La Verne Magazine
Husband, Wife Resist Signs to Slow Down
by Araceli Esparza
photography by Juan Garcia
Maxine Powell, 74, helps Grace Garibaldi and son, Kyle, across Eighth
Street as they head toward Marion J. Roynon Elementary School in La Verne.
Powell and her husband, Orville have has helped children and parents alike
cross the street at Eighth and "E" for more than 10 years.
Birds' morning song and the aroma of fresh coffee wake Orville and Maxine
Powell up on a daily basis, but the greetings of local elementary school
children are what get them on their feet and out the door just as 7:30 a.m.
approaches every school day.
A retired lead man of a Pomona welding shop and a former school aide,
respectively, Orville and Maxine have taken to opposite corners of Marion
J. Roynon Elementary School in La Verne to safely direct children across
the street for the past 10 years. The husband-and-wife team is equipped
with nothing more than a pair of bright orange vests and red plastic stop
signs, both of which have been provided by the city's police department.
Orville often brings a smoking pipe with which to pass the time after
the first bell has rung for school. Sometimes, he may simply sit patiently
in his light-yellow Chevrolet truck.
"I got tired of doing nothing after I retired. I had to do something,
so I applied for an opening and got it," Orville, 78, says about his
initial interest in the position.
A native of Ohio, Orville says his retirement in 1987 brought the expected
hours of leisure; but the added spare time eventually left him jaded, with
nothing to do. Maxine's interest in the crossing guard position was somewhat
delayed, as she worked as a noon aide for Grace Miller Elementary School-also
in La Verne-until nearly a year after her husband had taken on the crossing
"A majority of my life I've worked at schools," Maxine says.
"I didn't retire as a noon aide. I just left because this job paid
more than the other one."
Orville says he was introduced to Southern California nearly half a
century ago, while he served in the Air Force during World War II. The Powells
were attracted to La Verne almost immediately, so their move from the East
Coast to the Inland Empire was somewhat expected.
Both Orville and Maxine say life at their La Verne home is not out of
The couple wakes up at about 6:30 a.m. and makes the trek to work. Orville
and his wife, take to a designated corner of the school to begin one of
three shifts throughout the school day. Orville keeps watch of the D and
Sixth streets intersection, while Maxine, 74, keeps busy at the corner diagonal
to that of her husband-where Eighth and E streets meet at a "T."
Tuesday, 7:30 -8:30 a.m.
Only the traffic of commuters making their way to work and the rustle
of trees can be heard in the earliest minutes of the Powells' first shift
of the day. The playground has been left lonely all morning, with the exception
of a navy blue jacket left near the tetherball courts by one of the school
children the afternoon before.
As the morning nears 8 a.m., bright yellow school busses begin parking
alongside the "loading zone," and a continuous row of children
hop onto the curb. Part of the group rushes to the playground, while another
heads toward the crosswalk, where Maxine Powell is patiently ahead of them
as she waits to direct them across the street. The activity continues through
just past a quarter after the morning school bell has rung, and, again,
commuters' scurries can be heard.
By 8:30 a.m., Orville and Maxine walk the block-and-a-half distance
to their home, although Orville might often drive there, Maxine says. The
duo spends a few hours casually resting before having to return for the
second shift from 11 a.m. to noon.
Orville says he does not have "much to do around the house, except
maybe yard work and whatever you usually do around the house."
For Maxine, the hiatus between individual shifts allows her some time
to eat breakfast, read a book and simply relax.
She says the morning shift attracts significant amounts of traffic from
all three corners of her post. The midday shift, however, traditionally
brings more foot traffic from students and teachers, as both parties cross
from the northern block of Roynon to its southern block for lunchtime.
"I have them coming from three ways, but you just do the best you
can to get them across the street safely," says Maxine. "Sometimes
you just really have to be careful."
Neither she nor her husband was required to take emergency training
courses for the crossing guard position. Therefore, being alert and cautious
of their surroundings is instrumental in doing the job effectively and efficiently.
"They'd hit me before they hit the kids, but I've never had anyone
hit me," Orville says of any accidents that have occurred while on
the job. "I've had some come close, but I've always managed to avoid
Because of the unpredictable risks that come with directing moving traffic,
Maxine adds that patience and a degree of assertiveness are also necessary
for completing a crossing guard's responsibilities, especially when dealing
with younger children.
"Some of the kids have so much energy and they all want to run,"
she says. "They're not supposed to run, but you can't stop them from
running all the time."
Officer Chuck Ochoa, crime prevention specialist for the La Verne Police
Department and the Powells' supervisor, understands some of the obstacles
Orville and Maxine may be met. He says he is satisfied with the work performance
and commitment of the husband-and-wife team, which is unique to the Bonita
Unified School District itself.
"It takes a special person to go out there and have three different
shifts every day," he says. "But they're always there, and there's
no problem as far as them performing their duties."
Maxine has periodically missed a day at work, and Orville, in the last
10-plus years, has only missed one morning shift. Still, the couple admits
the primary motivation to waking up early for more than a decade-even after
retirement-goes beyond their paycheck and using up any spare time.
"It's fun, and the kids also keep me going," Maxine says.
"I get a lot of hugs and they're always waving at me. They're all pretty
For Orville, the feeling is much the same, though his interaction with
students also includes those from Bonita High School, which neighbors Roynon.
"A bunch of them come by and they say, 'Hello,' " Orville
says of the high school crowd. "I have no problem with them at all;
they're just on their way to school and back."
In the process of fulfilling their duties, Orville and Maxine have witnessed
students' advancement in grade levels. The couple's interaction with children
may be as simple as meeting the children at the crosswalk's halfway point
and quickly following them to the street corner. The Powells say the children
have, over the years, become like their extended family, although one of
their granddaughters is a fourth grader at Roynon.
"She's down here just about every day," Orville adds. "She
comes down here and visits me just until her mom picks her up."
Waiting for the school bell to ring and the children to start heading
home, one will usually find Orville Powell sitting in his parked Chevrolet
Thursday, 2:30-3:15 p.m.
Half past two o' clock, a swarm of parents are already waiting-in troop
formation-outside the corridors and alongside the curbs of Roynon Elementary
School. Though the dismissal bell will not ring for another 25 minutes,
the children's caretakers spend time talking to one another or to Maxine
"We sit out here and talk while she's waiting," says Rachelle
Clark, 29, who walks her 6-year-old son, Steven, to and from school every
day. "She's very nice and very good with the kids."
Clark has enjoyed passing time with Maxine for the past two years in
which her son has attended Roynon. She added that the Powells' husband-and-wife
team is well liked by many children's parents, primarily because they possess
the qualities -- patience, understanding and courtesy -- she feels are essential
to working with children.
"She's very good with the kids, and she just makes sure the kids
are always safe," Clark says. "I hope she keeps the job for the
next few years."
And staying active in the community is part of Orville's and Maxine's
intentions, as they have maintained their duties as crossing guards year
after year. Often times, however, that dedication is met with the need to
retire from such commitments in general.
For example, Maxine's 10-plus years of working with children and constantly
moving around have begun to take their toll on her. Though she intends to
keep her position for several more years, she is unsure of when it will
be time to ultimately stop.
"My old bones are telling me it's about time to quit," she
Orville's case is somewhat different, as he intends to stay as active
as possible until he decides it is his time to retire.
"Some of my in-laws ask me, 'When are you going to quit?' But this
keeps me young," he says. "I'm not one to sit on the couch and
be a vegetable."
Orville Powell, 78, has been stopping traffic on the corner of D and
Sixth streets in order to help school children get across the street safely
for more than a decade. He became a crossing guard a few years after his
retirement from a Pomona welding shop in 1987.