When Elizabeth “Betty” Jolley was ten years old her mother saw where her daughter wrote in a word book that she wanted to live in California when she grew up.
“I was always star struck,” she says of her desire to live in California.
After school, Betty worked in a mill in her home town of Leeds in West Yorkshire, England. She then spent several years in New Zealand doing the same type of work. “It was a nice way of seeing somewhere else for free because they paid my way,” she recalled.
In 1961, family friends sponsored Betty to come to California. She found a job as a nanny to six children in Brentwood, but she was homesick at first. When she went to the British Consulate to get her passport renewed, a person there suggested that she try one of the English clubs.
“In those days there used to be clubs from the part of England you come from,” she says.
Betty and her husband first lived in a house near Hamilton High School. Her daughter, Gloria, had asthma and a doctor suggested that they move closer to the ocean, but her father-in-law questioned their move to Venice.
“No one wanted to live here in those days,” she says. “It didn’t have a very good reputation.”
Betty has lived in the same home since 1966. At first, she was a stay-at-home mom to Gloria and her son Eric. When a neighbor was looking for a job one day, Betty happened to see in the newspaper classified section an advertisement for a crossing guard and thought this would be good for her friend. But her friend wasn’t interested and Betty decided it would be a suitable job for her because could be with her children when they were out of school.
In 1978 Betty became the first crossing guard at Broadway Elementary School. She worked for the Los Angeles Police Department then and had to take a civil service exam.
“I have been blessed,” she says. “I could have been sent to the other side of town.”
A double blessing came in 1984 when Betty was transferred to Couer d’Alene Avenue Elementary School, only a couple of blocks from her home, where she was stationed at the corner of Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Coeur d’Alene Avenue until her retirement in March.
Betty explained that there are certain rules to being a crossing guard. First, the guards must judge how fast the cars are going, and then they slowly put up a stop sign and walk into the street when they see the cars slowing down. The guards advise the children to stay on the curb, and when they see that the cars have stopped, the guards back up to the curb. There is no running, no bike riding, no skateboards and no scooters.
Although Betty finds that most of the drivers adhere to the rules they are supposed to follow, she says there are still many who drive too fast. Some drivers will go right through when she is putting the cone in the middle of the street and some will go through when she is crossing with the children, she says.
“Legally, you’re supposed to wait until the person in the crosswalk is on the sidewalk,” she says.
The streetscape has changed a lot since 1984 in Betty’s little pocket on Abbot Kinney, as many places in the area weren’t there when she started.
“Between Crestmoore and Angelus it used to be small houses,” she says. “Now it’s a big complex.”
Betty has many interesting stories and fond memories of her time as a crossing guard. One of the most unusual situations was a naked man running down the street, she remembers.
What Betty says she will really remember is the kindness of parents and neighbors. Many children today have parents who were once students at the school, and students who attended the school a long time ago have also stopped by to see her.
“It’s wonderful to be remembered like that,” she says.
Betty says people were aware of her pending retirement, and one neighbor even wrote her a farewell note.
“Congratulations on a job very well done and service graciously rendered,” the note said. “I will miss the energy, joy and discipline you so unselfishly brought to your job. Best wishes to you in whatever you choose to do next.”
Retirement really wasn’t in Betty’s near future plans, but she said the city offered a special retirement plan and she felt that she didn’t have a choice but to accept it. She told her supervisor that she was willing to work until the end of the school year, but that request was not approved and her last day on a job, which she so thoroughly enjoyed for 32 years, was March 12th.
Betty says she will still get to see the students at Coeur d’Alene when she volunteers one day a week at the school library. “They do need help and I love the school,” she says.
She enjoys being near the ocean during her retirement and walks on the beach in the mornings. In addition, she now has time to spend with her three-year-old granddaughter, Fiona Elizabeth.
“If you’re going to do a job, you should do it well,” she says, reflecting on her career. “I love being a crossing guard. I take it seriously.”