My first thought was about the stupidity of teenagers who leave home woefully underdressed for the weather that’s actually happening outdoors, knowing that their bus stop is uncovered and that they will have to traverse several hundred metres from their departure stop to the shelter of school buildings.
Another thought was that being soaked for the duration of a school day didn’t seem to be an issue for them. Perhaps the fabrics used to construct their school uniforms are self-drying and heat emitting?
I also reflected on my own secondary school days at Stratford High, where wet days were commonplace. Stratford enjoys an annual rainfall of about 2,500mm (about double Wellington’s), with daily dumpings in excess of 25mm not uncommon.
Like most Stratford High School students, I commuted on a bus. About three quarters of the school’s role did likewise. This was because this school serviced a large rural area and also the metropolis of high-school-devoid Eltham, just down the road. Wet lunchtimes were spent confined to the assembly hall. A bloke who would become Mayor of Stratford in later life provided DJ services on the hall’s PA system but dancing and singing were not encouraged. Remember that these were the days before the banning of corporal punishment.
The wearing of gumboots at school was prohibited. This was tough for us country kids who, while not born in them, largely lived in gumboots. The only other footwear option, black leather shoes, were only ever worn to school or to church on Sundays.
Once puberty struck, it was easy to spot country blokes (mostly) at beaches during summer. They were the ones with ring-bands on otherwise hairy legs where the constant flip-flopping of long, rubberised footwear had worn the hairs away. The area of the leg below the ring band was usually untanned, for good measure. Jandal-wearing townies were saved such ignominy.
High school’s general gumboot prohibition also extended to school dances. The parental permission slips for these events usually had the words “NO GUMBOOTS!!!” fully capitalised and underlined at the end. Remember that these were the days of typewriters before the arrival of bold letters and a selection of fonts in different sizes, so underlining and exclamation marks were the only means a newsletter editor had of giving prominence to items of great importance.
And gumboots were of great importance. Stratford High School had uniform standards to enforce.
It took the arrival of Mr Frederick Dagg, famously the Chair of Taihape’s School of Joinery, to reverse the prejudices previously held by many about the wearing of Skellerup’s finest. Many except the arbiters of uniform standards at Stratford High School.