Some Of The Stuff That Happened When I Was In School Would Probably End Up On CNN Today

rsz_paddleThe Great Four-Square Debate of ’78

When I was in ninth grade I punched some kid named Jon so hard in the face, I think his head went all the way around.

And sure, it was partially because he spelled his name “Jon,” but that wasn’t the main reason. He’d been a relentless prick to me for weeks, for no known reason (reasons aren’t required in middle school), and I’d simply had enough.

We were in gym class, playing a stupid game called Four Square, and Jon started in with his shit again. Something inside me snapped, and weeks-worth of pent-up frustration and anger was unleashed upon the left side of his jaw. It was one of the few times in my life that I heard a literal SMACK! like on Cannon.

Coach D. whipped his head around, like a dog hearing a cheese wrapper, and came rushing over. He asked what happened, allowed me to speak half a sentence, and yanked me so hard my right shoulder almost came out of socket. He took me outside and hollered at me for about five minutes, then returned to the gym — where he blew his whistle and asked everybody to gather ’round.

The whole gym class, boys and girls, formed a semi-circle around us. Then some kid ran up with a paddle, and the coach told me to lean over and put my hands on my knees. Then he spanked me repeatedly, as my classmates cheered and laughed. It was one of the many highlights of my youth.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think that would fly in today’s climate. I think the news vans would roll. Right? And there were many other things that happened at my schools, during the 1970s, that would likely turn into full-blown scandals, circa 2015. I’ll briefly run a few of ’em down for you, and invite you to share some of your own. How’s that sound? Good. Let’s go.

Showdown in the Little Theater

During high school Bill and I were sitting inside the so-called Little Theater, waiting for an assembly of some sort to begin. Coach Y. walked over to us and told us to shut our goddamn mouths, or something similar. We toned it down a bit, but continued the running commentary.

And I noticed movement in my peripheral vision, a split second before the coach punched Bill in the center of the back, and nearly knocked him into the floor. I couldn’t believe it. Still can’t.

Bill stood up, furious, and shouted, “You and me, old man! Right here, right now!!” He was challenging one of the football coaches to a fight! It was an amazing thing to behold.

Coach Y. just warned us, once again, to shut the hell up, and walked away.

And nothing happened. He punched a kid — hard — in the center of the back, in front of the entire student body, and there were no repercussions whatsoever. It was a simpler time…

Explosions in the Stairwell

When I was in high school somebody (I can’t remember who) told me that a South Charleston cop, who lived in Dunbar, sold honest-to-God M-80s. Even back then they were illegal, and difficult to find. Now it’s almost impossible, I think. Oh you might be able to find “M-80s,” but not M-80s.

Anyway, I found out where the guy lived. Needless to say, I was skeptical. A cop? Selling powerful fireworks to random kids off the street? It didn’t sound right to me. But, what if? I walked past his house a dozen times, trying to muster the courage to knock on his door.

And one day I did it. The guy answered, I told him what I wanted, and he said to hang on. I was ready to take off running, depending on what happened next. I saw him go into a bedroom, pull out a large box from underneath a bed, and bring it back to the porch where I was waiting.

Five dollars per bag, he muttered. The whole box was filled with brown paper bags, each containing 25 genuine M-80s. I about soiled my Towncrafts. I asked for two bags, handed him ten dollars, and got the hell out of there.

Then I started selling them at school, for a dollar each. And mayhem ensued. Those bastards were going off in the parking lot, and outside the school, all willy-nilly. And they were LOUD! Almost earth-shaking.

Eventually, of course, somebody took it up a notch… I heard, through the Dunbar High underground, that someone had torn a cigarette in half, and stuck it on the fuse of an M-80, creating a delay. Then they put it underneath some stairs inside the school, and lit the cig.

I was sitting in English class when it went off, and it sounded like Hiroshima. It felt like the windows rattled, and people were screaming up and down the halls. Crazy! Teachers were running from every direction, and it was pandemonium for a few minutes.

And a couple of days later it happened again. But this time they promised severe repercussions if it continued. So, it stopped. But, can you imagine? Those things were like sticks of dynamite going off inside a public school building. It would be the lead story on the local news today.

I returned to that cop a couple more times, and he finally told me he was out, and couldn’t get anymore. It was a sad day, indeed. Weird, huh?

What to Do In Case of Fire

Bill told me this story, I didn’t witness it myself, unfortunately. He said he was in class one day, and the teacher (Mr. P.) was talking about what to do if the fire alarm went off.

“Touch the door, and see if it’s hot,” he said. “If it is, don’t open it. We’ll just throw Swisher out the window, and jump on him.”

Swisher, of course, was a fat kid — who was sitting right there, minding his own business. The classroom was on the second floor, so he was proposing they use the kid as an inflatable air bag. You know, ’cause he was fat.

Brutal days, my friends…

And a few other random items

I heard stories about sports teams drinking beer and liquor on return bus trips, in plain view of teachers. I never witnessed it myself, but don’t doubt it for a second. Hell, some of our teachers probably joined in.

Every day staff members would go outside and smoke with the students. I’ve never smoked, but saw the teachers and principals out there with the hoods and stoners, yukking it up on a daily basis.

Also, during both Jr. High and High School, we had a complete 100% open campus. Meaning, during lunch breaks we were on our own. In fact, they locked the Jr. High main building, and we weren’t allowed inside. Some people walked home, and others hoofed it to the Dairy Queen or bowling alley. Hundreds of kids were basically told to get out for an hour, and they scattered in every direction, disappearing into the neighborhoods.

Finally, I had a teacher (Mrs. H.) in high school tell me to guess what the F stood for on my report card, next to her name. Wow! She was a horrible woman, ugly too. I hope the last 35 years have been exceedingly difficult for her. Wotta bitch.

Now it’s your turn. Please tell us some stories of events that simply wouldn’t fly today. What have you got for us? Use the comments link above, or below, or whatever.

And I’ll see you guys again soon.

Have a great day!

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  1. revashane says

    Eighth grade study hall this derelict guy walks up to our table and tells Robin to feel under the table. She comes up with….a stick of dynamite!! Crazy fucker, they took him out in handcuffs.

  2. We had a P.E. Teacher in high school that was also the wrestling coach. The gym had a mezzanine which housed the wrestling “cage”. The school system utilized chain link fencing to separate the wresting cafe from the other areas of the mezzanine. Anyway, during my gum class, we would often end up in the wrestling cage so the coach could get ready for practice (I had gym class last period of the day). There were two partially retarded guys in my class who were the entertainment most days as the coach would out them against each other in a “steel cage” match! There were some epic battles that are still talked about 25 years later!

  3. Jeremy Wiley says

    Someone I know who will remain anonymous called in a bomb threat to his high school to get out of class for the day. No mention of it on local news or even a call to the parents of the students. They just sent everyone home had the police sweep it and that was it.

  4. My kindergarten teacher used to grab us by the ear and drag us across the room.
    In high school my best friend brought a pipe bomb to school and sold it to the class idiot who showed it to a science teacher. They both got expelled. This was 91ish.
    I wasn’t in trouble but we used to blow up bombs all over town. Just in the dirt but still. And one inside a b36 model strung from a wire. That was hilarious.

  5. The Divine Miss E says

    My biology, and later anatomy, teacher refused to teach evolution, but did enjoy talking about the lord and describing in graphic detail what happened when she gave birth to her daughter. Nowadays she’d probably be charged with a sex crime.

  6. I had a H.S. gym teacher (mid 70’s) who, when walking into the gym and seeing two guys wrestling in anger, commented “you two look like two queers in mating season”. Somehow I think there would be some complaints nowadays.

  7. Another thing –

    Teachers and students (I’m talking 12th grade students here) having a relationship.

    Of course back in those days there was no internet, cell phones, surveillance cameras, etc. So people got away with more stuff.

    I also recall kids carrying buck knives on their belts. And where I went to HS – there was a smoking section out behind the school.

  8. My old school in England owns a former hunting lodge in the middle of a remote part of Wales. We would go there for a week at a time for orienteering, canoeing, spelunking, that sort of thing. The local village was a 1.5 / 2 mile walk away, and in the evenings, after dinner, we would all walk over there to the village pub for a few pints, children and teachers, 14 and up.

  9. Few things in High school back in the 80’s that would be unthinkable today:
    First day of Deer season as an excused absence
    Rifle team in high school
    Smoking room for students within the school

    on the other side of the coin we were not permitted to drive to school unless we had a work permit. of course few kids had their own cars

  10. squawvalleyskip says

    My high school gym teacher was also the football coach. He was also a drunk who was having an affair with a girl who was a junior when I was a senior. After I went into the army eight I heard that as soon as she graduated he dumped his wife and kids and ran off with her. They apparently were actually married for a few years. He also was fond of beating kids on the ass with a towel rolled up tight and wrapped with athletic tape. That sucker hurt. During chemistry class my class had the distinction of having the school evacuated a record number of times. For things like iodine gas in the air handling system, fire in the lab, and minor explosions. My class project my senior year I made a still out of laboratory glassware, and distilled moonshine in the lab. The chemistry teacher took the result, and handed it to me on graduation day. I was also told I couldn’t walk at graduation unless I got a haircut. I refused, and they backed down. A bald-headed math teacher ordered me to get a haircut or get out of his class my senior year (1973). I called his bluff, too. One day out of class, and I was let back in. One night at a basketball game a bunch of us got shitfaced in the parking lot. One girl was so hammered she was literally carried around between two of us for hours. The next day a whole list of names were announced over the PA system , and those named were ordered to the office. Why I escaped that is a mystery, but my name never came up. If any senior had two study halls in a row, they could get a pass to leave school for “research” on class projects. My best friend and I spent a considerable amount of time hauling ass to a place called Wittenberg’s Cigar Store, which was actually a dive bar. There we’d research a half dozen or so 15 cent draft Old Styles, and then haul ass back to our last class of the day. That’s just a small, small sampling of the kind of things that went on. Keep in mind that I went to a church affiliated German Lutheran high school. Two of my younger brothers attended that school after I left for the army, and they tell me there were of stories told about my class, and about me personally, the whole time they went to school there. The stuff of legend.

  11. This is actually my sister’s story. When she was in eighth grade at a Catholic grammar school, the girls were ushered into a classroom to discuss sex by some old has been drunk who was allegedly some expert. Already there was the trifecta of disaster – catholic school, 70s and drunk. She proceeded to tell the girls that ejaculation wad just like “Elmers glue” and whipped out a tube and pressed to show what glue looked like exhuding from the tip. Needless to day, a bunch of patents wanted heads to roll. Also, same school, they hired some guy who would stumble in after an all night bloody Mary party, bleary eyed and mean. Hed throw kids against the wall.

  12. I was in first grade and it was the show-and-tell immediately following Christmas. I brought in a Colt 45 cap gun that looked extremely real. (i.e.–no orange around the end of the barrel.) It even had a real leather holster. I was the envy of everyone in the class. Even my teacher was impressed (she was roughly 375 years old!) Were that to happen today, the school would go on lock-down, I would have been expelled and the folks from Child Protection Services would’ve come a-knockin’!

    Someone else already mentioned this, but just about everybody carried a pocket knife and I can’t recall a single instance of anyone ever getting stabbed at school. Strange how today you can’t even have a gun-shaped Pop-Tart without getting expelled and kids are getting stabbed and shot all over the place!

  13. I graduated HS in 77, so you can figure out the years from that.
    Middle school: huge ex-athlete English teacher who would ‘jack you up’ on the wall for any perceived infraction. Picture a huge gorilla-sized hand around your throat, the student, being choked and can’t breathe is held up against the wall, feet off the floor, while this Neanderthal screams in their face about ‘proper conduct’. In front of a whole classroom, or in the hallways.
    Middle school English teacher who when asked if a student could get a drink of water, would reply, ‘swallow your saliva’!
    Shop teacher who’d call out a kid’s name, and say ‘Joe, do me a favor,’ student: yes sir? teacher: “SHUT THE F.. UP!”
    HS English teacher who had sexual relations with football team members in exchange for grades.
    Open campus in HS with a courtyard where smoking was allowed between classes or at lunch.
    Racing across town to go to McDonalds, Shakey’s and other local establishments for lunch.
    Friends in a neighboring school district who flushed a ‘cherry bomb’ aka M-80 down a toilet, which ended up destroying the whole thing down to the floor. That one made the TV news.
    Someone mentioned Deer Season – In Western Illinois, school districts schedule a day off for first day of Deer season, since no one will be in class anyway!
    Illinois was a pretty twisted place to be in school in the 70’s, and in some places still is.

  14. We also had a hunting and fishing club where I went to school. I also recall at least one teacher who would throw students around or grab a hold of them.

  15. In junior high we had Archery during PE. Real bows with real arrows; the whole set-up.

  16. We had a drivers’ training instructor who was an ex-cop, and the rumor was that he would hit you if you made a mistake. He smacked me on the first day, because I had one foot on the gas and one on the brake. He was a friend of my dad’s, and that was the only reason I got into the class in the first place. It never occurred to me to tell my dad about it.

  17. My high school had a smoking area too. Before it went in, the Bad Kids (TM) would be smoking in the boys’ room, Brownsville Station-like. The toilet paper was lit on fire pretty regularly. I don’t recall getting a day off for deer season, but many kids brought rifles to school during that time of year. I was class of 1976 for what it’s worth.

    Earlier in life, during elementary school in Brooklyn, my best friend got hold of some firecrackers. He stole a few of his mother’s cigarettes and we smoked them (or tried to) in the stairwell of their apartment building. For the last cigarette, we punched a hole near the filter and inserted a firecracker fuse. We went back to the apartment, his mom came home, and a distant BOOM came seemingly hours later, although it couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes or so.

  18. Bill in WV says

    Same guy who let off the M80’s at school, also filled a prescription bottle with gun powder, lit a cigarette that crossed over a wick to said bottle and, ultimately, blew the front windows out of the school stairwell. Jeezus, the FBI, ATF and possibly the KGB would be called in today, if something like that happened.

    • A wise hooligan would peel the label off that prescription bottle. And gunpowder? Did this happen in, like, 1763?