Friday Firesmith – Board of Education

When Coach “Shorty” Williams cracked a bone in Jimmy Joye’s wrist while paddling him, the world changed in an instant, and it changed hard. The Coaches, and all of them were football coaches, baseball coaches, math teachers, substitute teachers, and basically the school Gestapo, all carried their own paddles with them wherever they went inside the school.

It wasn’t a question of if someone was going to get paddled it was merely a question of when. The coaches, particularly men like Coach Owens, who taught Driver’s Ed, were a sadistic lot. Owens would paddle you for not turning on your blinker at the right moment, or taking a turn too quickly, or even for not reading his mind as to where you were supposed to go. He and Shorty had this thing going where one of them would stop someone in the hallway and ask them where they were going. If the kid stopped to talk he might be late, and therefore get paddled. If he ignored a Coach he would get paddled. If he ran to be on time he would get paddled. Shorty and Owens loved this game.

They would also grab a kid, and by the way, it was always young men, and never young women, but they would simply grab a kid and tell him he was getting paddled. If he told them he hadn’t done anything, that was “talking back” so he would get paddled twice. That’s what happened to Jimmy. But he was tired of the abuse, and he was trying to get away, and put his hand back to far, and Short popped him hard.

The paddles were short pieces of boards, usually with a handle, and often with holes cut in them to make it hurt more. When Shorty tagged Jimmy, Jimmy let out a yelp but Shorty was going to get his pound of flesh. Jimmy’s wrist swelled up and finally, hours later, they called his Mom.

All. Hell. Broke. Loose.

To begin with, Jimmy begged them to call his parents and they threatened to paddle him if he didn’t shut up. Then when they called his Mom, they told her he had been injured in the gym. Mom gets there, picks Jimmy up and they go to the hospital where a fracture is discovered in Jimmy’s wrist. Mom works as a secretary for one of the lawyers in town.

The next morning Mom shows up in the Boys’ Locker Room office looking for Shorty and looking for blood. In a voice loud enough for us to hear it in the locker room, she tells Shorty he’s going to write her a check for five hundred dollars, now, right now, this very instant, and don’t tell me to calm down, I am calm, but that’s not going to last very long.

Shorty has to go to his meat wagon looking white van and get his checkbook, and write a check on the spot. Then Mom takes Jimmy to the principal’s office, and it begins anew. Someone who was in the office at the time said she got face to face with the principal and told him the next time anyone hit her son she was going to take that paddle and beat him to death with it.

For my part, I got away with a lot more than I got caught doing. The threat of being paddled never stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do. It did scare some of the kids, and the idea the teachers had that much authority over a student meant something to a lot of kids. I think schools were safer when there was more discipline, but I also know there were those teachers who took it too far simply because there was no one there to stop them.

One of my sisters is a teacher, and parents will come in now and throw a real fit because their kid failed a test. The fact the kid can’t spell cat and is in the ninth grade, “Don’t matter none” as the last set of parents told her.

I’m pretty sure the list of things I learned in high school is a short list. I’m equally confident there wasn’t a coach qualified to teach tic tac toe on a good day. But no one ever shot anyone else, and all our fights, even the bloody ones, never really hurt anyone, and likely, you’d get a paddling for that, and then move on and be friends with whoever you fought.
Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


17 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Board of Education”

  1. At the end of gym class we had 8 minutes to shower, dress, and get to the next class. Got out of the shower, the towels are locked up, Coach is having a smoke in his office. We all start hollering while standing there wet and naked.
    He comes out pissed off and decides he’s going to make an example of me, the fat kid. He puts his head down and charges like a damn bull hitting me waist high with his shoulder. I put my arm around his neck and held him there. He gives me a couple light taps on the arm to let him up so I let go and he stood up and punched me in the face breaking off a front tooth. Then he tells me to go to the office and tell them I broke it on a locker.
    I did because he was also the Driver Ed teacher and my parents demanded I pass Driver Ed before I could get my license.

  2. In junior high we had to rent the locks for our lockers. They were crap and you could hit one hard and it would pop open. So everyone started using their own locks. This made the principal mad so him and a coach broke all the locks off and put everyone’s stuff in a pile in the yard. Of course a lot of things including books went missing. They told us we would have to pay for any books we lost at the end of the year. This all turned my mother to a level of mad I had never seen before. We marched down to the principal’s office and she let loose. She was about 6 inches taller than him and used it to look down on him. By the time she finished he was almost crying. Funniest thing I have ever seen. Don’t mess with mama bear.

  3. Had I ever found out anyone had assaulted my child, there would have been Hell to pay. I let the school know, in no uncertain terms, if my child did something, they had better call me. I will take care if whatever it is the way I see fit. If anyone ever laid a hand on MY child the next person they’d have to lay a hand on would have been me. I’d be there to kick the shit out of them.
    That being said, My son was a good kid, he was more scared of me coming to the school than of anything else, I believe. I did go up there one time in middle school, and caught his vice principal in a lie, and trying to tell me a lie about him, then tried to make him change his story right in front of me Not pretty to say the least. I called her out on it, and called her boss. They never wanted to see me again.

    • Chick, I’ve never met you but you strike me as the type of woman Jimmy’s mom was. She was nice as hell until she wasn’t. She was the first woman I ever heard cuss while yelling.

  4. I was raised by my grandmother in the old days (born in ’41). If I received a whippin’ at school, I was promised another when I got home. That was a promise my grandmother never kept. Instead, she would look me in the eye and make me promise that I’d be good at school. And I would try to keep that promise for a day or so.
    Finally, I was not allowed to board the school bus one morning. The driver made me walk the quarter mile to the house and get my grandmother. He told her I was actin’ up too much. No more riding the school bus. My step-grandad took me to within two miles of the school and made he walk from that point. Every day, rain, snow, or hail. He operated a road grader and that was where it was kept, where he started his job. Tough titty was his answer to my complaint.
    Lessons like that were appropriate for the times. I can’t imagine today’s crop of parents complying. Even less likely is the cooperation of the students. I know that for a fact because I have driven school buses for over 22 years. If I return this school season, it will be my last. I will become 80 years old July 2021.
    And this is the saddest of times I have ever experienced. Confusion, contempt , and carelessness reigns. So sad!

    • Damn, RR, I bet you’ve got some stories to tell. My dad made me walk to everywhere. I’d wear shoes out before I outgrew them.

  5. I am not convinced that a ‘lack of paddling’ is the cause of school shootings; I suspect that the current trend of calling boys ‘defective’ and putting them on drugs for perfectly normal restlessness is a significant factor.

    male students generally don’t ‘sit still’ like female students’; and recent generations of teachers have come to insist that these ‘defective’ non female students need to be drugged with ritalin or adderall and given antidepressants etc. recess and other athletic activities are far less common in schools; competitive activities are also far less common now. – all of these changes were implemented to make schools ‘better for females’ but they do have a negative impact on the male students.

    Spending a childhood where you are basically told you have to take psychotropic drugs because you have a “disorder” is going to have a psychological impact not to mention that those same medicines list side effects that may include agitation, aggression, mood swings, abnormal thoughts and thoughts of suicide; Anti Depressants also act as “anti-empathy” agents which can certainly increase the risk of someone turning to violence.

    I totally support efforts to make schools better for female students; that effort has clearly helped but we can’t ignore the damage we are doing to male students in the process.

    • Keith, I have always thought trying to either beat kids into submission or dope them up so they would behave were two really bad ideas.

      I’ve taken some of those drugs. They certainly do undesirable things to the human mind.

    • The Scots are savage af. I would expect no less from them. That’s one of the countries I want to visit before I die!!!

  6. In the 70’s when I was in school around the age 6-7 I was slapped with a metal bar across my palm of my hand for writing with my left. I was told by the nuns it was the devils hand and I was only allowed to write with my right. In a class of 35 there were only of 2 of us and as much as we tried we could not do it. At that age we didnt know any better.

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