Murtis Wade was a strict disciplinarian! She was in charge of the little elementary school at Grimsleyville, Virginia consisting of two rooms. Her sister, Lucy Wade, taught the lower grades in the “little room”. This was first to third grades. Fourth to Seventh was in the “Big Room” taught by Murtis with the infamous paddle.
I was a precocious lad from the time I could walk and talk. It was not unusual for Mrs. Lucy Wade to have to call me down on a daily basis as I wanted to learn everything at once. She was not one to paddle our behinds for every discrepancy. If one of us was totally unruly, all she had to do was mention that we could possibly be sent to the “Big Room” for a paddling! We dreaded that more than anything else, especially in the lower grades, so any bad behavior soon came to a halt!
After moving up to the “Big Room” presented a different story! When Mrs. Murtis saw any kind of gathering on the playground or behind one of the buildings on the property, she knew right away that some of us “mountain” lads were up to no good! Most of the time we were out there bragging about our exploits, especially with the girls in class, or perhaps hunting expeditions we had been on. The three buildings, other than the classrooms were the outhouse, the coal bin, and the water pump house. These provided a certain amount of privacy for us boys to plan our next move, unless of course, Mrs. Murtis came along just as something unusual came out of our untutored mouths. There were times we repeated off-color jokes told to us by the upper class members.
One incident I remember was when an older uncle of mine told me a rhyme that had been passed down through the family from some of his older brothers. Murtis caught us behind the coal bin with my uncle telling me the rhyme. I must admit that it was not very clean! She marched us to the classroom and forced me to repeat what my uncle had said to me. I was totally embarrassed, but being not too informed in those days, I repeated the rhyme, word for word, as my uncle had related it to me. I felt like going into a ground hog hole and not ever coming out to the light of day! Nonetheless, she pulled out the paddle, with all the holes bored in it created by my own father, and proceeded to try and beat the devil out of me and my uncle. We did not forget the incident! Our mouths were the cleanest ones at the school after that.
One warm winter day as the snow melted away from the playground, a cousin of mine and I both decided to go to the outhouse at the same time. His name was Kenneth Wade, a cousin of the teacher by marriage. This particular outhouse was a two-seater so two could use it at the same time. At that time, privacy was not such a big issue. Out behind the outhouse was a little muddy hillside just made for using a piece of cardboard and sliding down the hill on our behinds. We forgot that Murtis had warned us not to mess up our clothes, in any manner, as she knew boys pretty thoroughly, and knew that we would be tempted to try our luck at sliding down the many little muddy hillsides on the school property. Sure enough, we enjoyed our time of recess sliding down the hillside behind the outhouse. Boy did we have a great time, until…. Yes, we had to go back to the classroom and face the music!
“Were you boys sliding down the hill behind the outhouse?” Murtis demanded! How could we deny it as both of us were covered with mud! She could not even tell us to “march into the cloakroom and change your clothes” as we were wearing the only clothes allotted for that week. Instead, she told us to stand behind the Burnside heater until our clothes were dried out. We were tired by the time this occurred. Then, then, we knew what was coming next. You guessed it! She bent each of us in turn over a desk and used dad’s paddle on us until she felt that we would obey her next time! She even pulled the flimsy material of our faded overalls tight against our buttocks for added discomfort as she freely flogged us. I am sure she thought twice about paddling Kenneth as his dad was first cousin to her husband, but she took the chance. Our ‘sliding down the hill in the mud days’ were over at that school.
The one thing all the students at Grimsleyville School dreaded was when either the teachers or one of the older students would declare, “ooooh, you are in for trouble” This could only mean one thing; Edward Shortt’s homemade paddle with the holes bored in it with a red-hot poker!