“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.