Wednesday, March 25, 2009

R.A. Mitchell on punishment

I served time at R.A. Mitchell Elementary throughout the 1960's. My last year at Mitchell was 1969. I served one to six years at that institution and later transferred to serve out my public education sentencing at General Forrest Junior High School, then later Emma Sansom High School. Yes, I grew up institutionalized since I was in first grade - but I swear that I was completely innocent of all charges.

My friend Tommy Puckett mentioned the electric paddle the other day. It was rumored that our principal, Mrs. Love, had one of these in her office. Every time I passed her office door I would always try to see if I could catch a glimpse of that legendary mechanized corporal punishment machine. Back then - I imagined that the electric paddle was made from an old heavy-duty oscillating fan. In my mind's eye I could see it sitting in a dark corner - powered by a Briggs and Stratton motor - with fan blades replaced by rough hewn oak paddles. Such an implement of swift justice kept many good boys from going bad.
I guess I was a good boy because I never had to experience the electric paddle. I did have to sit on The Pink Bench from time to time. Those who were sent to The Pink Bench were those who were either waiting to be checked out by a parent or for those who had misbehaved and waiting for discipline. I didn't like sitting on The Pink Bench because you always got the "what did you do wrong" look from all the kids waiting in the lunch line (that could be a lot of kids). The Pink Bench was positioned across the hall from the Principal's office and just next to the stairs leading up to the lunch room. Even if you were sitting on the bench for innocent reasons - you were looked upon by all as if you were in trouble. So I didn't like sitting on the bench for any reason...guilt by association.

The school is still up there on the mountain, across from Noccalula Falls Park. It still looks the same - as if it were a time capsule waiting to be revisited by curious old students. I am curious. I'd like to see if the bench is still there. I'd go into Mrs. Loves old office - take a good look around the principal's old domain. I would look in every corner - and the closet behind where her desk used to be.  I'd be looking for an old dusty oscillating paddler.
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