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?



  • Donna

    I loved sunny boys. Sugar and all. My youngest starts school tomorrow in an unairconditioned room. He feels the heat. So far down here in SW Vic we’ve been spared your heat wave. But if it hits I’ll be picking him (and his sister) up. Not much teaching goes on when the Mercury hits those levels.
    PS. I got sent home for nits in grade 4. Apart from the embarrassment, being at home with free reading time was heaven.

    • I also got sent home for nits once. The only saving grace was that it was an epidemic and most of the school got sent home. Best of luck for tomorrow!

  • Tracey

    I remember being sent home from school due to the Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria, even though the fires were nowhere near us it was about eleventy hundred degrees that day. I’ll take heat over cold any day, so It doesn’t bother me.

    • I prefer heat to cool. Husband is the opposite! He gets around in shorts when I am rugged up!

  • Simone P

    I’m in regional WA and schools without air conditioning mystifies me, is your Government that hard up that they won’t install them?

    • We have a new Education Minister so we shall see!

  • I went to primary school in Attunga just outside of Tamworth. No aircon, just windows wide open to let the hornets and the hot breeze in. Fans were flat out overhead while we melted and slid about in puddles of sweat on plastic seats below. The only time anyone was ever sent home was after heavy rains and all the farm kids were at risk of being cut off by flood waters. So off they went! I lived just around the corner from the school on the same side of the river so lucked out there. My only hope was to chuck a sickie but then Mum worked in the office so I’d have to spend the day in the sick bay at school anyway. It was a tough life.

    My kids don’t have aircon at their school here in Tamworth. It’s currently 39 degrees C. 🙁

  • Nicola

    I grew up in the UK and once got sent home in a blizzard. I lived within walking distance so struggled in through knee deep snow only to be sent home because barely anyone else got there. The snow was so thick on the way home i lost my way, even though I walked to and from school every day. From memory it took hours to get home – and I don’t recall my mother being in the slightest bit concerned for my welfare when I finally fell through the door.

    I wish I could be that cavalier in my parenting.

  • Sadly no my children’s classrooms are not air-conditioned, and it’s consistently HOT and humid up here for months. P&C offered to get it installed but the education department won’t foot the electricity bill – STINKERS

  • witchwand

    I got sent home with German Measles?? I remember vividly the teacher pulling up my dress in the classroom (!!!) and looking at my stomach (supposedly seeing German Measle splotches) and me looking down at my stomach and then seeing my pale yellow big knickers with the black cat on the crotch for all the classroom to see and feeling the hot redness creep up my neck….

  • Heidi Hendry

    10 years ago, a relative of mine worked as a teacher in Western Sydney. The Dept of Education would do temperature readings of the classroom. But they would do it at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, and when there were no children in the classroom. Each child emits the amount of heat of a radiant heater. So factor in 30 little radiant heaters, as well as extreme temperatures, and a Dept of Education that wanted to avoid spending money, and lo and behold 10 years later, the weather is hotter and the situation hasn’t changed.
    My relative regularly had heat stroke, and would spend the evenings in a cool shower.

    The other thing to consider is that the “seasons” have shifted. The hottest time of the year is not the 6 weeks after Xmas any more. The Dept of Education needs to re-adjust when their holidays are to cover the hottest period. They did that in 1985 (we went from 3 school terms to 4), they can do it again.

    Someone is going to die from heat stroke at school, and then the Dept of Education will have to do something. It’s a tragedy in the making.

  • JP

    School in QLD in the 70s-80s was of course ridiculously hot but also punctuated (ha! get it?) by frequent strikes by Electricity Board workers due to Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen’s constant stoushes with the unions.

    When the power was out for a certain amount of time we all got called out, class by class, to eat melting iceblocks from the tuckshop freezer. Gosh we loved it!

  • FunMumX3

    Grew up in Perth with no AC except the Junior school K-2 that was built later than the red-brick monster I was in. Never did get sent home for heat even with the odd 44 degree day, just put us all in the hall and cracked open the icy pole boxes from the canteen freezer! Only once as I recall, that whole time.

    I remember in high school science slipping off the plastic stool up at the lab bench due to sweaty thighs and short dress. Wipeout! Landed on my arse but cooled off my undies. Ha!

  • Remember you used to check the inside of the Sunny Boy packet, and you would occasionally when a free one! It was like winning the lottery.
    My sister loved Sunny Boys, I was more of a Glug man myself.

  • Midlife Dramas in Pyjamas

    I got sent home from primary school in the 70s once. I’d forgotten my swimming kit so the teacher just sent me home to get it! My mother went ABSOLUTELY BATSHIT CRAZY!! She kept me at home for ages to make the teacher worry, while writing him a VERY stroppy letter. He was in a cold sweat with panic when I finally returned, and nearly passed out when he read the letter. Pretty sure he never did that again…