Minor British Institutions: Lollipop people

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The Independent Online

What better sign of a society's priorities and care for its future than a genial official figure stopping traffic to allow children to cross the road to get to school? Well, perhaps, news that local authorities are planning cuts to our 20,000 lollipop people.

The first crossing warden was Mrs Mary Hunt, a jolly Bath school caretaker who started stopping everything, including trams, in 1937, and carried on for 25 years.

The first stop signs on a pole were black-and-white rectangles; the round sign, immediately dubbed the lollipop, was introduced in the 1960s.

The uniform is now standard, apart from the hat, which can still be, rather splendidly, a bowler. The lollipop ladies and men are dedicated, brave, and often rewarded in the New Year and Birthday honours.

I can find only one L lady who has posed topless, and no trace of one of those calendars. The derivation of lollipop is from northern dialect for a tongue, lolly, itself derived from lolling.