Longtime Natchez crossing guard hangs up vest

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 15, 2010

For the first time in 43 years, Rosie Wilson didn’t have the first day of school jitters. Because, for the first time since 1966, Wilson didn’t have a first day of school.

Wilson had been employed by the City of Natchez as a school crossing guard but because of health complications she could not return this school year.

Wilson said after 44 years, it is hard to change her ways.

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“I woke up at the same time I would for school,” Wilson said. “I walked out on my back porch and really wanted to just get in the car and go to my corner. I started to go but something in my mind told me I just had to give it up.”

Wilson was most recently the school crossing guard in front of Cathedral School on Martin Luther King Jr. Street. She had also previously worked at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Street and Wilson Road.

“I was at Cathedral for probably the last 10 years,” she said. “There, I was able to be close to the kids and the parents. There were some great parents at Cathedral. I felt like I was part of the family there.”

Wilson said when she began working as a crossing guard she never expected to do it for 44 years. At the time, she was just looking for a job.

“I had been out of high school for just a little while and was looking for a job,” she said. “My name was recommended for this job, and I just took it.

“I never thought I’d enjoy it so much and still be doing it 40 years later.”

But Wilson said never, before she was forced to because of shoulder and leg injuries, did she consider letting a school year pass without putting on her orange vest and gloves and taking her positioning at the crosswalks.

“This was always a job that worked with the hours of my others jobs,” Wilson said.

She previously worked for Adams County and the juvenile detention center among other things.

But it was more than convenient.

“I really did just simply enjoy it,” she said.

She didn’t even really mind the high and low temperatures.

“I love winter,” she said. “The cold never bothers me. What I didn’t like was the rain. It seemed that when it rained people drove faster and, when they’d hit puddles, the water would splash on me. I didn’t like rain at all.”

It was her duty to stop and direct traffic allowing for safe street crossing for students and good traffic flow for parents dropping and picking up students.

“I never felt like my job was dangerous,” Wilson said. “It never crossed my mind. Parents were always courteous which I appreciated.”

And parents and students appreciated her.

“At Christmas and other times the kids would reach out of the car and hand me little gifts,” Wilson said. “It was a nice to see that they liked having me there.”

When Wilson was unable to man her post, the city would send a policeman from the Natchez Police Department, but she was always ready to get back to work.

Now, Wilson said, it is getting easier to wake up and not drive to school.

She said keeping herself busy caring for her family helps pass the hours she would normally spend keeping other families safe.

“I get up now and don’t immediately think about it,” Wilson said. “I guess, as time passes, there might be a day that I don’t think about going to work, but right now I miss it each day.”