Saturday, 2 June 2012


One could safely say that JC wasn't a troublemaker at school. I tend to use this term loosely as he was a red-blooded boy who did boy things that often got on someone's nerves. But he knew who was in charge and tended to avoid trouble as much as possible by trying to obey the rules. Of course if he crossed the line there were consequences to pay.

But the discipline had to be just...

JC got his first taste of the strap in First Grade. The hardwood floors in the classroom had been polished to a brilliance and they were super slippery. That made skating/skidding in one's sock feet at high speeds down the aisles a whole lot of fun; that also made being drug down the aisle sliding on one's back while being pulled by the feet and wildly swung around at the end of the aisle a whole lot more fun.

Trouble was: Miss Warnoski didn't share the humor.

She came back after recess to find Kevin dragging JC around by the feet and put a stop to it once and for all. She had both perpetrators come up to the front of the class for a dose of that piece of black belting; one tap on each palm for first graders.

Now the strap didn't hurt all that much but what made it a deterrent was that it was done in front of the class; the public humiliation being the ultimate disciplinarian.

Enter Second Grade and Ms. Dorothy who was considerably older than Miss Warnoski but still in the twentieth century. Ms. Dorothy didn't use the strap all that much; she tended to hurl whatever was in her hand at the time at the perp. That could be chalk or a chalkboard eraser. There was an incident when JC was talking to Gord, or Lance, or both, when the teacher had her back turned. Ms. Dorothy whirled and fired an eraser directly at JC with markmanship that would put an army sniper to shame.

JC saw the projectile and ducked at the last minute, the brush sailing harmlessly over his head but scoring a direct hit on the face of Theresa, the innocent victim who sat behind.

Yes, there were some flaws in Ms. Dorothy's disciplinary actions.

Actually JC and Ms. Dorothy got along well. She was good to him as long as he behaved himself and did everything he was told. Well--his printing was horrible after many strong suggestions to do better and hasn't improved to this day.

JC's second grade class moved from the old 1917 vintage school house to the new fangled 1961 vintage school house on top of the hill, just before hostilities ended for the summer. It was quite an adventure to make that trek to the new school and all its fresh paint and shiny new desks.

The year ended too soon but JC and his gang of merry men were looking forward to the fall when they would return in the Third Grade. But they felt some trepidation about the teacher they would have.

Ms. Alice was a miserable hag. She bellered like an old bull; she belittled a student to the point of peeing himself/herself; she was not above using physical methods to invoke discipline which included slapping, pulling hair, pulling ears, or using the strap although the yardstick was her weapon of choice.

And she was OLD!

Like, she was so old that she was the technical advisor to the movie, The Ten Commandments. There is a cutaway of a giant redwood tree, at least twenty feet in diameter down in California that shows major historical and biblical events, each one indicated on one of the rings. There's a sign in the center that says: Ms. Alice planted this tree.

Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a trifle here but Ms. Alice was an old fossil of a teacher as seen by an eight year old. The only contribution she could possibly make to society was the inspiration of a name for a new subdivision in town: Boot Hill!

But she kep order; a drill sergeant could take lessons from her...

So now we come to the main part of the story:

On most days, right after lunch, Ms. Alice made all the kids stand and sing some lame song that included actions. JC hated action songs because they were so stupid and juvenile...

It's strange that people did more 'mature' versions of action songs later in life, such as the Chicken Dance, done at numerous weddings. More suggestive songs at college frat parties, or the time in the Lion's Den in Fort McMurray when four girls dragged JC and his friend, Kevin, up on stage to join in with them and the main singer in the performance of Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

But that's another story reserved for another time...

One of the teacher's favorite--but definitely not one of JC's favorite--songs was the Pussy Willow song, the end of which required everyone to crouch down low then jump up and shout: SCAT! JC had participated in this song too many times so, being one the class clowns, he over did the actions.

Many of the kids saw him and laughed...

Did someone hear the theme from Dragnet?

Ms. Alice caught him and her discipline was to make JC do the song and actions by himself. She gave the order then hovered over him like a giant spider.

JC hesitated.

She repeated the order...

JC stood there.

Several minutes went by and she ordered him again with a tone of voice that all but cracked the windows.

JC's resolve might have started to crumble about that time and he was contemplating doing that embarrassing song just to get the whole thing over with when Ms. Alice did the unthinkable.

She swatted him across the back with the yardstick.

Now JC understood authority; he knew when he'd done wrong and that meant that he had to atone for his sins but he also knew about making the punishment suit the crime. And getting belted across the back with a yardstick denoted cruel and unusual punishment.

Of course you can't rule out the fact that JC was more than a little stubborn. His background was Swedish/American which was a mixture of Swedish, Scottish, English, Welso, Irish, Obstinacy, and Pig-headedness.

Well, Ms. Alice labeled JC with that ol' yardstick and JC simply made up his mind that he'd take dismemberment and death over doing that song solo; he was not going to sing it. The volley of orders and threats, combined with more lashes from that yardstick just strengthened his resolve. He stood there, gritted teeth and fists clenched as the minutes ticked by.

Ms. Alice was getting desparate so she switched tactics. "You sing that right now or you're going down to the principal's office!" More silence. "Sing it or start walking!"


The recess bell rang. It had taken from lunchtime to recess and still, the showdown continued.

A couple more swats. "You do what you're told!"


Ms. Alice finally had enough. She dismissed the class for recess then grabbed the stubborn mule by the arm and proceeded to drag him out the door. JC simply let his legs buckle underneath him and went limp as an empty glove. Ms. Alice attempted to drag him for another ten feet or so but even something weighing only sixty-five pounds could be a tremendous load when one is forced to drag it along a tiled floor.

Totally exhausted, she finally gave up and stormed off to the staff room. JC let her disappear from sight then got to his feet, brushed himself off then sauntered back to the room where he seated himself back at his desk.

That's where they found him when recess was over. He was drawing a picture of a truck, or maybe a tractor, or even a motorcycle. Whatever the case he was completely unruffled and when the principal came to cart him off to the office for interrogation and sentencing, he closed his binder, left it on his desk and obediently followed.

A couple of taps on the palms of his hands with that piece of belting and the crime spree was over.

Final score: JC--one; Ms. Alice--zero.

Interesting enough, from that time on, Ms. Alice had to resort to more diplomatic means to get JC to do her bidding. When the school term was over, she promoted him to Fourth Grade, likely because there was no way she was going to put up with him for another term.

I understand that Ms. Alice taught for one more year then put in for retirement. No doubt that she was suddenly seized with the terrifying thought that JC would grow up some day and have kids of his own, and those kids just might be students of hers.

May God have mercy...


  1. Oh Dear. Times have certainly changed haven't they. I can remember all those types of "punishments" when I was in grade school. And now with kids of my own in school.....well......the pendulum I think has swung too far the other way maybe. In any case.....great post! Sure brought back a lot of memories. One being....a JC in my class. We thought he was our hero. ; )

    1. Hello, Lynn. Thanks for your comments. I too think the pendulum has swung too far the other way and with grandkids now in school I get concerned for them. But we survived and somehow so will they. But hopefully they might have one classmate who is foolish enough to stand up to the nonesense. Come to think of it, my 2nd granddaughter who goes into kindergarten this fall. She's as stubborn and obstinate as her granddad was...

  2. Loved this story!!! Would have loved to see your version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot! And I SO remember Ms. Dorothy. Thinking of her and her marksmanship made me wonder something: Why didn't anyone think of putting retired school teachers into the army? What a squad they would have made . . .
    I remember the days of corporal punishment, which almost turned to capital punishment at times. (Ms. Alice was probably contemplating it!) By the way . . . thank you for getting her out of the school system before I got to her class. I wouldn't have survived! :)

    1. Yeah, Ms. Alice would've made the enemy turn and run, and all she needed was a yardstick. You had Mrs. Ratcliff in 3rd grade didn't you? Oh, and Swing Low Sweet Chariot can only be performed with the lights down low. Two of the performers have to be English and of course the girls need to be inebriated. It goes back to a time when I was a naughty boy...