Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
During the 1930s, I think the most feared punishment for school kids was the wooden paddle. I think every teacher was issued one desk, one chair, and one paddle.
I rarely saw those paddles used, however. It is hard to imagine any of my grade school teachers whacking a kid with a paddle … well, maybe Miss Sweeney when some of those fourth grade boys did something outrageous.
I did see one good whack with a paddle, but it wasn’t delivered by a teacher. I don’t remember how old I was, but my teacher gave me some papers to take to the principal’s office. The principal was a man named G. L. Kingsmore.
When I opened his office door and stepped inside, there was some older boy who was standing there, and he was bent over. Just as I entered, he gave that kid’s rear end a solid whack with a paddle. I mean, the loud crack echoed off the walls. Oh man, I dropped those papers on a table, and I was out the door before he could give the kid a second whack.
I’m not sure who the boy was. I couldn’t see his face. The part of him that was facing me was the part that got whacked. I have always thought it might have been a kid named John Printz, but I’m not sure about that.
When I was in high school, the punishment I remember most had nothing to do with paddles. It only happened to me once. Actually, it wasn’t really a punishment. But for me, it was worse. I will explain.
One of my teachers was a lady named Marguerite Williams. She was a language teacher who taught Latin II and Spanish I and II. I took all those language courses, so I got to know her pretty well.
Her Spanish classes always followed the same format. Each class was 45 minutes long. She spent the first 10 minutes or so covering the day’s new vocabulary words. She made sure we understood the correct pronunciation and how the words were used.
The lion’s share of each class, however, was spent translating the day’s assignment from Spanish into English. Each student who was called upon translated aloud for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Then she moved on to the next youngster. She always called on us in alphabetical order to translate. So whenever I saw that it was near my turn, I would study extra hard the night before.
Then one day I entered her classroom having done no preparation whatsoever. I had gone to Columbus the night before with some other boys to see a movie. At the end of the previous day, it looked like I wouldn’t be called on for a couple days, so I didn’t even open my book that night.
When her class started the next day, she called on Connie Wall to translate, but she was not there. Someone said her mother had picked her up earlier that day to go to some kind of appointment. So Miss Williams moved on to Liz Weidman and Bill Worthington, who were both home with the flu. Marguerite then called on Nancy Yarrington. I don’t know where Nancy was, but she wasn’t in class.
So Marguerite moved on to the front of the alphabet, and guess who was first alphabetically in that classroom … me! Oh, how I wished my name were Johnson or something like that. She said, “Bill, will you please translate?”
I opened my book, and I knew I was in trouble. Normally I would have spent an hour or more studying the text, but I had never previously seen that day’s assignment. It was like the whole thing had been written in Greek.
It didn’t take long until Miss Williams knew that I had done no preparation whatsoever. She had to prompt me over and over again. I looked at her pleadingly, hoping she would skip over me and call on Jean Conrad. Not a chance. She had me right where she wanted me.
Each time I looked at her, she looked directly back and raised one eyebrow – not both eyebrows, only one, her left one. Marguerite was known by all her students for her ability to raise that left eyebrow. It was her way of saying, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself, kid.”
She never let up. She never called on Jean Conrad, and every now and then that left eyebrow would go up again. Somehow I made it through the class, and I let out a sigh as the bell rang to change classes.
All this may not seem like a very tough punishment, but I assure you it was. In fact, if I had to choose between Marguerite’s raised eyebrow, or G. L. Kingsmore’s paddle, I’m not sure which one I would select. That’s just how powerful her raised eyebrow was.
Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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