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Bad Boys, Being Bad, Part 2

photo by Van Olinda.
photo by Van Olinda.

“Marcus, why did you trip me?  You broke my front tooth and it will never grow back.”  I was flat on my face in the gravel; my lip and broken tooth were bleeding.  I spat it out in the gravel.  Marcus and his sixth grade friends were standing on the concrete porch of Vashon Grade School, laughing themselves silly at me, the third grader, three feet down from the front door of the school.  Mrs. Clark, our fifth grade teacher cleaned me up as best she could and sent me to the principal’s office to complain of the sixth grade bullies.  

Our principal Mr. Moore was a long time islander who had taught in Alaska.  He told me a story of driving a model “ A” Ford on the river ice in the middle of winter.  “We took the tires off the front end and ran on the rims to make for better turning on the ice,” Mr. Moore said.  “The rims cut into the ice better than tires would and it made the Ford look “racy” because the front end was six inches lower than the rest of the car.”  Mr. Moore had loosened the nut that holds the steering wheel on, when he was giving one of the teachers a ride to school.  “Would you like to drive,” he asked the other teacher and when her response was “Yes,” he pulled the steering wheel off the shaft and handed to his passenger, who screamed when the Ford dove into a skidding tight circle and came to rest on a snowbank.  Mr. Moore’s story made me laugh and forget the pain of the broken tooth.  

Mr. Moore was not always that kind and kept a three foot long rubber hose under his desk and we all knew what the hose was for, though he never had to use it on me, except for one time when I was cutting up in class and sent to the principal’s office.  While slapping the rubber hose into his other hand, he asked me why I couldn’t behave.  I don’t think my answer was very good, but he sent me back to class with just a warning to behave or else.

Mike Kennedy had some sort of eye problem that caused him to run around with tape over one side of his glasses and he would tilt his head to the other side to see you better.  Bobby Billing’s father was a sailor, he wasn’t  home a lot.  He wore a white sailor’s cap and was a head shorter than my Mother.  Bobby was shorter than his Dad, probably because he hadn’t grown up yet.  Mike, Bobby and I were all poor script writers and Mrs. Marston, our third grade teacher, made us stay after school to practice writing script.  Bob Gregg was another trouble maker, who made Mrs. Vanhouse so mad one day that she grabbed him by the shirt and shook him so hard, she ripped one of his sleeves off.  Bob yelled at Mrs. Vanhouse, “My Dad is going to sue you.”

It seemed that us troublemakers were given special duties to help straighten us out, or words to that effect.  They were trying to keep us out of trouble.  We had the old brick building for the younger grades and the older kids were in the new school, which wasn’t completed yet and had no kitchen.  Mrs. Larsen was our cook in the old school and when lunch was about ready, Bobby Billings, Mike Kennedy and Bob Gregg and I were sent down to the kitchen which was in the basement, where we helped load stainless steel tubs of hot food onto carts to haul to the new school.  Each tray was set in another that was full of steaming water with a stainless steel cover to keep the food hot for the older grades.  If we were having turkey for lunch, us guys were permitted to pick the bones after hauling the steaming carts to the new school.  We didn’t have to work very hard and the “perks” made it worthwhile.

Safety patrol was another way to keep us out of trouble.  The white belt I wore each day had a shiny silver badge on it that was red in the middle, for sergeant ; while Bobby Gregg’s badge was blue for “captain.”  We were very proud, holding up the red flag to stop the cars so the other kids could cross over the highway safely.  We watched Sheriff Tex everyday on television.   We knew where he lived in a pink house on the East side of the Lake Washington bridge.  He always wore a cowboy hat, tipped back on his head, and carried a lariat, a very stiff rope.  At the end of every program he would hold up his hand with the “thumb and forefinger” joined in a circle and make a clicking sound with his mouth: “Remember kids, SAFETY.”