(May, 1976 issue of the Beachy Banner)

When I was a child, school children had an abysmal fear of the Principal’s Office.
That tall, imposing figure of authority sometimes glimpsed fleetingly in a corridor (no one ever went out of their way to see him!) had a reputation that would make Rasputin pale in comparison.

Once a year, in September there would be a student assembly, at which he would make a brief, stern speech, leaving us with no doubt what wrath would be incurred if any of us were to drop a candy wrapper on the playground, be tardy once too often, or sass a teacher

Fooling around too long in the lavatories was another thing that could really get you into hot water.

About the worst thing that could happen to you, should you stray from the straight and narrow, was getting sent to The Office. Heaven only knew what penalty you would pay for your transgression. Rumor had it that whips and paddles and cat o’ nine tails lined the walls of the Inner Sanctum…various sizes for various offenses.

If, by any chance, you got sent to The Office—the Outer Office, that is, (The Inner Office being reserved for the blackest of misdeed doers) and if, by chance, you came out of the office unscathed, friends would cluster around and pat you on the back, congratulating you for having escaped. You would tremble and maybe cry a little and you would tell your friends that you had never been so scared in all your life. That’s if you were a GIRL.
Boys, being braver and stronger and far more heroic (mind you, this was before Womens’ Lib came along) –boys emerged with a swagger, controlled the trembling lower lip, and put on a great show of bravado, describing a cat o’ nine tails that must have been at least ten feet long.
All that has changed NOW, of course. Whips and paddles and cat o’ nine tails? Did they ever really exist at all? Did anyone actually ever SEE one? Whether real or a figment of our imaginations, they have been relegated to the past.
Principals nowadays are well known figures on the school grounds. They smile a lot, are friendly, and pop in and out of classrooms frequently, so the children will know who they are.

I am grown up now. I have no reason whatsoever to fear the Principal or to feel uneasy every time I have to visit The Office.

Even so, I make my visits with trepidation. I glance warily around the walls of the Inner Sanctum.
I have never been so scared in all my life.


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