Hell No, I Just Got Here

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?”

“I’m skeert.”

“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.”

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Monogramed Toilet Seat

My mother often said, “If you have kids, you can’t have anything else.”  Well, she was wrong.  We had a new toilet seat.  After installing it, Daddy looked around, stared us down, and threatened.  “I’d better not see anybody’s initials on this seat!”  Where did that come from?  I’d never heard of anybody putting initials on a toilet seat.

I went about my business, that toilet seat and  initials, foremost on my mind.  I wrote LDS in my “Night Before Christmas” book, LDS in the sand under the big shade tree, scooped up some mud and wrote LDS on the dog house. Still unsatisfied, I heated the ice pick on a stove burner and burned LDS on a green Tupperware tumbler.

Feeling strangely unfulfilled and restless, I couldn’t think of a thing to do.  Billy was off somewhere playing with Froggy.  Mother and the baby were taking a nap, so if I stayed in the house, I had to be quiet.  I slipped in the kitchen to see if there was any Kool Aid miraculously left in the pitcher.  No luck. Dejected, I went to the bathroom.

There it was calling to me, pristine in its unblemished beauty.  The new toilet seat!!!  I sat down, my bare bottom luxuriating in its cool smoothness. I got up, locked the door, and turned the seat up. Making sure no one was looking through the window, I got Mother’s eyebrow pencil out of the medicine cabinet and wrote LDS in tiny letters where no one would ever see it.  Terrified, I erased my crime.  The finish was dull from pencil smears. My heart pounded!  I was caught!  I got tissue and buffed it off.  Thank goodness the shine was back.  Relieved, I sat on the side of the bathtub to catch my breath.  A nail fell out of my pocket and clattered to the bottom of the tub.  Never has the devil so possessed a soul.  Grasping the nail, I scratched BRS, Billy’s initials, on the toilet seat.  Horrified, at the enormity of my crime, I tiptoed past the room where Mother and the baby still slept.  By this time, Billy and Froggy had gotten back.  We were throwing mud balls at each other when I heard a shriek from the house.  “BILLY RAY SWAIN!!  You come here this minute!”  I didn’t need to go in to know what was wrong.  I heard “Spat! Spat! Spat!” and in a few minutes he was out, still snuffling.

“What happened?”

“Mother whooped me for putting my initials on the toilet seat. I told her I didn’t know how to write but she said, ‘Who else would put your initials on the toilet seat?’ “

How long could it be before she found the Tupperware?

Jimmy Sasses Sweet Miss Billie

Miss Billie                                                           Sweet Miss Billie School Pics enlargedThis is an excerpt from my book in progress.  It is a collaborative memoir of my mother’s memoirs of The Great Depression.Pictured above you can see Kathleen Holdaway, left to right from grades 1 through 5  Please don’t be too hard on Miss Billie.  Corporal punishment was an accepted part of education at that time.

I adored Miss Billie, my first grade teacher.  I hungered for her approval, strived for perfect work, and admired every thread she wore, her floral scent, her ladylike jewelry, and her kind, modest manner.  Heaven could have granted me no greater wish than to grow up and be just like her.  And above all this, Miss Billie was fair and gentle.  One day after lunch Jimmy Wilson shocked us all by “sassing” Miss Billie,  earning me the privilege of serving as message bearer to Mr. Kinnebrew, her husband and the principal. I proudly carried a note concealed beneath red and white checked napkin covering the lunch basket Miss Kinnebrew packed for them daily.  I almost felt like a member of the family, being on such intimate terms.  I knocked shyly, intimidated by the powerful man.  He opened the door just a crack, took the basket, and returned it to me moments later, without a word, to my great relief.  I returned the basket to Miss Billie, got her smiling nod in return, and scurried back to my seat.

She, Jimmy, and the covered basket exited the room.  The entire class gave the door just time enough swing closed before rushing to claim prime viewing spots at the large crack afforded by a missing panel, the faster, more aggressive kids and the lucky ones in the back rows getting the best views.  Despite our enthusiasm to see the show, we restrained ourselves sufficiently not to push the door open and fall out into the hall in harm’s way.  After a quick lecture on manners and respect, Miss Billie had Jimmy bend over, grasp his knees, pulled Mr. Kinnebrew’s belt from the dainty basket, doubled it and gave him three stinging licks across his backside.  As Jimmy rubbed his bottom, Miss Billie tucked the belt beneath the napkin, took Jimmy by the arm, and led him back to the classroom, just ahead of the thunderous sound of the class returning its seats, which she somehow failed to notice. No mention was made of how Mr. Kinnebrew was to keep his pants up the rest of the day, since neither the basket nor the incident was referred again, but Jimmy was respectful the rest of the year.  I think he’d seen a new side of Sweet Miss Billie.  It was an altogether edifying and satisfying experience for the rest of us.

Don’t Let Me Catch You!

 

 

First Grade School Picture

First Grade School Picture

Tommy got me in a lot of trouble.  Oh, not the usual boy and girl trouble you’re thinking of.  Three years older and much worldlier, he fed me jokes like a gambler shoveling quarters in a slot machine.  Most of the time, they sailed right over my head, but Tommy made it clear theses were high humor and bore repeating.  By the time I was six, I was Continue reading

I Quit! (From Kathleen’s Memoirs of The Great Depression)

One morning about a week after I started first grade, Daddy finished up the last of his coffee and ground out his cigarette as Mama scraped the few leftovers onto a plate for Ol’ Jack.  “All right kids.  Best be getting’ ready for school.”  He got up, putting on his felt had as he headed out the back door to do a couple of things before heading to his janitor job at Continue reading

“Spontaneous Combustion” or “Because I Love You”

Pop..pop..pop..pop..pop..pop..pop…the percussion of Daddy’s belt flying out of his belt loops would have brought me out of a coma. Of his various approaches to discipline, “Spontaneous Combustion” was my specialty and the one I experienced most, being both clumsy and a smart mouth. Things could be rocking along just fine till someone – usually me – broke a dish, made a smart remark, or embarrassed Daddy.   Though I never set out to be “smart-alecky”, I could always count on my big mouth.  What I thought was funny, didn’t always amuse him. I carefully memorized jokes, even if they were way over my head, to tell at just the right moment. My judgment of the right moment was poor, such as when we had the preacher’s family over to Sunday dinner and I told loudly a joke I’d overheard on the school bus.  Continue reading