If the postal service hadn’t already laid claim to a motto about getting a job done regardless of the weather, crossing guard Howard Rogers wold be an ideal poster boy for such devotion to duty.
In the 12 years he has been employed by the City of Dallas to help Lake Highlands Elementary School students cross Ferndale Road and Longmeadow Drive, Rogers has never missed a day of work.
“And I’ve never been late, either,” the 73-year-old adds.
Rogers is no stranger to hard work and responsibilities that have no time for bad weather or illness. He was self-employed in his first two careers: restaurateur and caterer.
Working just four hours a day (he has two two-hour shifts) is nothing like the daily grind, Roger says. In fact, he calls moving 250 rambunctious first- through sixth-graders back and forth to school fun.
“I’ve got a nice bunch of kids there,” Rogers says. “They’re all sweethearts.”
He doesn’t even have many complaints about drivers who speed through the school zone.
“If the caution lights are working, people do pretty good,” he says.
Rogers joined the crossing guard profession shortly after retiring from full-time work. He enjoyed being home, but he was easily bored by long stretches of unplanned time.
“At that time, I lived right on the corner across from the school, and I used to go out every morning and talk to the crossing guard,” he says. “One day, I mentioned that I might like to work as a guard, and he told me how to apply for a job.”
The Rogers family, who had lived on the corner for 20 years, recently moved to another house about a block away, and the “commute” gives Rogers a little extra exercise. Rogers pegs himself as an early riser and says he has no trouble getting to work by 7 a.m. for his first two-hour shift. He then has most of the day to work in his yard or around the house before returning for the 2:30-4:30 p.m. shift.
Cold weather bothers him more than the heat of late summer, but he just piles on extra layers of clothing under his uniform. Even sickness has failed to deter him so far.
Rogers’ dedication, good humor and easy way with the schoolchildren won him an honorary life membership in the PTA from the Texas Congress of Parents and Teachers a couple of years ago.
“He’s interested in children, and he wants to know what’s going on at the school,” says school secretary Ona Cook, who walks to work and crosses the street where Rogers works.
“He keeps up on the schedule of events, and he’s always ready to stay a little later when he needs to.”
Working with youngsters is a vacation for Rogers compared with his other careers.
For 22 years, he owned and operated Howard’s Beef Bar, a barbecue restaurant he opened in University Park’s Snider Plaza in 1948 at the location of the current Peggy Sue BBQ. After turning over the business to his first wife in 1970, Rogers started a mobile catering business in which he drove a truck to job sites where workers needed lunch and snack foods.
Tired of being cooped up indoors for years, Rogers enjoyed the mobility and variety the job offered. He officially retired after 15 years on the road.
Now the father of six and grandfather of six works traffic from a different perspective and chuckles at the innocent logic of youngsters instead of the wisecracks of construction workers.
“I get the biggest kick out of those kids,” he says. “They can come up with the darnedest comments, and they don’t even know they’re being funny.”
Over the years, he has watched children mature from tentative first-graders to swaggering pre-teens. He’s heard them ask about words they can’t pronounce and brag about good report cards and test scores.
“I’m like the grandpa,” Rogers says. “I love kids as long as I can see them when I want to and go back to my house when I’m ready.”
“I’m going to do this as long as I can walk – or as long as they’ll let me work.”