Photo by Katherine McGinness
A thousand students, faculty and visitors pass security guard Larry Fries daily. Students like juniors Trinity Legill and Carly Hendrickson say good morning. The majority walk by completely oblivious, thinking about an upcoming test or talking to friends. But if any student takes the time to look up and say hello to the man sitting behind the glass, they would be answered with a today-is-a-good-day smile, a head nod and a “good morning.” Every single day without fail.
Fries had been a police officer for 27 years and retired as a sergeant five years ago. After a while, he got tired of waking up every morning with nothing to look forward to.
“You can go to the gym and have a job too,” Fries said.
After a year of waking up to no new plans, he applied to work in security for SMSD. Now Fries is going on his fourth year at East.
While working in law enforcement, Fries dealt with more negative offenses like tickets, arrests and drug busts.
At East his favorite part is seeing and meeting all the students and visitors. Because of his talkative nature, Fries loves hearing about people’s families and getting to know them when they come up for various reasons. He gets to have more positive interactions than from his time on the force — checking in visitors, giving directions and answering any questions.
He spends his days in the glass booth keeping his eyes on monitors — one monitor for every elementary school. While Fries is a security guard at East he is also responsible for looking at the security cameras outside the elementary schools. He watches for people trying to break into the schools and monitors the alarms.
But while he is switching off from staring at those same screens, listening to the police radio and checking in visitors, he still ends with a smile at 2:40 when students leave. And it all comes down to a Native American saying Fries remembers reading —
“Everyday above the Earth is a good day.”
And students can see this mantra in his face as they walk in.
Junior Trinity Legill found that Fries new her name by the second week of freshman year. She would come in at seven every morning greeted by his whole-hearty smile, which in turn produced a smile on her own face.
“He knew my name before… well before my teachers even did,” Legill said.
She remembers being late for school freshman year and was out of breath at the door from running. Although she showed up ID-less Fries knew her and let her in. He reminded her to bring it next time and let her go to class.
“I was already such a mess,” Legill recalls. “I hate being late. But he was so nice about it and didn’t add any stress to the situation.”
When he’s not checking in visitors or watching elementary school cameras, Fries enjoys out of school activities.
“I’m here when you’re here,” Fries said.
And when we’re not at school he heads off to the gym after 3 p.m. or riding his Harley Street Glide — two more reasons he has to smile. Fries also spends time going to shows or movies with his daughter when he has time off.
And while him and his daughter are out getting dinner or running errands, Fries is certain that his bigger physic and full sleeve tattoos with cobwebs and dark skulls give others a harsh impression of him.
However, Junior Carly Hendrickson would have never guessed at this side of him. She simply sees a man with a nice presence.
“In the morning I’m always rushed or in a bad mood,” Hendrickson said. “Seeing his friendly smile makes me become happy and gives me a positive start to the day.”
100 people of the estimated 1000 going in and out of the school in a day look up and say hi Fries noticed, some even before he can get the words out. They are greeted with a smile from the man behind the glass. A man who is simply happy to be there: it’s another day on Earth.