50th Reunion Story Challenge

Tell us something that happened in your four years at Woodlawn that few knew but most everyone would find amusing, astounding, bewildering or just plain weird.


The image here is from the trailer for the movie, Woodlawn (which I have not seen) triggered a WHS memory of my one time in the principal’s office for a crime I did not commit. It looked like life without parole there for a while, but justice prevailed and my accuser was silenced. Her name was Mrs. Pauline Long.

It was the last week of my senior year. I think it was even after the last test in whatever math class I sat in that semester under said teacher.

She put some impossible equation on the board and said take out a sheet of paper and hand in your answer. I think even then I was conservative of natural resources, and, not having the vaguest idea of how to work the problem, I said I was going to save the paper, just give me a zero for that assignment since I had a strong B going into finals.

Long story short: she busted me and not in a civil way. She went ballistic. She lowered by grade by one letter on the spot she said. The class was stunned. I know I was. But a C in math was a small price to pay for just getting done with her class.

Not everyone was as tolerant. Overnight, Mrs. Long’s house was egged and the trees in her Crestwood yard, well—

The next morning, the phone rang early. It was Mrs. Long. She jumped to the conclusion that it must have been me, since she had given me such a good reason to loather her for what shed done.

She demanded that my parents (I only had one functioning in that role at the time) would appear with me in Mr. Tarrant’s office that day, and I would be suspended and not allowed to graduate.

And so a strong gut-spasm of dread is what this picture of the WHS principal’s office conjures up for me.

But there’s a happy ending:

“So can you explain where you were last night between the hours of 9 and 11 o’clock when this vandalism took place?” asked Jimmy Tarrant, glowering down at me from behind his desk.

“I was with my girlfriend. I didn’t get home until 11:00.” My mother confirmed that fact.

And I think here my mother jumped in with an idea: “Why don’t you let Freddy call Nancy (Dutton) since she couldn’t know anything about this meeting or accusation having just taken place in the past hour.”

And so I did call. “What time were we out last night and where did we go?” And she confirmed we walked around East Lake and sat at Shoneys until I took her home at 10:45. Mr Tarrant listened in. He turned to look at Mrs. Long with an expression of exasperation.

Well as it turns out, and I don’t remember how, but by the time mom and I got to the high school that morning I had learned who did the egging and rolling of Pauline’s yard. The perp must have called to let me know he had not taken my mistreatment lying down and had gotten back at my accuser and justice had been served.

Turns out it was a male student who was unmistakably the Teacher’s Pet in that class. She would have been stunned to learn her kindly disposition to this honor student was not a two-way street.

“So if you didn’t do this, do you know who did?”

I didn’t lie. I admitted I had learned who had done this in my name. There was pressure to tell. I would not snitch, and Mr. Tarrant did not insist that I do so.

And I’m not naming names now. But you know who you are! And thanks, I suppose, for a good story a half century later.

NOTE: This is the second attempt to elicit some actual conversation on my high school reunion FB page. So far, nobody has any stories to tell. And they were such big story-tellers back then–some of them true!

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Such a good story. I am so impressed you refused to take the final. I was such a goody two shoes.
    I hope your story provokes a few other classmates to give it a whirl.