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Lorraine Warford hangs up her stop sign as school crossing supervisor after 25 years service in Bairnsdale
Bairnsdale 754 Primary School is about to say farewell to its much-loved school crossing supervisor, Lorraine Warford, who is hanging up her stop sign on Friday after 25 years of looking after young students.
Since 1997, Mrs Warford could be seen every morning from 8am at the Nicholson Street crossing, stop sign in hand, whistle at the ready and a smile on her face. Mrs Warford worked her initial 754 Primary stints on Main Street. "On day one I was nervous. On day two I was nervous - the boss even told me I couldn't hide behind the stop bat!" Mrs Warford said.
Layla, 8 (pictured below with her brother Connor, 11) from Bairnsdale walks across with her bicycle every morning and always stops to say hello to Mrs Warford
Keeping school zone safe
Back then, Main Street had no traffic lights, so getting children across the road safely was an even bigger responsibility. "One morning, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I could sense something was wrong. I turned and saw a dear old lady driving down the road the wrong way towards us," Mrs Warford recalled.
Mrs Warford sprang into action to prevent an accident, stopping the children on the roadside and getting the wayward elderly motorist to turn around. "The drivers are not always so great," she said. "But I'm thankful to the kids for always behaving and following the rules. There's no riding bikes, there's no riding scooters, there's no bouncing balls and they have to keep their feet behind the yellow line, because if they don't, I can't blow the whistle."
Earning children's respects
Layla, 8, from Bairnsdale walks across with her bicycle every morning and always stops to say hello to Mrs Warford."She remembers my name every morning and she's nice," Layla said.
Mrs Warford said getting to know the children had been the highlight of her work and she has learnt every child's name every year. "It was a mission of mine to learn every child's name. And I'm Lorraine to them, not Mrs Warford. That brings me to their level. By coming down to their level you earn more respect - and respect is earned not dished out - and that way we all get on really well.
In the25 years of working at the school, Mrs Warford has seen generations of children, in fact, some of the children that she once used to help cross are now parents themselves.
"It was a shock when I first recognised one mum as a kid I used to help cross at Main Street a long time ago. I looked and I couldn't believe that that much time had passed. But it had. The kids I've looked after have been great and I'm lucky to have seen them turn into fantastic adults." Mrs Warford said.
Recognized for the service
Mrs Warford is employed by East Gippsland Shire Council as one of its 22 crossing supervisors and is its longest serving supervisor of all time. In her25 years with council, Mrs Warford received no complaints and was never faulted in her work. Of the more than 3,000 crossing supervisors stationed across Victoria, Mrs Warford earned a nomination for Victorian School Crossing Supervisor of the Year in 2014 and she has been recognized by her school for her service.
A Bairnsdale resident for 53 years, Mrs Warford said she can remember the days when people still rode horses in town and children came to school on bicycles. Nowadays, she noted that the roads are mainly used by four-wheel drives, which makes the road safety role crossing supervisors play more crucial.
With just two more days until retirement, Mrs Warford admitted there is one thing she will not miss about working at the crossing - the cold, wet and foggy winter months."My hands freeze in the winter. One day we had hail - and that wasn't very pleasant, being pelted, especially as we can't have umbrellas. I wear layers and gloves and hand warmers and toe warmers, but afterwards I still sit in the car with the heater going."
When the school bell rings Friday afternoon, the students of 754 Primary School and appreciative parents will line up to bid farewell to Mrs Warford as she hands over her hi vis hat, jacket and stop sign for the final time.
Pictures from East Gippsland Shire Council website.
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