The long walk to school 482



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You remember the days of the old school yard but do you remember how you got there? Chances are you walked to school, unless you were lucky enough to have a trusty pushbike to ride.

You certainly didn’t get driven in a comfortable, air-conditioned car with bum-warming seats to keep you cozy on the trip from home to the school gate. It’s just what you did – you walked to school.

I always love hearing my mum’s story of how she walked to school. It was four miles there and four miles back.

Mum, her two sisters, two brothers and the girl from the neighbouring farm would walk together and it would take an hour each way getting to and from a small country town primary school of just 14 students. Mum was just 5 years old. Friday was a good day because they’d get a ride to school with ‘the carrier’ – the truck driver who would be ferrying the local farmers’ goods into town to sell. The boys would get into the ‘dog box’ on the back of the truck and the girls in the front seat. After school, they’d walk back home.

And there were plenty of obstacles to getting to school – like prickly gorse hedges to traverse and the pesky frozen puddles on winter mornings. One morning on the walk to school mum slipped in a frozen puddle and cut her knee on the red gravel road. Unable to keep walking, her brothers came up a plan. They pulled a wooden panel off a nearby fence, put their younger sister on there and carried her the rest of the way to school. The teacher with her trusty enamel dish and Dettol bathed the knee and patched mum up enough so that she could walk back home from school that afternoon. What a fantastic story!

So, how did we get to the point where we have to have a National Walk Safely to School Day in Australia? That’s today by the way.

The annual event, now in its 16th year, encourages primary school aged children to walk to and from school, not just today, but everyday. National Walk Safely to School Day raises awareness of the health, road safety, transport and environmental benefits that regular walking, especially to and from school can provide for the long-term health of our children.

Chairman and CEO of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, Harold Scruby said unless teachers, parents, carers and the community generally get behind the event and its objectives, the outlook for Australia’s children is not good.

“The childhood obesity epidemic has reached such critical levels in Australia, that 1 in 4 children are now overweight or obese. Unless there are significant changes to physical activity and diet, this is expected to reach 1 in 3 by 2020.

“Children require at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity – and regular walking is the best exercise for all of us”.

Our generation certainly knows why walking is the best exercise. We can also sympathise with the kids of today and why it’s not always possible to walk to school – concerns for our grandchildren’s personal welfare and safety are a high priority. At the same time though, there are ways around the problem, like getting kids to walk to school in groups.

On National Walk Safely to School Day, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Did you walk to school as a child? What’s your childhood memory of walking to school?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Sitting in wet or damp clothes all day, and trying to sit near a radiator,

    7 REPLY
    • yes, we had a tiny wood stove in the corner of the class room that didnt do much I can tell you, but w e didnt seem to get so sick as the young children today… prob not so many nasty viruses around.

    • Our immune system was better in those days because we did the exercise and got the strength to fight the illness

    • Don’t forget DDT Bronwen,this was nasty stuff,Was even sold so you could put it on your home-grown produce….

    • Yes we were a nation of healthy people then . Plenty of fresh air lots of exercise walking every where . And in winter the smell of wood fires or if you were unlucky the stink of those nasty kero heaters

  2. Yup wet shoes all day, funny never caught a cold. Almost lift off fighting wind on the way to school in northern tassie.

  3. I was made to wear a grey raincoat and plastic galoshes over my shoes,
    Looked like a complete dag but it worked

    2 REPLY
    • Raincoat, galoshas, plastic cover on my hat. We’d take our slippers to put on in class. We were allowed to walk home barefoot, (saved our shoes I suppose) and always walked in the gutter. We always walked in a group, collecting kids along the way.

  4. Lol my MUM ” back in my day we had to walk ten miles to school in 10 foot off snow with a broken leg” Funny as it sounded she actually did but it wasn’t 10 miles nor in 10 feet of snow, I asked my Nan and she said it was 2 mile in a foot of snow with a broken leg. Really cracked me up.

  5. I walked to school and my children walked too till high school when they rode bikes or I drove them..

  6. Slow walk to school but ran home for lunch every day…….but only on a good day
    It’s probably still like that in the town I grew up in.
    That’s the way it is in a country town with a population of 10k

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