Yesterday's Magazette

5 – The Day I Nearly Got Expelled

The Day I Nearly Got Expelled

By Elise Rumford

Back in 1927, 1 was a fifth grade student attending the grammar school in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. The large, red brick building with a basement and two floors, housed the town’s public library where I spent many happy hours. 

After I had read almost every book in the children’s section, I began selecting love stories and mysteries from the adult section. The spinster librarians peering through horn-rimmed glasses would carefully check the books to be sure I did not take home a book which was too spicy. 

A t that time, our sixth grade teacher had a sour disposition and a bad temper. Of normal proportions from the waist up, her legs were very short and bowed. When she smiled, she looked nice, but she seldom smiled.  

To top it off, she had a name which rhymed with cruel-Miss Grewel. Her unhappy students secretly called her Miss Growl. 

Miss Grewel got attention each morning by kneeling on her chair and slamming a heavy geography book down on her desk. 

Startled pupils were jolted out or their seats. Satisfied that they were unnerved and subdued, she would proceed with the salute to the American flag. 

When I became a sixth grader, Sammy, an Italian with black curly hair, came to school early each morning to ascertain her humor. 

He posted himself outside the classroom door to warn us, if her state of mind was worse than usual. Then, forewarned, we tiptoed into the cloakroom to hang up our coats, and scarcely breathing crept to our seats. 

Having introduced you to Miss Grewel, God rest her soul, I’ll now tell how I came close to being expelled from school. 

One of my best friends was a dear, sweet girl named Dorothy. Her father became very ill and died while we were in fifth grade. 

Dorothy was devastated, and in absent-minded grief, she broke one of the playground rules at noon recess by bouncing a sponge-rubber ball on the oval sidewalk which led to the main door. 

(We were reminded often to stay off that sacred walk.) Miss Grewel grabbed her, shook her roughly, scolded her soundly, and sent her to the principal’s office in tears. 

Miss White was a disciplinarian of the first order, but not without heart. My father had great respect for her, for she had been his eighth grade teacher and grammar school principal in his day. I don’t know what Miss White said to her, but Dorothy survived. 

I was so incensed by the incident that I drew a most unflattering sketch of Miss Grewel with some rude comments under it and passed it to my friend, Blanche. This was a very grave mistake because Blanche was a nervous girl given to giggles. 

As soon as she looked at the sketch, she broke up in uncontrollable giggling. Instantly, Miss Hartinetty commanded Blanche to bring her the note. 

My goose was cooked! 

I can still see Blanche, red-faced, teary-eyed and trembling, carrying the note to the teacher. 

“Chew it up and swallow it.!” I hissed as she passed my desk. 

As I recall, I pictured myself whacking miss Grewel over the head with a baseball bat. 

Miss Hartinetty looked at the note and then placed it in her desk drawer. 

I suffered agony the rest of the afternoon. She detained me after school and asked me to explain why I had written such a note. 

I said that I thought it was heartless, if not wicked, to treat Dorothy so harshly in view of the fact that her father had just died. 

My teacher listened.attentively and then with kind understanding said she would not give the note to Miss White. 

She cautioned me about writing critical notes and drawing unflattering pictures which could get me into real trouble and hinted that such behavior might get me expelled.

She put her arm around me as we walked to the door, and reminded me she had been Daddy’s fifth grade teacher. 

I loved Miss Hartinetty! 

Vol. 38 No. 3 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – Fall- 2011

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