Sunday, July 27, 2014

Further Adventures of a Wimpy Kid (Part 3)

Me, 1951 - about to leave for a two week summer vacation "in the country" with my Aunt Mildred and her family and my little buddy "Ducky" Vance - Photo taken on Washington Avenue, Downingtown, Pennsylvania

And we return to those days of yesteryear (sounds like the old "Long Ranger" screed doesn't it?) and visit the continuing adventures of The Wimpy Kid (that would be me).  

Now let's see, where did we leave off?  Ah yes . . . . . . the year was 1948 and I was entering first grade, or trying to once I got past the bully who kept pushing me to the ground outside the East Ward elementary school.

You know, it is very interesting that I remember clearly all my elementary school teachers except fourth grade.  

1st grade:    Mrs. Warren

2nd grade:    Miss Sara Way
3rd grade:    Miss Elizabeth Ezrah
4th grade:    Miss Powell (I think)
5th grade:    Mrs. Schollenberger
6th grade:    Mrs. Rhoda Yost

Ah, first grade.  Mrs. Warren.  


Unfortunately I don't have any photos of Mrs. Warren.  No iPhone or digital cameras back in this black and white days.  But oh do I ever remember MRS. WARREN.  

Hope Emerson - the actress who reminded me of my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Warren - could be sisters!!!!

She was a big woman.  Big bones. Sharp, hawk-like features. Dark hair with a "just a touch" of gray.  Glasses.  Shiny, steely, wire rimmed glasses.  
Baritone voice. And . . . . . . the one feature of Mrs. Warren I will never forget . . . . she wore those "sensible", solid, women's prison warden shoes.  Oh how I remember those shoes.  

I remember seeing Hope Emerson in the 1950 movie "Caged."  She played a sadistic women's prison warden.  She SCARED.ME.TO.DEATH. Mrs. Warren SCARED.ME.TO.DEATH.

Mrs. Warren ran her classroom like Hope Emerson's character ran her women's prison.  One step out of line and WHACK!  You would be sorry if you crossed Mrs. Warren.  

I crossed Mrs. Warren.

Here's what happened. 

When I began school, I was a stutterer.  

I was shy, timid, no self confidence and basically I was afraid of the world.  

Mrs. Warren knew I was a stutterer and it annoyed her.  I dreaded when she would call on me in class because I knew I would always answer with "Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, ………..I, I, I don't, don't, don't know, know." (my best typing version of stuttering).  

I sat in the back of the class.  In those Pre Kid Sensitive Days, tall kids (which I was one) and kids with the name at the end of the alphabet (which I was also one, my last name beginning with a "T") were placed in the back of the classroom.  Sitting in the back of the class (for me) was another sign that I wasn't "as good" as my some of my classmates who were shorter than me (most of them) and who were lucky enough to be born with names like Ash and Brookover (both short guys too).  

Mrs. Warren is reading a book in front of the classroom.  She stops and looks up.  I know what she's going to do.  


She does.  I answer "Ah….ah…..ah……."

I see the steeling glint in her eyes behind her steel frames Himmler glasses focus in on me.

She closes her book and slams it down on her desk.

She sets her beady eyes on my and "CLUMP! CLUMP! CLUMP!" her women's prison warden shoes back to me and 


and says "STOP IT!"  

You know the worst part about this whole episode?  It wasn't the smack on the side of my head (which did hurt but no damage other than to my pride).  

The worst part was those three to five seconds it took her to clump back to the rear of the classroom where I was sitting and knowing that I was going to be humiliated with a whack on the side of my head.  

And the rest of the class knew what was going to happened.  I still remember the rustle of my little girl classmates and their crinoline puffy dresses as they turned to see Mrs. Warren mete out "punishment" to the doofus who stuttered in the back of the classroom.  

My face was burning but not from the slap to the side of my head but from embarrassment.  I was SOOO embarrassed. But you know what?  I think she cured me of my stuttering. I never stuttered again in class.  

Of course these days Mrs. Warren's way of curing my stuttering would be considered child cruelty but man oh man, it worked back then.  And you know why?  I just did not want to be embarrassed in front of my classmates again.  

I still have the propensity to stutter but what I do now is if I feel a stutter coming on, I just don't say anything until I feel the words forming.  Those who know me have probably noticed that sometimes I don't respond immediately while we're having a conversation, that's because I feel the stutter.  But that rarely happens these days because I think I stuttered because I was intimidated.  I don't think anyone intimidates me these days.  I'm not a Wimpy Kid anymore. 

But do not fear, I have more "Wimpy Kid" memories which I will share in future blog posts.  

Below is a trailer for the film "Caged" which Hope Emerson played the "Mrs. Warren" role.  "Orange is the New Black" this is not.


Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe how cruel teachers could be back then. I remember stories from my parents, and how my mom refused to smack kids, even though other teachers told her to.

My brother stuttered. It was almost debilitating. It took several years of speech therapy, but he got past it before high school. If anyone, teacher or otherwise had ever hit him because of it (he was teased a lot), they would have had to answer to me.

Peace <3

Ron said...

That was no "love tap" she gave me either. She whacked me. Or at least it seemed like a major whack. It was loud and it stung. She meant business. That was the only time I was hit by a teacher. My brothers, both of them, had their hands whacked with a ruler. They probably deserved it though.

Larry Meredith said...


Yes, we had Sara Powell in 4th grade, and she was the one I feared. I just didn't like her. I never had a problem with Mrs. Warren, because she liked me. Of course I only had her for half a year and then we moved away for a couple years. I remember Mrs. Warren would come up behind a kid and pull his or her hair if they weren't paying ttention or sitting up straight.


Ron said...

That's funny how I have no memory of fourth grade. None, nada. I've heard the name Mrs. Powell but no memory of being in her or any other fourth grade class. However, I remember all the other classes very clearly. Maybe it's because I liked all the other teachers except Mrs. Warren of course, he terrified me.

Jon said...

Oh, Ron, this is priceless - - one of your best posts. I know how traumatic it must have been at the time, but I laughed so hard at your description of Mrs. Warren and the comparison with Hope Emerson. I can certainly attest to the fact that school was so different when we were kids than it is nowadays. The teachers and staff were definitely not "kid sensitive". Actually, I think we were probably better off because of it.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this - - and I'm still laughing at Hope Emerson. "Caged" is a classic movie.

Raybeard said...

Looks like your Mrs Warren would have been a shoo-in for the role of (latent-lesbian?) Mrs Danvers in Hitchcock's 'Rebecca'.

At primary school our class mistress at the age of 8/9 was one Miss Hardy (if not a nun, all the others were a 'Miss') whose 'specialty' punishment was to smack boys' legs (only the boys, never the girls) with a wooden drumstick - on the calves and the shinbones where the contact was always very audible, as was the victim's cries. I myself never once was 'favoured' with the treatment as it was always me who had to go to the front of the class to demonstrate how to sing something properly or, in dancing class, had to demonstrate the proper way to do certain steps which others found tricky. So, a case of some pros and some cons - though I do find I'm mentally preening myself right now thinking back tothat only time when I was a 'model' performer. Hardly any wonder that I was, a few years later, to realise that I was gay!

Ron said...

I really enjoy writing these posts about my childhood memories and other memories growing up, which even at my age now, I'm still "growing up." I think I saw "Caged" after I left first grade but oh did Hope Emerson ever remind me of my Mrs. Warren. A big woman, with that stern look and clumpy "prison warden matron sensible shoes." Only thing missing on Hope Emerson was the wire rim glasses that Mrs. Warren had. She also had a severe haircut with one big wave, like a gigantic black pompadour. That woman scared me to death. I stayed out of her way. Thankfully, the "stuttering, slapping" incident was the only time I can remember her laying hands on me. She got my brothers (who probably deserved it) several time with the ruler on the outstretched palm. Funny thing, my brother Isaac blames me, said I "told oh him." I don't know what he was talking about.

I don't think most of my blog followers find my "Wimpy Kid" posts interesting but I'm glad you do. You understand. Memories and how our past experiences form the person we are today. Besides, I love dredging up these old memories. Now if I only could post some of my "more interesting" forays into the gay world. My entry into the gay subculture wasn't as glamourous as yours Jon but I did have some very interesting moments, some of which I'm not too proud of and I wish I could do over again. Maybe someday I'll post. It's a shame to let those memories disappear into the fog of history once I'm gone. They are jus too delicious.
Your comments are always appreciated Jon.

Ron said...

Mrs. Warren scared the bejesus out of me. Funny thing, when I saw her years later, when I was retired (at a supermarket), I stopped and talked to her. She was very pleasant and said she remembered me (which I doubt but maybe she did). All I know is that she put the Fear of God in me when I was in her classroom. All the rest of my elementary school teachers.

Your primary school experiences sound brutal. We didn't have anything like the wooden drumstick on the calves and shinbones. Yikes!

I'm not surprised that you were a "model" performer Ray. :) You impress me as being a "good little boy" when you were growing up. No rascal you.


pat888 said...


These wimpy kid posts are great. This one is hilarious. And wow - everyone responding has such good memory power. I don't think I had any teacher like the one you describe. However, word would get around about tough teachers you'd have in future grades which always caused some anxiety. They were never like how they were rumoured. But I do recall being so glad to get out of grade school as hi school seemed to me somehow a step up into freedom.


Ron said...

Unfortunately, I've forgotten a lot about my past but some memories are forever imbedded in my brain. My first days in school are among those "forever" memories, never to be forgotten.