Column: Memories of school tribulations come back to haunt

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 22, 2001


Wednesday, August 22, 2001

I liked school. I liked my schoolmates. I liked my teachers. The janitors (that’s what we called them then) were wonderful. I have wonderful memories of my years in school – especially the time I spent in the seventh grade. Those were the best five years of my life. Oh, sure, I have some painful memories, too. Most of those involve the school lunch program.

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I graduated from what now is New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva-Bath-Otisco-Matawan-Summit-Cooleyville-Berlin-Hope-Trenton-LeMond High School. On occasion I am privileged to walk the halls of my old alma mater. Times have changed. Was I the only first grader who looked at the paintings of the presidents hanging in the classroom and thought that Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were a married couple? Or perhaps the only one who was concerned because I was unable to brush after every meal? Or bothered by the fact that the school cook refused to prepare the mystery meat to my specifications? I was in the school recently and had the opportunity to listen as one of the administrators took a few young students on a tour of the school. I was surprised to see my photo hanging on the wall next to the likenesses of Washington, Lincoln and Kennedy.

I must admit that I not only was surprised, but I was pretty pleased, too.&uot;Who are those guys?&uot; asked one of the kids.

&uot;Oh, the first one is George Washington. If you never tell a lie, you could end up becoming president of this country just like George Washington. The second one is Abraham Lincoln. If you work hard, you could end up being president of this country just like Honest Abe Lincoln. The third one is John Kennedy. If you study hard in school and are very brave, you could grow up to be president just like JFK.&uot;

&uot;Who is the other guy?&uot; asked another child.

&uot;Oh, him,&uot; sighed their leader. &uot;That’s Al Batt. If you behave like he did while you are in school, you could end up writing a newspaper column and living on a farm near Hartland.&uot;

I can still see those kids shuddering in terror. I did have my days while I was in school. I remember writing &uot;I will not laugh at Crandall when he acts up because it only encourages him,&uot; 100 times on the blackboard. I remember pressing chewing gum against the blackboard with my nose for chewing the stuff in class. I remember one teacher threatening to hit me so hard that I would starve to death before I stopped rolling and another promising to hit me hard enough that my grandchildren would feel it. Fortunately, both were just into threats and not action. The threats were more than enough in my case.

I had an unfortunate incident occur in shop class. We were learning about electronics and I hot-wired the fire hydrant outside school. I just about French-fried Mrs. Paulson’s pet poodle, Pierre. Mrs. Paulson still crosses the street to avoid me.

I have clear recollections of a day in the big study hall on the second floor. It was the first day of class and they had overbooked the room. I was standing at the front of the room like a big dork while the teacher was at his desk at the back of the room, reading his newspaper. It was at this time that a classmate of mine decided to toss a marble in the instructor’s direction. It hit the newspaper with a loud thwack. Silence fell over the room. The marble hit the desk, rolled to the edge of that piece of furniture and then dropped onto the floor. It bounced across the floor – a deafening noise in the quiet room. The teacher threw his paper down onto his desk and stared out at the room. Everyone, including the culprit, was facing the front of the room, feigning studying. Everyone that is except for poor old deskless me. I was standing up in front of the study hall, facing an angry teacher. That was bad enough, but I made it even worse by grinning like a billy goat eating thistles. The teacher sent me to the principal’s office. I had been sent on mandatory field trips to that location before.

Even though there were misunderstandings like this, I did really like school. Honest. Whoa! Look at the time. I have got to get to school. I am working off detention hours. It is going to take me a while because my old school has added interest and penalty hours to my detention hours.

Hartland resident Al Batt writes columns for the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.