If you’re driving down Pine St. on any given weekday you’re likely to see a familiar face: Al, the school crossing guard.
Three times a day, he puts on his bright orange safety vest and guides the kids from the neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Public School across the busy street. He’s always ready with a friendly wave and a smile.
“Good Morning!” he calls to a ruddy-cheeked kindergartener on a bright red bicycle. “Hi Al!” the kid hollers back.
Wesley Allan Moore (“call me Al”) was a long-time sheet metal worker at Henderson Metal before falling in ‘89 and damaging four vertebrae in his neck.
“That pretty much ended my workin’ life” he says.
The father of three took on a supervisor role, but after enduring two neck surgeries, he was finding it difficult to manage.
“[After] I got hurt, I couldn’t even lift my arms above my head,” he remembers. “It was a WSIB situation. Now, I can’t lift anything over ten kilos. So when I found this [crossing guard position], I thought, hey, I can do that! I thought I’ll try this - and I found I enjoyed it.”
For nearly a decade, Moore has worked as a school crossing guard. For three shifts a day, he waits dutifully - stop sign in hand - for the kids to appear. Some days they cross earlier, so he tries to make sure he’s out there, “or they let me know about it,” he laughs.
The 78-year-old is unwaveringly cheerful, despite all the snow and the occasional flash flooding.
“Especially the other week there - [the rain] was the worst when they were getting out of school,” he says. “They were soaking wet, I was soaking wet. But you’re just like the mailman, you’re an all-weather fighter,” he chuckles.
He makes sure he’s properly outfitted; “I got a pair [of winter boots], good for 160 below!”
But it’s not just the weather that can be a problem; he’s nearly been hit three times.
“Once I was out in the centre with the sign up, I yelled at the kids to stay put, and the lady went right by me. Another time, a fella was turning left. He was gonna go up Sheppard, I was going across with kids and he tried to beat the traffic coming. My heart was in my mouth,” he says. “It’s a dangerous job. You just gotta be aware of everything going on. Traffic is usually so fast on Pine St. - it was really good last year when they were digging up all the streets there; it slowed down. But you just gotta be aware of the traffic.”
When he started the job, he was a little apprehensive; he wasn’t sure how the kids would respond to his directions.
“At first, I thought I’d have trouble with them,” he says. “But they’re very polite, very nice. No trouble at all with them. They talk to me all the time. They’re always asking me questions, asking me if I get paid for this job,” he laughs. “But they’re great.”
“A lot of us crossing guards meet every Friday at McDonalds. We have coffee and compare notes and everything. Even the principal stopped the other day and was talking to me and told me I was doing a good job,” he beams. “That was awesome.”
He appreciates the compliment but is unequivocal about the most rewarding part: “The kids,” he says. “They’re great. It’s nice to see them - from when they’re sitting in the stroller up until they’re graduating. You get to see them grow up, pretty much. I just enjoy them so much.”
“I’d say it’s a labor of love at this point. [I had a] spinal cord injury, so I’m having a little trouble with my legs,” he says. “I can’t walk too far. But I’m doing this for as long as I can.”