It’s enough that Wisconsin crossing guards show up faithfully twice a day to protect their young charges through all kinds of inclement weather and inconsiderate drivers. How wonderful that so many of them also spread a little joy!
Mr. Helmet, whose given name is Dennis, has manned his post on the corner of Glendale Avenue and Mason Street for 14 years. He remembers birthdays, academic achievements and NFL allegiances.
“This one here is a Raiders fan,” he said Friday as I stood next to him and watched him work his magic. “Come over here. I have something to show you.”
Then, he surprised his young friend by pulling a Raiders helmet out of his truck and letting him try it on.
Each Friday during the NFL season, Mr. Helmet decorates his corner with his Packer helmet, signed by Aaron Jones, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Mason Crosby.
“Wow!” I said. “You have autographs from almost all of last week’s key players.”
“I do!” he said. “And they couldn’t be nicer.”
Owner of a vast helmet collection, he also features the Packers’ opponent in his weekly display.
“Just don’t tell my wife about the helmets,” he winked.
Mr. Helmet’s wife Cynthia (just don’t call her Mrs. Helmet) has also worked as a crossing guard for the past 14 years. She mans a corner near Edison Grade School.
When Dennis started working as a crossing guard after he retired, Cynthia joined him, although she was still working her fulltime job as well for the first five years.
“It worked out pretty well because I worked nights,” she said. “So, I’d get home from work, have something to eat and then go do the morning shift. Then, I’d sleep a little and go back and do the afternoon shift.”
She said the cold weather doesn’t bother her “You learn to stock up on long underwear and foot and hand warmers. You get used to it.”
What does bother her and other crossing guards are some of the dangerous drivers they face.
“People won’t slow down,” Cynthia said. “They don’t understand why they have to.”
Both Dennis and Cynthia take their jobs very seriously, with an eye on both the little people they cross and the drivers who don’t always recognize the danger of speeding through school zones.
But, they also like to have a little fun, especially Dennis.
“You didn’t ask me about that.” he said, pointing to a wooden mallard propped up next to his helmet display.
“That’s Duke the Duck. I brought him as a pet because I get a little lonely out here.”
He quacked us up.