When parents come to pick their kids up from school, they will stop and chat with Sam Vinson first. Sometimes kids give him cookies and candy. Other times he can be seen standing in the street with his stop sign instructing drivers to slow down.
Vinson started his job as a crossing guard in 1996 when he retired from IBM. Prior to moving to New Mexico, he lived in Los Angeles, California, where he first began working for the computer company. When IBM transferred him to Albuquerque, he fixed computers for the banks and worked at Sandia Labs.
After retirement, Vinson was looking for something else to do.
“Somehow I got associated with someone and they said something about being a crossing guard because I was trying to find something to occupy my time,” Vinson said Tuesday afternoon. “And crossing guard has worked fine. You know, I get up early. That’s the only thing.”
Vinson gets up around 5 a.m. and goes to Osuna Elementary School at around 7 a.m., where he helps students cross the street and reminds drivers to slow down.
He’s been a crossing guard at Osuna Elementary for about 26 years. For the last six or seven years he also worked as a guard at Sombra del Monte Elementary, where he stands guard in the afternoons when kids get let out of school. He said when he first started working at Osuna, he would play basketball with his grandson after finishing up his work as a crossing guard.
His grandson is all grown up now.
“He’s a fine young man,” Vinson said of his grandson. “He’s 26 years old. He graduated from New Mexico State, and he’s been working out at Bradbury Stamm. He enjoys his work and he’s a good kid.”
Vinson said he enjoys his job, too, and will keep working as a crossing guard for as long as he can.
“I enjoy the job, and that’s all that matters to me. Luckily, I haven’t missed many days over those 26 years. I don’t remember the last time I was off. I just stay at it,” Vinson said.
One of the drawbacks of being a crossing guard is having to stand out in the cold. On Tuesday, Vinson was bundled up in winter attire, wearing a fuzzy hat and bright green jacket. He also regularly wears a mask, which, aside from keeping germs at bay, helps keep him warm.
The best part of his job, he said, is the kids.
“I greet them every day with a hello, hi. It’s just a fun job. The parents, same thing. I don’t have a problem with the parents. I do have trouble with some of the speeders. There’s some that are determined to speed. Usually, you can kind of control them, and once in a while there’s one or two that don’t want to be controlled. That’s the way it goes.”
In all his years as a crossing guard, Vinson never needed campus or city police to help him with speeders or unruly parents, but he does have a message for speeders.
“The main thing is they got to understand that they got to slow down,” Vinson said. “I mean, I know they’re used to driving fast, especially in recent times, but it didn’t used to be like this. I didn’t used to have as many speeders as I have now. It seems like everyone wants to step on the pedal and speed a little bit, and that doesn’t go too good with me. My job is to slow them down and keep the kids safe. That’s what I’m trying to do.”