October 19, 2006

Skip and Mary Cannon of Montauk, who have been married for 20 years, wear many hats. He is a commissioner in the Montauk Fire Department, a captain of the Montauk fire police, a guard with Scan Security, an owner of Montauk Pest Control, and the "chief cook and bottle washer" at home. She is a drug and alcohol counselor, a licensed health counselor, a vocational counselor, and a busgirl on weekends at John's Pancake House.

"I socialize, I exercise, and I get tips and a free meal. What's not to like about that?" Mrs. Cannon said of her restaurant job.

Their favorite hats, though, are the ones they wear as crossing guards at the Montauk School from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Mr. Cannon takes charge of the school's main entrance on South Dorset Drive and Mrs. Cannon runs the show on Second House Road near the entrance to the school's lower playground.

"We're on the front line. We want children to learn and enjoy going to school every day," Mrs. Cannon said, explaining that one way she does that is by challenging the children to a brainteaser before allowing them to cross the street. Two recent questions were "Who is the mayor of New York City?" and "Who won last night's game?"

"I have so much fun with these kids. We love them," Mr. Cannon said, adding that some of the smaller ones hug his legs as an affectionate greeting, while others hail the Cannons by their first names.

"Everyone thinks we work for the school," Mrs. Cannon said, when in fact the crossing guards work for the East Hampton Town Police Department. "Rain, snow, sleet, and hail, we only take off if school is closed," Mr. Cannon said.

The Cannons even dole out biscuits to the dogs who walk their young owners to school. "We take care of them all. Montauk is our version of a global community and we treat everyone like family," Mrs. Cannon said.