June Benchoff has been a crossing guard for more than 50 years

June 24, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • June Benchoff of Hagerstown takes care of her Maltese and collects watches and stuffed animals when she is not working as a school crossing guard, a job she has done since 1957.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

There have been changes over the years at the corner of Locust and Washington streets.

Families have moved away, buildings have undergone renovations and there's been a heavier stream of traffic.

But June Benchoff, with her green hat and white gloves, has remained a familiar sight.

For more than 50 years, Benchoff has stood on the same busy corner shepherding children to and from school.

She helps them cross the street, makes sure they safely board their buses and scolds those who, occasionally, think the rules don't apply.

But Locust and Washington wasn't her first assignment.

Benchoff has been a crossing guard since 1957 — and, at the age of 86, she said, there will be no changing of the guard any time soon.

"I'm healthy, my mind is good and I love my job," the Hagerstown woman said.

Benchoff said she was a single woman living with her parents when she landed her dream job.

"I had worked in stores but I wanted to be outside," she said. "I knew some people who were crossing guards and I thought this would be perfect for me."

At that time, Benchoff said, the crossing guard job was under the supervision of the Hagerstown Police Department.

"I applied for it and I applied again and, finally, I got the call to report to headquarters," she said.

She's been at the job ever since.

Benchoff said she originally was assigned to Antietam and Mulberry streets. But as the number of school-aged children in the neighborhood dwindled, she was moved to Locust and Washington.

Living on East Baltimore Street, she has walked to her post every school day, only taking extended time off when she had her son, Rick, and when her husband died 12 years ago.

Although she has been a crossing guard for more than 50 years, Benchoff said there have been few changes.

"The local school system eventually took over as supervisors of crossing guards, but, other than that, it's always been about safety," she said.

Even the children are pretty much the same.

"Kids are kids," she said, "whether it was 1957 or 2011. There are good ones and those who can give you problems. Even the parents can give you some attitude. But I've been lucky. Other than three or four, most have been very nice children."

Benchoff said she has no idea how many young people have crossed her path — or street — over the years.

But many of them still remember her, she said.

"They'll recognize me and say 'hi, crossing guard.' They'll even stop in their cars and say I used to cross them when they were going to school. It's pretty nice," she said.

After all these years, Benchoff said she can't imagine not being a crossing guard.

"The job has meant so much to me," she said. "After my husband died, it helped me get out and going again. And now, it gives me a purpose."

Benchoff said she doesn't drive and often walks wherever she needs to go.

"I stay active as much as I can," she said.

She has lived for more than 50 years in the six-room house she and her husband shared — a place that keeps her busy trimming hedges, cleaning drapes and taking care of her Maltese.

Her son now lives with her, she said, and is a big help with chores she no longer wants to tackle.

And, for fun, she likes to go shopping and collect watches and stuffed animals.

"I enjoy life," Benchoff said. "And I have no plans for retirement. As long as I can walk, I'll be doing my job."

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