By Norris Chambers

             1931 was the year I made my way from grammar school to high school. In those days we called the lower grades “grammar school” instead of elementary school. The eighth grade was the first year of high school and there were only eleven grades. Sixteen credits were required for graduation. That was only four for each year. Some classes were repeated every other year. In other words, Spanish I was taught one year and Spanish II was taught the next year. The same thing applied to several other subjects.

            We had never heard of the term “hazing” for kids becoming freshmen. The procedure was called “initiation” and the practice was often carried too far.

            Our class was quite large and some of us didn’t appreciate the abuses of initiation. The first freshman abuse activities of the year started at the morning recess. All freshmen were ordered to come to the north side of the big brick school house. The upper classmen had formed a long belt and paddle line along the entire length of the building with four or five feet between the line of students with belts and paddles and the side of the building. The freshmen boys were to run the entire length of the line with the upper classmates battering them with their weapons.

            Our boys made a hasty plan to run into the line and through it and then scatter all over the school yard. The plan worked as intended. We ran down the line and were too close to the harassers for them to deliver any licks. We grabbed at their belts and paddles and pushed them around like an old pro shuffling dominoes. Then, as we had planned, we scattered and ran in all directions. Elbert and I headed north toward the vocational building with a big, rough guy close behind us.

            The wide door was open and we rushed inside, hoping to close and secure the opening before he could get in. It became obvious that we would not be able to close it in time. Elbert grabbed the first convenient club, which happened to be a piece of one inch pipe about four feet long. As our pursuer rushed inside he swung the pipe and caught the attacker squarely on the left knee. He fell heavily on the concrete floor and didn’t make any attempt to arise. Before we rushed out the door I looked back and saw him holding his knee with both hands and uttering some very unsavory words.

            Scuffles were going on over the whole area. Some were wrestling and a few others were using their fists in earnest. Several teachers were running around trying to restore order. Two big ruffians had Clifton pinned on the ground and one of them was whacking him on the back with a long paddle. Elbert and I didn’t hesitate to attempt a rescue. I used my favorite wrestling hold on the one that was holding him down. I grabbed him around the neck with my right arm and squeezed tightly with both arms. He turned Clifton loose and began flinging his arms, trying to break my hold. I held on fast and I noticed that Elbert had snatched the paddle from the other student and was slapping him heavily across the knees and upper legs. He decided to abandon the fight and ran off toward the school house. I was still holding my victim by the neck when Clifton jumped up and began pounding him in each side with his fists.

            “Do you give up?” I inquired. Clifton was using a few bad words that didn’t have much meaning except to let the attacker know how bad he was. Clifton kept pounding him and I squeezed even tighter. He managed to ooze out enough sound for us to understand that he had done enough fighting. I turned him loose and Clifton landed a solid punch in his back as he ran away.

            By this time the teachers had restored a little order and the bell was ringing to signal the end of recess. Apparently someone had found the fellow with the smashed knee and two of the men teachers were carrying him toward the front of the school. As we found our way back into the building I heard enough to know that they taking him to the county seat for medical attention.

When we were in our home room the teacher announced that all high school students would assemble in the auditorium.

            The Superintendent reprimanded all of the students for the violent display. He told us that there would be no more initiation ceremonies for the rest of the year and suggested that everyone get busy and study and be good friends. We listened and felt proud of our victory over the upper classmen. I don’t think they were too pleased with the outcome. The boy with the bad knee missed several days of schooling and walked with a crutch for a few weeks.

            By the time our class graduated we only had 12 students.  The oil field work in our area had disappeared and the depression was in full swing.

            Was the initiation battle a lot of FUN? Well, some days you have more fun than others. This was one of the days when fun was a little on the low side!