So that's it
I've lived in this house for nearly 18 years, and I just now figured out something that happens every morning!
There's a school one block away. Every morning when school is on, the school sends out crossing guards. At 8:30 the crossing guards shout something; then at 8:59 they shout something else. Most of them turn the shouts into a sort of harmonious song, with the same melody as old street vendor songs like "Extry! Extry! Read all about it!" or "Old clothes for sale!"
I've always enjoyed the low-tech quaintness of it ... clearly an old tradition that doesn't make sense in the age of Twitter, but still carries on.
From the beginning I understood the 8:59 song, which is always "Last crossing! Last crossing! Last crossing!" But for 18 years I've never been able to interpret the 8:30 song. Different guards seem to say different words.
This morning I caught it at last. "Now serving breakfast! Now serving breakfast!" [Later: No, that was wrong. It's "Last crossing for breakfast."]
(The school provides a hot breakfast at 8:30 for kids who don't eat at home.)
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Sidenote: Come to think of it, the tradition was already obsolete by 1970, because by then most people kept their windows and doors closed. An audible announcement made sense in the era of front porches, before central heat and air conditioning. In modern times, the only people who can hear the song are the parents and kids who are already walking toward the school; and by definition they don't need a 'time signal'. Still, I hope the tradition continues. It's an important reminder of neighborhood and locality.
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