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Trouble at School

One time, Mrs. Van House shook Rob K. so hard that she ripped his shirt.  “My dad is going to sue you,” Rob said.  Mrs. Van House was our 2nd grade teacher at Vashon Grade School and as mean as she could be.  We had been cutting up in class again and Rob had taken the brunt of it, the fall guy.  Rob’s dad wasn’t going to sue the teacher, even though his dad’s own method was to use the belt and Rob took plenty of that.

Another time, I found a garter snake under the wood shop and slipped it into Mrs. Van House’s desk  when she was out of the room.  “Who put that snake in my desk?” she yelled upon opening her drawer.  Nobody  ratted on me, which was unusual and Mrs. Van House never found out who did it.  

Or take the time we found a swarm of bees hanging from a branch overlooking the tennis court.  The swarm was as large as a hornet’s nest when Rob cut the branch and chased the girls, the swarm swinging on the end of his branch.  
Swarming bees don’t normally sting and the girls screamed when the bees got tangled in their hair, because the bees were attracted to the sticky-sweet hairspray the girls used in those days.  There was lots of trouble over that.  Both Rob and I were grounded.

Rob’s dad, was mean too and was never known to have cracked a smile.  We called him Mr. K.  He sold insurance.  One day he called us all down to the basement to witness one of the strange properties of electricity.  Rob’s brother Gary was there and so was I.  Mr. K. had a hand cranked magneto he had liberated from an old telephone, the kind that hung on the wall with the crank sticking out the side.  Rob’s dad had us all hold hands, while only one of us would hold onto the wire coming out of the magneto. Rob was at the end of the line and told not to touch anything, for that would create a ground.  Mr. K. cranked the magneto hard and nothing happened until he told Rob to grab ahold of a water pipe. Rob took an awful jolt, probably 50-100 volts alternating current. Us guys in between didn’t feel a thing as we were not grounded.  Mr. K laughed, but we didn’t.

We had telephone operators in those days and when you turned the crank hard, it would generate enough alternating current to signal the operator in the telephone building at Center, that you wanted to make a call out.  The direct current to carry your voice was provided by dry cell batteries.  You could give the operator the phone number and she would take one of her retractable phone cords and plug you into a trunk line for the call, which the operator would dial for you.

Our telephone number was red-5 6 and the Bradley’s next door was red-4 5.   We had party lines, sometimes 15 families on the same line and you always listened before cranking to make sure that someone else wasn’t using the line.  If you wanted to call someone on your own line, you dialed the number and hung up the phone to wait for it to ring on the other end.  Our signal was two longs and a short.

The shared telephone line was called a party line and was not used equally by all the parties.  In fact, some people liked to listen in to be privy to the latest gossip.  We lived a half mile south of the Cove store and had to put up with Mrs. Fagan listening to our phone calls.  She lived down in Cove across the street from our Grandma Ollie.  If you were quiet you could hear Mrs. Fagan’s heavy breathing as she listened in.  We called her the Cove “newspaper”.  “Mrs. Fagan, get the hell off the line”, Dad would yell into the phone and she would drop the phone down with a bang.

When he got to college, Rob had a girlfriend, Aileen, who was an AT&T long distance operator and worked nights.  Rob would wait for her to get off work and then walk her home.  Sometimes she would call him when she had a couple of good drunks on the line and let him listen in.  He wasn’t allowed to talk.

 Aileen bragged to Rob how she could take care of herself if someone tried to jump her, so one night he hid in the bushes.  Aileen always had an armload of text books which she would carry to and from work and study when the long distance calling was slack.  Rob yelled and jumped out of the bushes  behind her and she dropped her books and sat down on the sidewalk covering her face with her hands, screaming.  Aileen never forgave Rob for that.  She married a volley ball coach in San Francisco and had 7 kids.