Paddlings

An excerpt from my memoir YODER SCHOOL:

Most teachers at T.N. Lamb Junior High hung a paddle just inside the classroom door, the exceptions being Mrs. Anderson, who taught home economics, and Mr. Moose, who taught science. They didn’t need paddles; most kids were good in their rooms. But the other teachers needed paddles. In fact, at the beginning of each school year, they usually introduced their paddles to us right along with the curriculum. Some even named their paddles. Names like Dr. Pepper or Mr. Whooper or the Board of Education. The paddles had their names lettered across them, big and bold.

When we walked into a classroom for the first time, we’d eye up the paddle. Most were about two feet long. Miss McNutt had the worst kind of paddle, thin and skinny with holes. These paddles whistled through the air. Mr. Moose had no trouble explaining air resistance to us when he used the holey paddles as an example. We could see exactly why more holes meant more pain. 

Mr. Pollard sometimes let a kid choose between a detention and a paddling. Frank Adkins, who had a high tolerance for pain, always went for the paddling. He couldn’t see wasting a whole Saturday morning in detention. Not Harold MacDonald, though, who groaned and danced around just from the sting of catching a fly ball. Once Mr. Pollard said to Harold MacDonald, “You want one in here? Or three in the hall?” Harold chose one in the room, even though it was humiliating to stick out his rear end in front of the whole class. Mr. Williams always paddled in the hall. We couldn’t see, but we could hear. The class would go silent listening for the swats. The crack of the paddle sounded right through the walls and so did the moans. Mr. Williams usually left his door open. I was sure he did so on purpose. 

Teachers had their paddle language down. They’d say—like it was one big word:  Bendovergrabyouranklesanddon’tmove. If you moved, you’d get an additional swat. Most kids didn’t move, especially the ones who got paddled a lot. Once, though, when Mr. Pollard paddled Judy Hadley, she jumped away and the paddle hit her wrist. “I told you not to be sticking your hands back there,” he said. That swat didn’t count, so Mr. Pollard landed her another one. 

The test of a paddling was how long it took a kid to sit down again. Some kids stood at the backs of classes for the rest of the day. Most kids sat down after a period or two, but until then it pretty much felt as if their bottoms were on fire. That’s what Frank Adkins told me.

Frank Adkins also told me to quit worrying so much about paddlings. “We come prepared,” he told me. “Heck, today, when Mr. Determan gave me five in the office, I had on two pairs of gym shorts under my jeans. It didn’t hurt at all.” I didn’t believe him. He hadn’t sat down until lunch.

After a paddling, kids had to sign their names, right there on the paddle. Teachers were attached to their paddles, but they had to change them when the space was used up by the signing. Some teachers made their own paddles, since school supply companies didn’t sell them. It was a peculiar thing, but kids in woodshop often made paddles for the teachers. Frank Adkins, who had been paddled almost every week by Mr. Pollard, made a new paddle for him as a gift. And Mr. Pollard was glad to have it.

2 Replies to “Paddlings”

  1. Any reflections on paddling’s effectiveness? The 20 plus Mrs Cowan gave me in 2nd grade were sort of like a game—I think her face got redder than my behind. 😂 However the one Mrs Erseman gave me in 4th grade I resolved she’d never repeat, at least if I could help it. 😳

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