Source: Manitoba Calling, 1937Once the industrial edge of the city, the West End west of Arlington Street began to develop into a cozy, middle class neighbourhood after World War I. In 1919 Greenway School at Burnell and St. Matthews (facing St. Matthews) expanded to become the largest elementary school in the city.
The school had to contend with a number of high-traffic, industrial neighbours. By the early 1930s that two block stretch of Burnell street housed the Canada Bread plant, Bryce’s Bakery, Grey Goose bus garage and Crescent Creamery ice cream plant (now Hignell Printing). To the west was Minto Armoury.
Given the amount of commercial and industrial vehicles passing by every day, school officials were concerned about children getting safely to and from the building. In 1935 teacher Louise Staples was assigned with finding a solution. She later recounted: "I had to do something, kids were just running wild across the streets and I couldn't do everything myself. Someone was going to get killed." (June 21, 1986, Winnipeg Free Press).
She organized a group of the older boys, with Doug McGhee as captain, to patrol the intersections before and after school and at lunchtime. They were issued white Sam Browne belts so that children and motorists would recognize them as "patrols".
Beausejour's first school safety patrols
April 22, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune
April 22, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune
The idea immediately generated interest among other inner city schools. The following year, a school safety patrol pilot project that included 50 boys and five schools: Greenway, Gladstone, Isbister, Somerset and Mulvey began.
The guidelines and techniques to be used by the boys were formalized. Constable Andrew Dunn of Winnipeg Police Department's motorcycle patrol was appointed the first supervisor of the program and gave the boys road safety training.
To generate publicity for this new safety campaign, media were invited to an event on the front steps of Greenway School on May 1, 1936. Patrols demonstrated their safety techniques and Mayor John Queen formally presented them with their white belts.
The following year 29 schools participated in the program. By 1954 that number was 84. The police department, which supervised the program, received numerous information requests from schools across the country.
Greenway school plaque (source)
The Minnedosa-born Staples left Greenway in the late 1940s and eventually became the principal of Mulvey School. She retired from there in 1964 and died on March 23, 1988.
Nationally, there are over 100,000 schoolchildren that act as school safety patrols each year. (Source: CAA)
Staples is commemorated by the Louise Staples Shield, awarded annually to the most efficient school patrol captains in the province. There is also a plaque inside the current Greenway School. In September 2011 a mural called "School Patrols: Carrying the Vision" was unveiled at 719 St. Matthews honouring the woman and the program she created 75 years ago.
“Would it be too much to say that the sight of these young patrollers doing their work conscientiously and wholeheartedly at busy intersections has been an example and inspiration to the adult community ? We do not think so”
Winnipeg Tribune Editorial, March 23, 1943
2011 Canadian School Patrol Handbook CAASchool Patrol program Winnipeg School Division No. 1