LOLLIPOP lady Frances Cole is hanging up her yellow jacket and her stick after 30 years.
Millions of cars have passed and thousands of children have crossed since the grandmother-of-one began her patrols outside St James’ Primary School in Lostock Hall on June 17, 1985.
Through wind, rain, sun and snow, Fran has guided children to safety across the busy B5254 – and now she sees some return with children of their own.
But when the school bell goes on Monday afternoon, it will signal the end of an era for the 68-year-old, who has come to be known by generations of village children.
“I’ve loved doing it, I really have”, said Frances of Victoria Street, Lostock Hall.
“I like children and my main concern was seeing them to school and back again safely, along with their mums and dads.
“It’s one of those jobs where I’ve got real satisfaction and I love being out in the cold.
“People say to me in winter ‘I wouldn’t do your job for all the tea in China’, but autumn and winter are my favourite times, I don’t like the sun.”
Frances was a car parts delivery driver for Dutton Forshaw in Preston before fate took a strange turn and she became a lollipop lady.
She said: “I came home one day and there was a police car outside my house. I ran to the door, fearing the worst about my husband or my daughter, but the police lady there was waiting for me to offer me the job as lollipop lady.
“The man who used to do it before me lived across the road and he retired, so I was recommended.
“I thought about it, either it was a job a bus fare away in town, or one just around the corner, so of course I went for the one round the corner and I’ve never looked back.”
She added: “It’s going to be a big wrench leaving. At first it’ll seem like the normal summer holidays, but when it gets to September 1 or 2, I’ll be looking for my yellow jacket, but won’t be putting it on.
“I’ll miss the children, but a lot of them live near me, so I’ll keep in touch with them.
“I’ve also got a 15-month-old grandson now, so I’ll be busy looking after him a few days a week.”
Mum-of-three Angela Styles has got to know Frances after years of attending the school with her children.
She said: “I know that all lollipop people do a good job, but it’s going to take a lot of training to be as good as Fran.
“She’s the only one who goes morning, dinner time and home time, and she’s everybody’s friend. My son who’s 22, my other who’s 13 and the youngest who’s four have all been crossed by her and we’ve got very pally, but she’s like that with everyone. She know’s all the children’s names and she always has a good chat and laugh with everyone.”
Janet Fontaine, whose children Luke, Ella and Harry, were crossed by Frances, agreed.
She said: “I can’t believe she’s going, she’s going to be really missed.
“She has such a nice personality and she makes time for everyone.”