My Dad and I were sitting in the living room the other day, it was snowing outside, and he regaled me with a few more stories.
He remarked that the slushy snow falling that very moment reminded him of the snow he experienced as a combat Marine in Korea. He also said he remembered that the military served him canned hamburger patties from Argentinian beef. “Guadalcanal” was stamped on the cans, as in the Guadalcanal battle in WW II. I winced at the idea of tasting that meat. “They were pretty good,” said Dad as he let loose a thunderous guffaw.
We somehow segued to his teaching career at Molalla Grade School in the early 70s. It was around 73-74 that Oregon outlawed corporal punishment in public schools, but before that, one day when the Principal was gone and Dad was the teacher-in-charge, a colleague sent a male delinquent to the principal’s office with the demand the kid get a good lickin.’ Dad had the responsibility to deliver the spanking with a hickory paddle (“it had holes in it”) but there was no way he was going to do it. He said all the spanking requests came from the weak teachers and why punish the kids for their incompetence? He ushered the kid inside the office, shut the door, and told the kid to let out a “holler” when he struck the paddle on the chair.
The kid was dumbstruck and Dad had to explain it to him. Then he whacked the chair and the kid hollered like hell!
We both laughed like hell after he finished this outrageous story and I asked him if something might have been lost when Oregon banned corporal punishment. He said no. It was total sadism.
Dad told me that one Christmas during WW II, all he received as a gift was one orange. It wasn’t wrapped.
We also discussed the reason he ran away from home at 19 to join the Marines and go to Korea. His step mother had thwarted his relationship with a woman (not my mother) by intercepting her letters and destroying him. When he found out, he was practically enlisted the next day and shipping out to Camp Pendleton.
Our storytelling session ended with the astonishing tale of when Dad was in fifth or sixth grade in Albion, Nebraska in 1944 and the school had a boxing ring in the gym where teachers and administrators let boys (never girls) settled disputes! I asked him if he ever got in the ring. No. I asked if they let other kids watch and cheer. No. Did the boxers wear head gear? Hell no! I asked if any kid ever got hurt. No. The gloves were ultra padded and huge.