Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Water Cooler VII: School Memories - Bullying

Humboldt-St. Vincent School, like any other school, had its share of bullying and bullies...

Michael Rustad: I remember when Dave Boatz sang the Beatle's song, "He is a real nowhere man." He adapted it to Walter Petruska. "He's a real no-hair man!" Dave was a comedic genius. When we were altar boys together, he did his best to get me to laugh at the most inopportune times. He would have a running commentary on the qualities of the tongues at communion time. When Mrs. Friebohl (Grandma) and Toots Ryan went for communion, he had me in stitches with his descriptions!

Dave was never mean-spirited but did these pranks always in a spirit of fun. Ok, he went a step too far in dropping cherry bombs in the boy's toilet or putting Elmer's Glue in Martha Roberts lotion bottle. Martha would often use moisturizing cream and then wipe with her hanky She did this by habit not realizing that Dave had substituted glue for lotion! The class did not dare laugh, but did after class. He would also pick vegetables and flowers from neighbor's gardens and then with his angelic smile try to sell them back! I can tell you so many stories about Dave. Dave had a moral compass in always sticking up for any person with a handicap,. His brother Stevie was profoundly developmentally undeveloped and I think that his love for his brother was key in being empathetic. Randy Younggren, who as deaf and had difficulty speaking, was a case in point. Dave was so good to Randy and he had Randy drive out to our farm on his motorcycle nearly every evening. He was just happy to see us and it did not matter whether he could not speak many words.

Steve Ritter: No Way! Dave never did any of those things! Lol! Dave is one of the best...He has a heart of Gold!

Michael Rustad: I also think that Velma Isely did a great deal to stand up for those being bullied. There was bullying in Humboldt. When we moved to the farm when I was 7, I had to ride the bus and it was an ordeal. They took my stocking hat, did not leave a seat open, etc. It was relentless until around 6th grade. I could name each of the bullies and some were older girls with no moral compass.

Trish Short Lewis: You are so right, Mike. I was bullied a LOT by both peers and older kids, when I was little and up until junior high. My mom went to bat for me, but she also told me to ignore them, which was very hard but I did it so they had no satisfaction. To cope, I withdrew into myself, humming tunes, saying words or phrases over and over, closed my eyes, plugged my ears, read books, etc.

Michael Rustad: Our school bus was parked outside the Post Office and everyone was picking on Barbara Norberg. Mrs. Isely boarded the bus and essentially told everyone how ashamed she was and gave a long speech about compassion. She eluded authority and people stopped bullying her after she deboarded the bus and were off to Lake Bronson. I remember well how I dreaded the bus because Tony and I were bullied.

Steve Ritter: I think when we're young we all say things a little quickly. I am certainly not innocent. Sometimes it's a misunderstanding between young kids. Sometimes the physical side is how many of us have learned to deal with issues. I know that some of the meanest things I've heard came out of the mouth. I remember recesses when I was young being tormented by older kids. Being dogpiled and being on the bottom of several. It was not as much fun as people would think. I finally stood up and took on one of these people. I knew it would let my parents down if I got into a fight because my father and mother didn't believe in physical violence of any kind. But I'd had enough. I did get in trouble and was grounded for a period of time. but no one bothered me again. No one dogpiled me again. It's too bad people treat others in a negative fashion but sometimes and for whatever reason it happens. Most of the time it happens just straight out of ignorance and sometimes pain. Mrs Isley was a wonderful person!!

Trish Short Lewis: I agree with *most* of what you say, but I also think some people are just plain mean. Many who are mean got it from their role models, i.e., their parents. Either their parents are authoritarian, or abusive, or both. I wasn't perfect - I was a chatty girl who never knew enough to keep her mouth shut sometimes (not always) and that would get me in 'trouble' - it wasn't being mean, it was being inappropriate, interruptive, and/or loud. I definitely feel that is a LOT different than saying unkind and downright mean things to someone, or physically hurting someone, etc. That's a horse of another color entirely. So the bullying I and others suffered was mean and wrong. Period.