In the year Twenty-Ten (I still can't get used to the change from Two Thousand____. I guess new president, new way of telling time, what the hell do I know?), there are many, many rules and regulations concerning who can smoke and where. And well it should be, there are few government laws these days that are beneficial, but smoking regulations are a few that I endorse.
Now let's jump into my well-used time machine and set it for the mid-1960's arriving at Hogansville High School and face to face with locally famous Principal Wheeler Bryan.
If you are familiar with Hogansville, you will know that the present Elementary School was the old High School. If you look on the back side of the campus you will see our one-of-a-kind turret water tower, a quaint point of interest in its own right. Down next to the road there used to be a very large oak tree with huge knarly,exposed roots, that are just made to sit on and tell hot rod and dating stories.
Now read the following very slowly. If you were at least 16 years of age, a male, and had a note from one of your parents giving you permission to smoke at school, you go to the Smoking Tree on break or after lunch and "light one up!" You heard me, young boys could legally smoke at school. My Lord, how times have changed! Probably no less than 14 federal and state agencies would come and lock your folks up if they did that today.
On the other hand, if you were a girl, FORGET IT! Under no circumstances were you allowed near that tree, unless of course you wanted your reputation ruined and to be branded as "easy". And it did not matter if you had a letter from the POPE or the PRESIDENT, girls were ladies and ladies did not smoke--yeah, right! They had to go to the bathroom and post a look-out, just like the boys that smoked and could not get a letter from their parents because the parents "did not know" that they smoked.
There was, however, a little known THIRD option, any my personal favorite. The younger generation will just have to bare with me for a minute as I know they do not have a clue to what a true blackboard is and the maintenance required. Chalk board erasers needed constant attention, if not "dusted" on a frequent basis, dust would get all over everything when a teacher tried to use it. A teacher would usually pick someone from the class to go somewhere outside, in an inconspicuous place, and beat the hell out of each eraser until the dust was gone (sort of like the way they used to beat rugs before vacuum cleaners). The likely candidate was someone who wasn't paying attention and would not mess out on any valuable instruction. Somehow I got picked a lot, and if not I volunteered. Here comes the tricky part. As you gather up all the erasers and try to carry them out the door without getting chalk dust from head to toe, you fumble and drop one or two. Quick as a wink, the girl sitting on the front row (girls always sat on the front row) that wanted to go smoke, would leap up and pick up the fallen erasers and a few more and volunteer to help. To avoid any more "dust bombs", the teacher would wave her/his hand with, "Go! Go!"
Off to the old water tower we would run! If you have have the good fortune to visit it, you know that you can/could walk inside of it at the base. As soon as you had sufficient dust bellowing out the doorway, you could light up and share a smoke without drawing attention to what you were doing. The TWO-FER? Being the s.o.b. that I am, I asked for a kiss just before we ran back to the classroom. Granted sometimes it was a stern NO, and most of the time it was a peck on the cheek like you aunt would give you, but if you got something, no matter what,then you were THE MAN! Now that I think back--WHAT A DORK!What the hell, we were kids and kids gotta get there kicks..
Back to the tree.
Today, if you get caught smoking at school, most often semester at Alternative School is the punishment. From 1964 until 1966, when I often got caught smoking, the punishment was swift and on the spot.
"Cookie, grab your ankles and grit your teeth," was the ever popular command of Principal Bryan. And before you could get a firm grip around your ankles, he had delivered 3 well placed, hard, blows with his trusty 1/4 inch thick yard stick, that he always carried, as both a pointer when teaching math, and an instrument of justice for unruly boys.
Now, occasionally, Wheeler (we could call him that off campus or under the Smoking Tree--'cause we were men (Ha!) would spot an unauthorized smoker under the Tree. No cause of alarm here folks, he just walked up to the culprit and asked for a cigarette. When he received it, he asked the unsuspecting boy for a light. Wheeler would take a long, pleasurable "drag" off the cigarette, and then confiscate the pack of cigarettes and lighter, usually sharing the cigarettes with the other smokers, who by now were laughing their heads off. "Now git your tail end back across the road and don't come back until I get my note!"
In an era where there were usually cigarettes and a lighter on most coffee tables in America, it would have been excessive to have done much more. I think the punishment fit the crime--at the time.
There are going to be readers of my blog who will think that I made up this whole story, but if you do, I can call upon many alumni to verify this. We live in a different world today folks--it's up to you to decide if it is better or worse. As for me, I want to sit on one of those old knarly oak roots one more time.
LATER DUDES AND DUDETTES!
p.s. Just a quick TEST before I go! On which breast is the mole in the above picture! NO FAIR PEEKING! Just so you know, almost every guy will get the answer right. I'm just saying......................