The 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!