The primary school I went to in New Zealand had a very prestigious offering for those in their final year at the school (which was the equivalent of Grade 5).
When I was in my final year, I was all of the tender age of 10 and somehow deemed responsible enough for this prestigious offer. No word of a lie, I was to be a ‘Traffic Monitor’. Boys and girls were selected and before school and after school we were to stop traffic and tell the students when they could and couldn’t cross the roads.
Sexual discrimination was rampant with the boys being given the more dangerous road to patrol and the girls, (while clearly considered less competent) were given the quieter street that had to be crossed after you came over the railway line at Woburn Station.
The prestigious Traffic Monitors were divided into teams of three and we were each given a day in the week to patrol. My group of three was given Fridays. Two of the girls in my group were told they were lollipop girls while I was elevated to being in charge of signals. We were all given a uniform. Buttoned up white coats like lab coats on dry days and hard yellow plastic raincoats on wet days that were so stiff you couldn’t bend your elbows. Being in charge of signals I was also given a notebook and a pen so I could write down the number plates of reckless and dangerous drivers. I so hoped to encounter a reckless and dangerous driver but never did unlike the boys occupying the busy road who were full of self-importance and regaled their stories of speeding cars and skidding cars and near misses that were so over the top you would have thought every second vehicle was being driven by someone reckless and dangerous.
So every Friday I had to be at school an hour earlier and I went home an hour later. And I didn’t mind. We also had to leave class 15 minutes early on a Friday afternoon so we could put on our uniforms and walk to the crossing, being ready for the first student waiting to cross. And I certainly didn’t mind the early mark.
Once at the crossing, I stood on one side of the road with a lolly-pop girl beside me and the other lolly-pop girl stood on the other side of the road. The lolly-pop sticks had white wooden handles with a red lolly-pop on the end saying ‘Stop’. The girls held their signs horizontally creating a barricade and all the students stood diligently behind the stop sign. On my signal I would yell, (and this was a very important moment), ‘Signs up’, and the girls would raise their sticks but then hold out a horizontal arm because I hadn’t quite finished my lines, then I would yell, ‘Cross Now’, and the girls would drop their arms and hold their sticks upright so the cars could read ‘stop’ and the students would cross. And when the time was right I would yell, ‘Signs Down’ and the sticks would again be held like a barricade.
And at some time during that year I did have a birthday and turn 11 but I still can’t believe it was considered perfectly acceptable for children of such a young age to be given so much responsibility. And even more amazingly, the public suffered no fatalities or even injuries.
At the time, the thought that I might have been too young to be responsible for the safety of others never occurred to me. I just loved the power of being able to stop traffic.
And after that trip down memory lane, here’s the weekend update…
Today I watched Alfie play rugby (another humiliating defeat ) and tonight I’m off to see Archie perform at the Roxbury Hotel in Glebe. In between I’ve been making seasonings and wrestling with an 8kg turkey for our Christmas in July event and I’m quite sure today is the coldest day of the year. And I know this because the dogs won’t budge from having front-row position in front of the heater.
I hope you’re enjoying your weekend.
Want to keep in touch? Join the fun on the Hotly Spiced Facebook Page!