Amazing, Those Priests!

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Ah, school memories:

Classes at St Basil’s ended at 1500. At about 1455 every day, like clockwork, the Public Address system would come on. The Vice Principal, Father Rourque, would make an announcement in his usual matter of fact way. It would start:

“Attention all students. The following students have been kindheartedly awarded the detention of the day: so and so, so and so and so and so, and so on and on so”

Followed by:

“Would the following students be so kind as to grace us with their presence at the Vice Principal’s Office: so and so, and, so and so, and so and so, and on so and on so.”

Grace my ass, for this was code for major pain.

We never knew what the infractions were or the degree of which warranted a detention or a visit to the Vice Principal’s office. Initially we did, but after awhile, like Pavlov’s dogs, we became accustomed to this daily rant. Listening but not really listening unless the familiar tone of one’s name was announced. We just didn’t care. We sucked it up, whatever punishment it may be. These priests had a way about them and each of them reacted in their own unique way.

Father McMullen – Math class. Chewing gum? No problem. Spit it out onto his hand then watch and feel his hands rubbing said gum into our curly, or wavy locks. Brush or crew cuts presented their own unique problems when this type of discipline was meted out, but given this new age of Beatle-mania and longish, stylish hair, very few of us sported the short cropped hair design. Sports card bubble gum, Bazooka Joe’s, was the worst, extremely difficult to get out of one’s hair. Chicklets? Wrigleys? They were much milder. It must have been the sugar content that dictated the air and degree of difficulty in trying to get the gummy gum out. Invariably this normally equated to a trip to the barber with the causal effect of sporting the now defunct fashion faux pas of a crew cut or a brush cut. The John Glenn look. The very right stuff indeed.

Mr. Aslin – “Priest in Waiting.” Perhaps, but he was more like civilian laity doing the work of a Catholic apostolate. A pretend priest. An ecclesiastical groupie per se. His modus operendi was in the form and shape of a thin metal ruler, 18 inches long, very flexible in and bendable in its delivery of pain via an effective slap across the palms of one’s hands. Talking, not paying attention usually rendered a slap from this innocent looking yet nefarious piece of torturous machination. Even a smirk on ones face could warrant such a physical reprimand if Mr. Aslin thought, in his smallish mind, that it was a smirk of defiance.

“Hold out your hands” he would bark “Palms up,” then whack.

One day Mr. Aslin met his match in one tall, gangly looking student named Art O’Neill. This O’Neill boy was definitely making a name for himself?

Mr. Aslin walked down one of the aisles, pulled out the ruler and stood by Art’s desk. Standing there, patting his left hand with the ruler itself.

“Hold out your hands Mr. O’Neill,” Aslin barked “Palms up.”

Nothing.

“Did you hear me Mr. O’Neill? Get those hands out” He yelled.

Nothing

“I said, get those hands out…Now!” Aslin was screaming.

Nothing. Art would not look at Aslin but just sat there staring straight ahead with his arms crossed across his chest.

Suddenly, a whack cam down hard across Art’s wooden desk top.

“Now get those hands out” Aslin demanded.

We all flinched. Aslin’s face was beginning to turn red. He sensed, and we all sensed, that he really had no clue as to how to handle this token of disobedience. Fortunately for him, unfortunately for Art, the situation was resolved for him.

Art suddenly stood up, defiant, facing Mr. Aslin. In his black, Cuban healed “Beatle Boots” he was about half a head taller than Mr. Aslin. Then without fanfare, without notice, and without any indication of intent, Art stepped back, and then with all of the forward momentum that he could muster, he kicked his right leg up making direct contact with the pointed toes of his “Beatle Boots” with the balls of Mr. Aslin. Ouch! Emasculated, Mr. Aslin went down on all fours groaning, cursing and wreathing in pain, gasping for breath and gesticulating at someone, at no one, that he needed divine intervention. Art calmly stepped over Mr Aslin’s frame and walked out of the classroom. We were all in jubilant shock. We never saw Art again at St Basil’s Catholic private high school for boys.

Father Fitzpatrick – History and English. His weapon of choice was one of those two side blackboard erasers. One side was covered in a red, white and black coloured striped tightly packed bristle with the other side a thick and soft spongy sponge. The eraser measured about 10 inches in length, just the right length, weight and balance and in the right hands, oozed lethality in his classroom.

I do not know how Father Fitzpatrick accomplished his amazing feats with that eraser in his classroom. It must have taken years of practice or perhaps he spent years in the Australian outback mastering the ins and outs of throwing a boomerang with deadly accuracy. Maybe it was Hy-Lai. Whatever it was he was deadly accurate with that eraser and could wipe the smile or smirk off of any one of our faces at any point or distance in that classroom. Usually it came without warning. Talking to one of your mates, appearing indolent, daydreaming, falling asleep or just plain idleness on the part of one of the students was cause enough for Father Fitzpatrick to unleash this “Kraken” of classroom discipline. It would come at you unannounced, its flight, its trajectory well thought out and executed with skill. The impact was normally just above eye level at the forehead or scalp level. Never directly in the face mind you. End over end that eraser would fly imparting itself sponge side up against the target so as to not cause any real damage such as a bleeding or a broken nose. How he could accomplish that I don’t really know. It was amazing for when that eraser found its mark and hit unabashedly, sponge side up, a puff-like cloud of chalk dust would explode on impact. It was a sight to behold. The student’s surprise was wickedly funny with white pan cake-like dust all over his face, up into his nostrils, into his mouth, over his eyes, all over his hair and down the front face of his blue blazer. We didn’t dare laugh.

“Pay attention” was all that Father Fitzpatrick would proffer to the class in general. To increase the shock value of this unique form of class management, it could be many days, even weeks before Father Fitzpatrick would release his “Kraken” again. We never knew when it was coming or who the poor bastard would be at the receiving end. Amazing these priests.

Song of the day. Had this before but worth repeating.