Column by Rose Moore, Gazette Newspapers, 1-16-2015
Years ago, as I sifted through some photographs and souvenirs, I came across a yellowed newspaper article. Smiling back at me was a picture of a special person I remembered from my childhood.
It was Edward "Eddie" Waldman, Painesville City patrolman and popular "Cop on the Corner"... though we children in those days would not have called him by that "slangy" term. At the State and Erie Street intersection, near several elementary schools, the news photographer had caught a moment when a child had impulsively thrown her arms around the sturdy officer.
I was not that little girl, but I might as well have been. Waldman was a hero to us all.
Though Waldman stood that post so long ago, he remains in the collective memory of many grammar schoolers of the 1940s and '50s who, on every school day, traveled through that busy crossing with his watchful help.
There was more than crossing duty to this policeman's work, but to us he seemed exclusive to our own small world; a reassuring guardian in blue who steered us safely through the maze of traffic at that intersection. He held a special status in our lives and somehow made us feel as if we were a special part of his.
Our safety people in those simpler times were closely knit into the fabric of our days..
En route to school, many of us passed them in our shortcuts through "Police Alley," behind the firehouse on St. Clair Street. Police and firemen alike would acknowledge us by name as we walked through.
With our families at night, we were sometimes greeted by the foot-patrolmen who walked their beats through downtown streets, checking doors and windows after dark.
In winter, as we headed down to skate on frozen ponds at Recreation Park, the police department in the police and fire complex was the designated place for pick-up and return of skates. As we arrived, officers would sometimes help to fit our skates. When we returned, they let us thaw a bit before we headed home. And we got from them the same cautionary lectures our parents would have given to us as we left home for the park.
We knew these officers by name and treated them with scrupulous respect, an ethic instilled in us by societal expectations and strict family rules.
Today, things aren't as safe or simple, for them or us, and our police cannot be as personally close to us in their everyday routines. But in our own Lake County, even in the pressures of these times, the "human factor" is intact among our police and others of our safety forces.
Contact with the public is sustained in different ways---through drug awareness meetings, Block Watch, Safety Town, facility open-houses, helmet safety programs, involvement in our community events... or simply with a deputy waving to us from his (or her) passing patrol car.
At some times in our lives, our personal paths cross the professional paths of safety forces in unhappy circumstances, be it accident, illness, fire, vandalism, theft... We find these safety people doing what they need to do to handle such events, yet keeping a humane awareness of their potential for adding to or easing our distress.
Times may have changed, and our populations may have grown, yet within our own communities there remains a certain small-town feeling and affection for the members of our safety forces. An interactive spirit of cooperation and shared goals continues to exist, and that's a vital key in how things work; or should.
There is no better time than now, considering the news of recent months, to offer tribute to the safety people of our communities today.
Their ways are modern--as they should be. But they haven't lost the human touch or diminished the influence of such "Good Guys" as Patrolman "Eddie" Waldman, of the past.