Transcribed by Rae Wayne
October 12, 1950
* CAL’S COLUMN *
We had not been in school more than two weeks until one of the students, whose name will not be called, began to “act up.” We had previously heard how that he had caused quite a lot of trouble to other teachers, that he had cut one boy’s hand with a pocket knife, that he had brought a pistol to school when a lady teacher was in charge and had done a number of other things to worry the teacher or teachers. We soon decided that he planned to “try out” the new teacher. We warned him that he would have to behave or be punished, but this fell on heedless ears. We had one rule about smoking which was that there must be no smoking on the school grounds. Late one day, as we were preparing some kindling for the starting of the fire to be built the next morning, we noted that this youth was staying about the school grounds, for no purpose, so far as we could see. Finally he tauntingly asked us for a match. This was about the “last straw,” and we went to our place of abode with a feeling that we would have to resort to some form of “corporal punishment.” So early the next morning when school had just started, we called the young man to the front and asked him just what he meant by asking for a match as he had done the afternoon before. His answer was one of complete insolence and we felt that we were on the spot. Something would have to be done and that at once, or we would lose our entire ability to control the school. We are sorry to have to report that we had to bring the youth to the front and there we laid the lash on him with about all the strength at our command. We were then 20 years of age and strong and active physically. We struck the boy with an elm switch, and we struck him a number of times and gave him quite “a dusting off.” He immediately left the school room and went home and, so far as we know, “graduated” that day from school. We had tried every means we could think of to avoid having to whip the boy, but not one of them appealed to him. As a last resort, we had to give the boy a “switching.”
Only those teachers who have had to go through such an unwelcome experience know the immediate effects of such drastic action. That school became as quiet and orderly as any the writer ever taught. The boys and girls had learned that the teacher meant exactly what he said, that he would take no “sass” from any pupil, and that law and order had to prevail. One regrets exceedingly to have to resort to giving a boy a “thrashing,” but there are some to whom there is no other means of appeal. After this episode had faded out and become “history,” we had but little more trouble and managed to teach a fairly good school.
But there was one other point connected with the whipping of the young man. He left school and went at once to his home. Soon the teacher was informed by the youth’s father that he, the teacher, would have to get ready for a lawsuit for whipping the boy unmercifully. We knew we had not whipped the boy unmercifully, but we had never been mixed up in any way with matters of law and we were among strangers in a way. We tried to manage the school alone for some three or four weeks when the County Superintendent, Mr. H. H. Howser, had recommended Miss Myrtle Oldham as our assistant. She was an excellent teacher and took much of the burden of trying to teach 67 boys and girls. So leaving the school in her care, we went at once to see some of the citizens of that section about what we should do in the event of being arrested for whipping the young man. We found three or four men of the community at work on a smokehouse for J. B. Mathis, the man with whom we were boarding; and, as Cal rushed up, these men saw that something was wrong. We felt about as low as a worm’s belt buckle, if worms have such. We hurriedly blurted out what had come to pass. Tom Parker, who was at work on the roof of the building, spit out a long stream of tobacco juice and then said, “Go right back to school. We’ll stand by you and see that you do not have to go to jail.” Others present, if memory serves us correctly, were J. B. Mathis, Evans Wilburn and possibly his brother, Jim Wilburn. All present assured us that they would go our bail in case we were arrested. They gave us assurance however, that there would be no arrest and commended us for doing our duty in punishing the boy who had gotten to be a sort of “rowdy,” and had the “bluff” on part of our predecessors at the Old Bottom school. We could almost see a little, one-horse teacher looking out through the bars of the jail at Lafayette, and we were “worried mighty nigh onto death.” However, that was the end of the episode, the boy’s father making no effort to have the teacher taken up for whipping his son. After that the school settled down to a steady gait and we had a fairly successful term of three months, which was all the boys and girls of Old Bottom had in the way of school in the year 1911.
One thing connected with the above episode remains “green in memory.” Some weeks after we had to whip the youth, his father came to Mr. Mathis and called him to one side and said, in a voice loud enough for the writer to hear it, “Do you have $5.00 you could lend me for a few days?” Mr. Mathis informed his neighbor that he did not have the money by him or words to that effect. We hardly knew what to do. We felt that we would like to return good for evil, but did not know just how to approach the man who had threatened us with a lawsuit a few weeks before. Finally, we mustered up enough courage to say, Mr. __________, we overheard you asking Mr. Mathis for a loan. If you do not think I am pushing myself on you, I will be glad to loan you $5.00.” He was gracious enough to accept the loan which was soon paid back. So far as we know, this was the very last of the “whipping” episode. We had returned good for evil and had healed a breach that could have lasted for years. We have no ill feeling of animosity whatever toward our school boy of 39 years or his father, for that matter. We relate this episode to show some of the trials of the teachers of other years and to show how we strove to overcome evil with good.
We recall that we could buy all the wood we wanted for firing the heating stove for $2.00 per rick. The teacher had to furnish all the fuel used and nearly all our country schools had wood burning stoves 40 years ago. The teacher generally had to do his own fire building, but the girls kept the room swept and cleaned up. We generally kept an axe at school and used this to split up kindling wood.
We recall another “event” of the first days of our school at Old Bottom. We were then extremely bashful, a thing that a lot of people will have a hard time believing now; but it is true, never-the-less. One day at the noon hour, a young woman on horseback came by the school. She called the teacher to one side; and, while seated on her horse, she asked, “Can I be your sweetheart?” Girls then were far more backward and timid than they are today and this was the fist time in life we had ever had such a question asked of us. It “floored” the young teacher of Old Bottom school. He managed to stammer out some sort of reply, stuttering and spluttering as he spoke haltingly, “I I don’t-don’t know.” She then said, “I am in a contest and I want your votes. For one dollar you can give me a thousand votes.” We were immeasurably relieved to get off “the hook” for one dollar, which we “shelled out” with alacrity. We felt then that it was well spent. But we finally got over our bashfulness and today we are hardly capable “of a blush.” But we have blushed as rosily as any school girl thousands of times in the past. We wonder if there are any bashful children today. Our own are everything but bashful.
In November of that year, the school decided to put on a Thanksgiving program. We made elaborate preparations and had a fine lot of speeches, dialogues, recitations and other features of our work that day, which was November 30, 1911. We had music that day by Henry Brawner, violinist; his son, Milton, banjoist; Willie Meador, guitarist; and Mrs. Meador, auto harpist. We had a big, fine dinner spread on the ground that bright, sunny Thanksgiving Day. We had a big “turnout” of the people of the community, who then were not the hurrying kind so sommon today. They had time to visit each other, to visit their school, to enjoy life, to attend church, to visit the sick, to go hunting and fishing when the men folks so desired, and many, many other things that we are too busy to do in these days of hurrying and rushing through life. Today the Beech Bottom community is not the happy, contented section it was 40 years ago.
(To be continued)