danger of fire.

Playing around at home one day, Shawn lighted some paper on fire, then stomped it out.

Teaford thinks Shawn "got a little wakeup call" but, to be sure, she brought him to the Second Annual Safety Fair at Bester Elementary School on Saturday.

"It was important for me to bring him here," she said.

Shawn acknowledged seeing "trucks and firemans," but didn't elaborate as he rummaged through school store items for sale.

PTA President Kim Gandee started the Safety Fair last year and parent Bob Harr organized it this year.

Harr, who is semi-retired from the Hagerstown Fire Department and Community Rescue Squad, said he "jumped at the chance" to help children learn about safety.


Twenty-six groups set up booths.

Nancy Gordon and Char Robertson said that in their 27 years driving buses for Washington County Public Schools, children's behavior has been the top problem. They passed out drawings and connect-the-dots sheets.

"They should get on, sit in their seats and behave themselves," Gordon said.

Robertson said it's also important for children to stay a safe distance from the bus before it stops to pick them up.

The women said some bus drivers can tell stories of being punched or smacked by students.

"There'll be a special place in heaven for us," Robertson joked.

Rules for walkers include "Stay back," "Don't push" and "No carrying on at the curb," said Mattie Cauffman, who has helped students cross the street for 40 years.

"I don't let them off the curb until the bus driver stops and opens the door," said Alice Cox, a crossing guard for 20 years.

Both women were dressed in work whites and black ties.

As the day wore down, and the number of visitors dwindled, safety experts amused themselves with the word searches and puzzles meant for visiting children.

Cox looked up when two boys stopped at her table. She recognized one.

"Hey, I know you," she said. "You ride your bike."

The boy's face was uncertain until she put on her uniform cap and a knowing look set in.

Officers John Brooks and Shawn Bushman from Maryland Correctional Training Center, a prison south of Hagerstown, had at least three dozen confiscated "shanks" on display.

Shanks are the name for homemade weapons that prisoners make.

Most were made from metal - a pilfered shop screw, a piece of a bed frame or a locker - but one was fashioned from a piece of glass.

Sharon Rucker, the prison's public information officer, said the prison's message for children is: "Sometimes, when you make bad choices, you have to live with the consequences, and this is one of them."

Brooks said most young children probably don't understand the concept of prison. People "do something bad and they're gone," he said.

Girls were more interested than boys in a scale model of prison cells because "it was like a dollhouse," Rucker said.

Harr said about 200 children and parents showed up Saturday for this year's fair, about half of last year's total.

One reason is the event was moved from a weekday evening last year to a Saturday this year, which meant more competition with other community events, Harr said.

Also, this year's fair was held at the same time as a disaster drill at Hagerstown Regional Airport. Harr said some of the emergency services groups had to concentrate on the disaster drill instead of the fair, and a Medevac helicopter couldn't stay.

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