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Old Yeller

I finally volunteered for my very first class trip this past week and it was truly an experience I won't forget. When I first arrived, I was pleased to see many of my favorite mom friends had volunteered for the trip too so we gossiped a bit in the hallway while we waited for the class to head our way and hit the bus. After about 15 minutes, we finally saw their smiling faces accompanied by a shrill voice that instantly harkened back memories of the time I came face to face with a teacher I'd like to call Old Yeller.
Before I share my childhood tale, let's go back to the school trip. All the kids boarded the bus and then the parents filed in and grabbed the remaining seats and suddenly, the voice erupted again, shocking everything and everyone in its wake. If you can think of the most piercing, nasal sound that can pretty much be heard in the next county, then you can imagine what we all encountered when Old Yeller started reprimanding kids left and right for talking too loud, sticking out their hands in the aisle, singing, turning around in their seats - if someone was making trouble, Old Yeller was right on the case. And she literally scared the beejezus out of me because I was directly in back of her!
As she kept on shouting out threats to the kids - "This will be your last school trip if you do that again," I began to reminisce, or shall I rephrase that by saying my encounter with this drill sargeant brought back frightful memories of a teacher's aide who used to rule the lunchroom at my elementary school in Brooklyn, NY. Her name was Mrs. Boyarsky and honestly, I don't know if she's still alive today because she was probably close to fifty back then and that was over 30 years ago. Mrs. Boyarsky was the original Old Yeller. If someone was acting up in the lunchroom, you could hear her voice clear across the room honing in on the offender and then pulling them out against the wall where they spent the rest of their lunch facing the gated windows and re-thinking that wedgie they gave their fourth grade classmate.
For real trouble makers, if Mrs. Boyarsky caught you doing something really out of line - like wrestling or fighting over who had the better bologna sandwich that day, she'd be on you like a prison warden and would pull you out of your seat, you'd stand for the rest of the period on her makeshift police line-up and then hit the Principal's office.
While I was a self-proclaimed goody two shoes and even turned in a bully during my time at P.S. 276, I did have one run-in with Old Yeller that I will never forget. It was the year "Grease" came out so let's say it was circa 1978. For some reason, during that year there was a comic book that was all the rage among fourth graders. The book was filled with color photos of all the characters from the movie with dialog written in comic strip form. All the kids in my class were clamoring to get that book and it was pretty hard to come by. Lucky for me, my parents tracked it down at a local comic book store so for a fleeting moment, I became the most popular girl in school - and as a chubby kid who was constantly teased for eating one two many twinkies, I was on top of the world.
As we sat in line after our lunch during what was called "Quiet Time," I began showing the book to my friends and the whispers gradually grew louder and louder as the girls passed the book down the row. When someone let out a squeal - they must have hit the Greased Lightning page - I heard the voice. The piercing voice that can send cats and dogs scouring for refuge. Old Yeller wanted to know whose book that was. And suddenly the room went silent. You could hear someone's lunch money drop. My momentary flirtation with popularity quickly faded away when the kids on my line turned around and pointed directly at me. I could feel my face hotten - I always turned beet red when I got nervous - and suddenly, Mrs. B. pulled me off the line and sent me to stand against the wall where kids pointed and ridiculed me in hushed tones. She then confiscated my book and to this day, I never did know what happened to "Grease: The Comic Book."
Needless to say, I never did talk out of turn or bring in items that would stir up the crowd, but that one experience with Old Yeller made me realize that I never wanted to be embarrassed again. If she bellowed that it was "Quiet Time" I pretty much kept my trap shut until I hit the sixth grade and left her to torment other little kids in her wake. I'm sure many of my former classmates have tales of Mrs. B and I'm absolutely positive that the kids on this week's class trip, or other children who have a tough teacher with a piercing voice will never forget how she ran a tight ship and didn't let anyone get away with anything. I know I have my Old Yeller moments too so I can't fault her for the technique - but I do hope the kids in her class also remember her for being an inspiring teacher who put them on the right track to greatness. Nobody ever wants to be remembered for being the nastiest teacher in the school. Only time will tell - for me and my brush with Mrs. Boyarsky - I know she was only doing her job and if I were in her position I might have done the same thing. My only regret - never getting my "Grease" book back - I still Google it to this day. So if anyone finds a "Grease" comic book please let me know - I promise not to cause a free-for-all this time around.

Posted in: Blog, Undercover Mom on 11/19/2007


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