... the stentorian voice boomed out, "Charles Nolan, did you do your home work?"...
Editor's note: The author is a Scotsman, lived long in Ireland and is now an American residing in Melrose. His poetry and prose have become popular in the Mirror.
In days gone by, when teachers were allowed, some might even say encouraged, to use corporal punishment on their "wayward" pupils, young people such as myself invariably got the message. Classroom behavior was usually attentive.
Our 8th grade teacher, Mr. McCrossan, was a no-nonsense type of guy who taught English and English literature to his victims. He kept a thick leather belt in his desk and was not averse to using it when he deemed it necessary.
My friend, Charlie, was a great athlete and a very good soccer player. But Charlie hated home work. After school he would much rather be off doing sports. This resulted in him "crossing paths" with the teacher on the following morning. One day, and I laugh when thinking about it now, we were all in class waiting for McCrossan to appear. In desperation, Charlie, not having done his homework, opened the teacher's desk, took out the "strap" and standing on top of the high desk, lifted a ceiling panel and quickly hid the "weapon" up in the ceiling. As you can imagine there was baited breath everywhere when the teacher entered the classroom.
"I'll take the home work papers now," he said, and everyone turned in their work. All, that is, except Charlie. He had been too long doing gymnastics the previous night. It was a cold morning that day with frost still nipping at our fingers in the semi-heated class room.
"Charles Nolan?" the stentorian voice boomed out. "Did you do your home work?"
"I was busy at the gym," said Charlie, "and I forgot."
The teacher opened his desk looking for the ill-fated weapon. Paused a long time. Closed his desk, looked over the classroom and finally said, "I seem to have lost or mislaid something, but no matter. Return to your seat, Nolan."
From that day on I never knew Mr. McCrossan to own or use a "strap." And, of course, Charlie turned out to be the school hero.
P.S. I often wonder if that "strap" is still up there 58 years later?
October 6, 2000