In our rural community, we didn’t have phones till the early sixties.Only one or two mothers in the whole community worked. Most families had only one car, so women were most likely home unless they walked to a near neighbor’s home for coffee accompanied by their infants and toddlers. The point of this story is, when we got in trouble at school, the news often beat us home. I don’t know how, but Mother invariably knew what I’d gotten in trouble for. I suspect my older sister may have ratted me out, or the teacher sent a sneaky note home by her, but news always got home. A few times, my mother heard through the grapevine. It was certainly a different day and time. Should my offense be minor, Mother took care of the problem, but if it were a matter heinous enough to warrant a note or invitation to a conference at school, I had to deal with Daddy. That was never nice. It would have been so much happier for me if my parents had held the teacher’s attitude or methods responsible, but alas, the judgment came right back to me.
Robby Bobby’s school career didn’t really start well. Sharing the same first grade class as his older brother Frank who was giving first grade a second try, he didn’t really get the big picture. He left his seat and headed for the playground when class got dull. Since Frank knew his way around, he grabbed Robby Bobby, dragging him back to his desk. Robby Bobby piled into him and the fight was on. The teacher untangled them, sending them both back to their seats. Shortly thereafter, Miss Burns surveyed the class, going down the line. “Do you know your alphabet? Can you count to ten?” When she quizzed Robby Bobby, he was clearly disgusted. “Robby Bobby, do you know your numbers and letters?”
“Hell no!! I just got here!” he spouted, earning a paddling on the first day of school. News of the paddling beat Robby Bobby home. At that time, a paddling at school was usually followed up by a “whooping” at home to reinforce the point, adding injury to insult. Robby Bobby dreaded seeing his daddy come home. His mama made sure he knew what was coming. Mr. Peters didn’t say a word about school, leading Robby Bobby to hope Daddy hadn’t heard, but he kept quiet at supper. After supper, his daddy took him by the hand leading him to the woodshed, the whooping place. As they walked toward it in the dark, Robby Bobby trembled in fear of what was coming. Daddy asked in his low voice, ”What’s the matter with you, boy?”
“Ain’t no need to be skeert, boy. I’m right here with you.” Somehow, Robby Bobby didn’t feel much better.
Robby Bobby never really took to school. Following the family tradition, he was held back a couple of times. He roamed the playground, looking for a lone kid to bully. He’d sock them a couple of times, shove them in the mud, or snatch their pants down, whichever seemed best. Joe Brown was one the smaller boys in our class, but had the advantage of having a couple of mean older brothers. He looked like a perfect target. When Robby Bobby caught Joe apart from the rest of the kids one Tuesday morning, Joe’s time had come. Robby Bobby sneaked up, snatched Joe’s cap, and punched him smartly in the kidneys. Joe didn’t know how the game was played. Instead of running off bawling, he turned and beat the phooey out of Robby Bobby. Mr. White, the principal strolled by just in time to see the whole thing. Fighting was wrong. He dragged both boys back to the classroom so we could all get the benefit of the lecture. He droned on and on before getting to the good part…….the paddling. Joe got two lackluster swats for fighting. There was no way around that. Then Joe had to answer the question, ”What did you learn today about fighting?”
Joe shuffled around and gave the stock answer. “No fighting in school, no excuses.” Joe headed for his seat so Robby Bobby could take his turn.
Mr. White gave Robby Bobby five hard swats that echoed nicely off his bony behind, pleasing the self-righteous class since most of us had suffered at his hands. We all knew Robby Bobby was in the wrong. He also had to answer the question, “What did you learn today about fighting?”
Robby Bobby looked thoughtfully from Joe Brown to Mr. White and back before replying, “Don’t pick on Joe Brown. He’s a mean little son of a bitch.”