Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Getting Paddled - The First Day of School

One of my most vivid memories occurred on the first day of the eighth grade. I remember thinking we had finally arrived. As an eighth grader in a grades one through eight school we were going to be kings for the entire year. The fall of 1967 certainly had promise. Those hollowed halls were at the time one of the oldest continually used public school facilities in America. My grand mother and father had attended school at this location. Now we were the kings, the masters of our domain. It is good to be king.

The opening bell sounded, we took our seats. The intercom speaker crackled and Mr. Hardison's voice welcomed us to school. He then called my name and five of my running buddies and summoned us to the office. I thought of naming the names but have decided against it. I wouldn't want to undermine any of my friends authority in their present positions by having them too closely tied to my escapades. When we inquired to the purpose of our summons we were informed he intended to exact corporal punishment upon our persons. He observed the horrified and quizzical expressions on our faces. He then told us that we had not yet committed any infractions. He went on to state that ours was a preemptive paddling. It was his opinion that most of the trouble in River City  the previous year had been caused by the group assembled. He wanted to set the proper tone for the year. So much for being King.

I have told this story many times. I have found that people born after 1970 just do not understand the world in which the "Baby Boomers" lived. I often hear I would have told my parents. The parents of that day did not give their children a presumption of innocence. I never once considered going home to tell the Admiral that the Principle had paddled me for being the center of all that was wrong at the school for the preceding year. He would have investigated. I did not want the principle and my Dad having any conversation. A second paddling would have been certain along with long periods of confinement.

A good paddling was an act of grace. You misbehaved, were caught, felt guilty and then were punished. Once the paddling was completed you were completely restored. No further ramification or guilt was required. I would like to tell you I was a model student after that day. I can't. The teacher / student ratio in that day was about 1 to 30. The teachers managed quite well. Mrs. Ipock said that she liked to practice her tennis forehand by paddling her students. From my experience she must have gone undefeated that year.

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