It is a quick journey to the good old days. Not exactly a revelation for many but a sobering thought personally based on the realization it has been 30 years since Comanche High School kicked a group of us troublemakers out the door.
Many thoughts came flashing back this week thanks to a harmless Facebook post. It showed a picture of a young man assuming the position and a teacher or a principal ready to light him up with a paddle. It asked you to name the school if you could remember this.
As a disclaimer it is important to note this not a statement on corporal punishment in today’s school system. Things have changed so much. Back in the day, when we got licks at school, we got licks at home (if you remembered to tell your parents).
Once I shared that post, memories came flooding back for many and my youth came rushing back in vivid colors.
It has been decades, but I can remember plenty of office visits oh so well. The first time I got licks was in third grade from Mrs. Choate and by the time she was done with me that year I would not have been surprised if she needed Tommy John Surgery. Would have served her right to be honest.
In terms of rankings, Mr. Mike Wilson took top honors for swinging the best paddle in grade school. Wilson, who was also a coach, took a perverse pride in offering discipline. The first time he got me was in fourth grade. Vance Patton and I were running through the fifth and sixth grade building into the bathroom and we were standing on the bathroom toilets in the stalls hiding. From what, Lord only knows.
That was worth three licks and they left an impression that lasts to this day.
It was not so brutal that I was not willing to put myself in harm’s way. A year later, I am in Wilson’s class and someone has brought a handheld boxing game. Wilson is infatuated with it and decides it is more fun to play head-to-head than teach that day.
The more he wins the more he brags, and I decide to pop off. “I can beat you in that,” I tell him. He ignored me but I would not let it go. Wilson finally gets tired of listening to me and makes a bet. I can play but if he beats me, I get three licks. If I win ... well that is simply unthinkable. Unbeknownst to Wilson, my uncle owned a record and electronics store and when visiting grandma, I would spend the entire day at that store played that game all summer. It was like meeting a long lost friend and Wilson never had a chance. He was so hacked off he made me walk at the end of the line to lunch.
Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser. Loved that man may he rest in peace.
In junior high, Tommy Weast won the grand prize. Weast was the junior high principal who had earned his reputation has a no-nonsense basketball coach. In fact, the gymnasium is named after him. Rumor has it, when you missed a free throw in a game, you got a lick for it in practice. I believed it.
I had a habit of going to the office in junior high because I enjoyed socializing in class, Four marks would land you a visit with Mr. Weast who had an 8-track in the corner playing country music. You would talk basketball for a bit and then get your three licks. He probably took it easy on us, but you give him top honors out of respect.
High school was Mr. Mitchell, the assistant principal. I only got licks once and it was my freshman year. I saluted my classmate Hooter (guess how he got that name) in an inappropriate way and earned two licks.
The post listed a number of artists the paddle. Names that might not be familiar to some people but the type of person they were would resonate with everyone. Men and women who spent careers in education and earned your respect albeit with tough love sometimes. There was a lot of love and respect in those posts. Everyone who posted pretty much understood they deserved what they got and held no animosity or hard feelings.
Some of my favorites posts include:
“Besides my parents, his parents whooped me more than anyone else.”
“That’s what I thought then parachute pants day would come along.”
“Hooper and Brack were spoken about in hushed tones because their paddle was strong.”
“This woman was doing a man’s job back then. My respect for her grows exponentially as an adult. A paddling from this principal was always with love, for correction. We were bad kids sometimes, we deserved it.”
“It’s like a hall of fame for whoopins. Good times.”
It was good times and fun to see everybody’s comments. We didn’t have a 30-year reunion this year, but for a while, thanks to Facebook, a shared post and some solid stickhandlers, we got to enjoy the next best thing.