NEW STORY: “The Hottest Day Ever At Sunny Hills High School"

 

“The Hottest Day Ever at Sunny Hills”

 

By Melting Paul Saevig, ‘67

 

The forecast for Thursday was 114 degrees in Fullerton and by 8 AM, everyone felt it coming. Half an hour later, a girl playing field hockey collapsed with sunstroke. The tall blonde English teacher said, “At least we can turn off the lights so it seems cooler.” By 9 AM, three kids with asthma had staggered to the nurse’s office. 

 

“When’s the district joining to cancel classes? Guy!” a ’64 girl complained in the Senior Center. 

 

“This is ridiculous!” a sophomore English teacher declared, and slapped her roll book on the podium. 

 

Soon everyone felt the hot dry winds raking across the campus, winds from the mountain passes. The gusts stole papers from people’s hands, blew trash across the Quad, lifted girls’ dresses lewdly, distorted student pompadours and flattened hair bouffant styles against girls’ faces. 

 

Some of the boys took off their sport shirts to give girls their T-shirts. Some girls had already changed into PE shorts, against the rules or not. Now it was 92 degrees and rising, and the teachers looked the other way.  

 

The principal sent the counselors around to all the classrooms and ordered kids to the gym, where big fans had been rolled inside. Still the cavernous building was blazing hot with swirls of dust and wind near the doors. Teachers tried to hurry the kids along, and a folk singer improvised a song with his friends: 

 

“It takes a heated man to sing a heated song!

It takes a heated man to sing a heated song

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song

I'm way too hot now, but I won't be too hot long!”

 

Once all the kids were inside, the principal told them, “This is too much. First of all, you can use the pool if you want to. We’re going to have private buses coming soon, with air conditioning. Now does anyone need to see a doctor? We’ll get you there. Talk to the math teacher in the corner here.”

 

One of the women counselors talked to key girls who might know which girls, if any, were pregnant. 

 

“This is no joke. We’ve got to make sure they’re safe,” she said, and right away she had four names of girls she offered to drive home herself. They all accepted. 

 

“The coach wants to say something,” the principal said, and the basketball player took the microphone. 

 

“All right,” he began. “This is a real crisis. We could go over 114 today, and the heat index is a lot higher. How many of you have swimming pools at home?” 

 

Quite a few kids looked at each other in confusion, and there was struggling and even some laughter. The coach didn’t change his expression.

 

“How many?” he repeated. 

 

Several class officers raised their hands and stood up.  A few more followed, and a few more, and then more, until about one hundred fifty kids were standing. 

 

“Good. How many of you will volunteer to let twenty or so kids come over and cool off until dark?” he asked them all. 

 

“Yeah, sure,” one junior girl said, then a sophomore boy volunteered, and another, and soon there were more than one hundred volunteers. 

 

“Good,” the coach said. “Why don’t you all come down here and stand in a line? Right here. Right. Good. OK, how many of you students drive a big car with air conditioning?” 

 

“Only a Volkswagen with open windows!” a wise guy yelled and laughed, and the coach bored holes in him with his eyes.

 

“How many?” he repeated, and before long had twenty three volunteers. 

 

“Good. Coach?” the coach called to another coach. “Help match these people up. The kids with pools, the kids with big cars, and the kids who’d like to go swimmin’.” 

 

The other coach with a jaunty walk came down from the stands, and another coach, this one smaller and stocky, walked over and said with a wink, “I’d better help, too! No time to waste!” 

 

Now everyone laughed and the mood lightened, although quite a few people were still half sick, and a fe would have to go to the hospital. The kids assembled into groups on the gym floor, and one of the lady history teachers came up to say something to principal. He bent his head down to hear her whisper and nodded his headlight away. 

 

“Folks?” he said. “When you get matched up with a driver, the driver can move his car onto the grass, like we do on Car Day. The ladies in the cafeteria will make cold water available while we wait. Inside the cafeteria, OK?” 

 

“Got it, Chief” the most deeply dimpled water polo player shouted and everybody laughed again. 

 

The procedure worked much slower than desired, however. Unless they knew the drivers, kids were hesitant to step forward for a ride. Quite a few of them left the gym to start for home, where the friendly dean cajoled and coaxed them to stay. One girl got as far as the sidewalk down Warburton Way and collapsed in the ice plant. The dean sprinted to help her, and most of the other kids wen back inside the gym. 

“You can go to our pool now,” the principal added, and there was an immediate exodus of several hundred kids. Right away members of the football team linked up to perform cannonballs off the high diving board, while the wrestlers, basketball players and baseball players heckled them. They dared each other to a tournament, but before they could start, two sophomore girls on the swimming team climbed the ladder and executed superb cannonballs. Inspired, several more girls in their class cannonballed to wild cheering. 

 

Inevitably, a pack of senior boys sneaked back on campus with a case of beer, passed out bottles to the prettiest girls, and just as quickly felt the big hands of the water polo coach pressing on their guilty shoulders. He whistled from the canteen where this seizure took place and ordered the offenders to take their beers back and proceed to a grating at the west edge of the Quad, where he told them to dump out the beer. The spectacle drew quite a crowd. 

 

When the first large cars left campus with their passengers destined to swim, two Varsity Club leaders got in one boy’s yellow ’56 Cadillac and went out to find students in need of cooling. It seemed like a good idea, and immediately representatives from the Key Club, the Pep Club, the Future Homemakers of America and the French Club followed suit. En route to their search, they called to one another on Valencia Mesa and divided their territory to avoid duplicate rescues. 

 

So it happened that the two yellow Cadillac guys combed through Basque Tract and the farther range of East Commonwealth. They spotted a freshman couple at the donut shop below West Valencia on Brookhurst, but the two refused their offer. Then on South Basque they encountered a junior girl who said should’ve to swim but she started work at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant at 4 PM, or noon if they let her. They regretted leaving her to her choice. 

 

When they continued to West Fullerton, crawling along the elongated streets and saplings, weaving their way through the tracts, they noticed two guys with ducktail haircuts walking on West Hill near Gilbert. They pulled over to explain their mission, and before they could finish, both boys gave them a lewd gesture and told them to go get you-know what. 

 

The passenger of the car, a strong athlete bound for Stanford, leaped out of the car in indignation, approached the two rowdies, and in a flash of steel, noticed a switchblade knife pointed at him. 

 

“You’re in the wrong neighborhood,” the boy with the knife said, adding an obscene word. 

 

The other boy in the Cadillac, a swimmer with a more peaceable nature, stood on the floorboard and turned to say, “You guys are from Buena Park High, aren’t you?” 

 

The boy with the knife answered, “No [bleep]!” with deep exasperation. 

 

“Oh, sorry! My mistake!” the boy who spoke to him first said. “Take it easy!” 

 

“Yeah, nice meeting you guys!” the Cadillac driver called, while his buddy got back inside and they burned rubber forward. 

 

The thermometer reached 117 that day, tumbleweeds rolled across West Valencia and West Orangethorpe, and by the end of the evening, twenty two Sunny Hills girls had dates with Lancer boys they met that afternoon at poolside. 

 

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