That time I got a free Sunny Boy! (and I still think about it 37 years later)

Much discussion in the mainstream media this week about the heat wave and how it is coinciding with the kiddos going back to school. Half of the public schools in Western Sydney, the hottest place generally in the Sydney Basin, have no means to cool their classrooms. I can only imagine what it is like in scorching country towns.

Having been a teacher in an un-airconditioned classroom in Western Sydney, I know how hard it is to get through the day. I recall my K-2 composite class sitting with their jaws open, on the mat. I took in my fan from home and sat them all in front of it, while I sprayed them with icy water from one of these.


On those hellish days, I would soak washers in water and then whack them in the freezer. By they time lunch time came around, I would give each of my charges a washer to drape over the back of their next. No shitting you, ten minutes later the washers were steaming hot. It was not ideal. But the school office was a demountable which had air conditioning, so we would heard the whole school into the office (all 24 of them) and watch Behind The News. BTN for the WIN!

I have read a lot of “policies” about schools and extreme temperatures. Schools do NOT send kids home in the cases of extreme temperatures. I am talking 44 degrees here people! That is 112.2 in Fahrenheit for my Stateside sisters. You can actually feel your lungs crackle as you breathe in the heat.

*rocks in chair with a Nanna rug over my knees sipping a hot Horlicks*

The year was 1980 and I, a Year One student at North Richmond (hottest place in the world) Public School went to school on such a day. As the temperature soared, little kids began to fall in the playground, foaming at the mouth while speaking Swahili. I remember it being quite a good day, because we all got a Sunny Boy! FOR FREE!



But it was fruitless. (The situation AND the Sunny Boy). By 11am the Principal made the, what I can only imagine, unprecedented call to start phoning parents to see if they were home, and if they could come collect their kids. My mum was home but was unable to come and collect us (for reasons unknown) but gave the ok for us to walk home. So me, my sister and my kindergarten bro set off down William street, walking home.

The heat rose up from the road and slapped us around a lot. Stray dogs wandered around, panting. Lucky kids whose parents were able to pick them up whizzed past in their Nissan Bluebirds. That fifteen minute walk seemed to go on for a fortnight. I do believe that during this journey, I experienced my first mirage.

We got home, stripped off all garments apart from undies and sat in front of this for the rest of the day.


Did you ever get sent home from school? Because of the heat? Nits? Pink eye? Cooties?

Is your kid’s classroom air-conditioned?