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Eddie and the Hacks

Story ID:7010
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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More memories from my past...

Eddie and the Hacks
Chuck Dishno

The start of the new school year in 1947 brought a big change to Bly School in my hometown of Bly, Oregon. A new principal, Mr. Earl Graham, arrived on the scene.

I met Mr. Graham earlier that summer at Camp Makualla, a Boy Scout camp on Crescent Lake in Oregon. He was the waterfront director and we were told that he was a tough taskmaster. When we said that he was going to be our new principal in Bly, many other boys in camp gave us our sympathy and said to be wary of the large maple paddle he loved to wield.

When school started in September, the entire school got to meet Mr. Graham and the school faculty at the first assembly.

Mr. Graham seemed harmless enough but in the back of our minds, I think we visualized that maple paddle. Prior principles were mostly mild and didn’t hold much with corporal punishment.

It wasn’t long before Mr. Graham showed his true colors. We soon found posted on the bulletin board, a new set of rules.

Top most on the list were the rules regarding the paddle.

The paddle was to be used for infractions by administering “hacks” on the backside of the offender. They included 1 hack for being caught in the hall between classes without an excuse by the teacher, 1 hack for being late for school or a class, 2 hacks for fighting, 2 hacks for being disruptive in class, 4 hacks for skipping school for a half day, and the ultimate 8 hacks for skipping all day. These hacks were not negotiable and applied to girls as well as boys although I think the girls got away with more infractions than the boys did.

It took a few weeks for us to get used to the new rules but (no pun intended) soon the daily hacks that echoed down the hall diminished.

Earl Graham administered most of the hacks with a few by Bill Pohll and Mr. Bunton. I can’t recall any lady teachers using the paddle but they were not averse to turning a student in to the principal’s office. The few acceptions were Ruth Obenchain and Pretoria Bell. All Mrs. Obenchain had to do was give you a stern look and you knew not to press the issue.

Here is how the punishment usually worked. When the guilty party was told to report to the principals office they knew they were in trouble. Sometimes Mr. Graham wasn’t there and they had to postpone the event, but sooner or later they knew it was coming. I remember that the anticipation was worse than the punishment.

When a student did get to confront Mr. Graham, he was always polite and explained the reason for what he was about to do. To add to the drama, the guilty party could see the paddle hanging on the wall behind Mr. Graham’s desk.

This was a handmade paddle about 2 feet long and 4 inches wide at the top tapering down to about 3 inches at the bottom and sported a nice handle with a leather thong through a hole in the top. The paddle was made of maple and also tapered from about ¾ inch at the top to less than ½ inch at the tip. A lot of work went into the making of that paddle and as I recall, it had the inscription carved into it; “The Way Of The Transgressor Is Hard”.

After the “transgressor” had been confronted by Earl Graham and had heard the punishment he/she were invited to go outside the office door and wait until Mr. Graham got the paddle down from the wall. When in the hall, anticipation was building. In a few minutes, Mr. Graham walked up and told the student to bend over at the waist and head toward their homeroom.

Upon assuming the “position” Mr. Graham wielded the paddle like pro. There resounded through out the hall a sharp crack as maple met backside.

If there was only one hack to be administered, the student shot down the hall like a athlete coming off the starting block. If more than one hack were to administered, the recipient usually remained in the bent over and grimaced as they counted down. The hacks echoed like a rifle shot thru the hallway and since most classroom doors were left open, all ears were attuned to the hall in anticipation of who would be streaking by at a fast clip. The teachers would try to keep the focus in the classroom but it was hard to do.

As I said, Mr. Graham administrated most hacks but occasionally, if the teacher felt the need he would use the hacks as an object lesion.

One such occasion involved Mr. Bunton and a student named Eddie Angus.

Eddie was a really nice kid but had an obstinate streak in him and was often in some kind of trouble. This time he had done something in the boy’s side of the gymnasium lockers. As I recall it had something to do with trying to drill a small hole to peak into the girl’s side. Mr. Bunton caught Eddie and decided to administer a few hacks in the classroom in front of the entire class.

Since Bly School didn’t have a lot of students, especially in the upper grades, the classes were combined with seventh and eight grades, sharing one room, freshmen and sophomores another and juniors and seniors another room.

I believe this was a seventh grade issue with Mr. Bunton being the teacher of record. He brought Eddie up in front of the classroom and having procured the paddle from Mr. Graham’s office, instructed Eddie to bend over and receive his punishment.

Now Eddie had this all figured out and whispered into Mr. Bunton’s ear that he had a large boil on his backside and a hack would surely break it open. Mr. Bunton said that he would postpone the hacks for a week but he still had them coming as soon as the condition improved.

A week later Mr. Bunton asked how the boil was doing and Eddie said that it was getting better but was still pretty large. Mr. Bunton said he would wait one more week and come hell or high water he was going to give Eddie his punishment.

True to his word, Mr. Bunton told Eddie to go out to the locker room and check the condition of the offending boil. Eddie had anticipated this and had stashed a few gym towels in one of the lockers. He was gone for quite a while and when he came back he stated that all looked OK and he was ready to take his medicine.

Mr. Bunton stood Eddie in front of the classroom, had him bend over and grab his ankles.

Eddie winked to the class as he received the first of the proscribed hacks.

Mr. Bunton was a tall man but he had a game leg that he couldn’t put too much pressure on, but this didn’t keep him from putting a nice backhand on the paddle. When the paddle struck home, instead of the usual resounding crack we were used to, it made a dull thud, dulled by several layers of folded gym towels.

Immediately, we all knew what Eddie had done and were laughing like mad. It took Mr. Bunton a few seconds to realize what was happening since he was gearing up for another hack. When the next thud came, Mr. Bunton knew something was amiss. He reached down and pulled out the massive padding much to the clapping and cheering from us.

After he had removed the towels, he then laid on the paddle giving Eddie a couple more than the 4 agreed on. Eddie was the hero of that event and returned to his seat albiet a little gingerly. Mr. Bunton just sat at his desk reflection on how he had been fooled and went along with the gag.

Soon all was forgotten and school went on as usual.

Mr. P.T. Bunton moved on the next year and left Bly for good.

As for the hacks, they continue on as usual through my junior year when Mr. Graham and his paddle, left Bly for a teaching job in Klamath Falls.

When I was a senior we got a new principal, Mr. James Chance who retired the hack system.

I don’t believe any of us were damaged by the hacks, and in retrospect, I think they made us a better class of people. I know I will always have fond memories of those hacks and goodness knows I received my share because if the ducks were flying, I just couldn’t resist skipping school for at least a half-day.

I’m sure there are a few of us out there who have a faint imprint, in reverse, on our collective butts that say, “The Way Of The Transgressor Is Hard”.