|The Sweet and Innocent Grade Ones. Really.|
In the sixties, schools had strict rules.
Breaking said rules carried punishments.
A severe ‘talking to’.
Being kept in at recess or lunch hour.
Or *shudder* being sent to the *gasp* principal’s office.
Where there was always the looming specter of ‘THE STRAP’.
Which, I should point out, none of us had ever seen.
But which our entire class had heard on one occasion.
But that is another story.
Moving on . . .
I started grade one in the fall of 1960.
There were three of us Stringams in Milk River Elementary at that time.
My next older brother, George, in grade three.
And our eldest brother, Jerry, in grade six.
Our eldest sister, Chris, had just graduated to Junior High.
Because she had reached the unbelievable and unreachable age of twelve.
Jerry and his classmates ruled our school.
We lowly serfs in grade one observed their doings with awe bordering on worship.
I should mention that this was the brother who teased me mercilessly at home.
And who Mom chased around with the broom.
But at school, he was a lord.
He could do no wrong.
We spent hours in observation.
Until . . . the event.
Remember when I was talking about rules/punishment?
Well that comes into play here.
In Milk River Elementary School in 1960, the principal had instituted a bold new form of punishment.
I am not making this up.
We really had punishment by lemon.
And no one was exempt.
On Friday mornings during Assembly . . .
Oh, I should tell you we also had Assembly every Friday morning.
Back to my story . . .
On Friday mornings, any malefactors were marched to the front of the gym, before the entire school population, and handed a lemon.
Which they then had to peel and eat.
For most of them, it was a painful process.
For those of us watching, it was a painful process.
Let’s just say it. Rules in Milk River Elementary weren’t often broken.
But one time, it was my brother, Jerry who had transgressed.
It was his turn to stand there.
And he had company.
Let me explain . . .
Jerry’s teacher was busily doing 'teacher' things at her desk.
Jerry and his friend, Stan had made a paper jet.
Okay, yes, they were supposed to be doing school work.
This was more fun.
They threw it.
And watched, proudly, as it flew, straight and smooth.
Then, in dismay, as it sailed neatly out into the hall.
It landed at the feet of the Principal, who just happened to be standing there at that precise moment.
He picked it up.
The boys held their breath and watched.
The Principal looked at the clever little plane.
Then, forgetting himself for a moment, threw it back into the room.
In full view of the teacher, who chose that moment to look up.
If there was a punishment bell, it would have clanged loudly at that point.
Paper planes were on the ‘forbidden’ list.
And all three ‘launchers’ were guilty.
At that Friday’s Assembly, my brother and Stan . . . and the Principal all took their places at the front of the gym.
Each was handed a lemon.
Which Jerry and Stan peeled and ate at lightning speed.
Just to get out of the spotlight.
The Principal took his time.
Wincing with every bite.
The assembled students were screaming with laughter by the time he was done.
Finally, he waved for silence and dismissed us.
Then probably hurried to the bathroom to gargle.
We never forgot.
And school crime hit an all time low.