October 4, 2010
Kids learned the hard way when they messed with our teachers
By Beth Cummings, 1960
One day in art class a student (one of those scary, leather-jacketed hoods) who was sitting at my table got rude and belligerent with Mr. Cetnarowski. I was (as usual) daydreaming, so I completely missed whatever precipitated the incident. When I looked up, the guy had stood up, turned around from the table and was taking a swing at Mr. C’s face.
We were all stunned. Here was this tough hood who was probably in fights all the time (and maybe even carried a knife in his boot) about to beat up a small, defenseless art teacher. (How little we knew – we later heard that Mr. C was a former U.S. Marine.) Mr. C easily blocked the punch and then clipped the guy under the jaw – the hit wasn’t hard, but it was perfectly targeted, and the kid sailed over the art table and landed on the floor next to the windows on the other side.
Mr. C told us to get back to our work and be quiet until he got back, then he grabbed the not-so-tough kid by the collar and escorted him to the principal’s office. We all just sat there holding our breath and listening as the crashing sounds of the kid ricocheting off the metal hall lockers faded in the distance.
For a student coming to DAHS as a 7th grader, just walking in the corridors was a really overwhelming experience. Unlike in grammar school, you had to go to a different room for every class, it was sometimes hard to remember how to get where you were going. The halls were always crowded and everybody was so much bigger than you were that sometimes you couldn’t see the numbers on the classroom doors. There was very little time to get to your class before the bell rang.
Often the halls were crowded, like a Manhattan subway stop at rush hour, and the big kids would push the smaller kids out of their way. Miss McGuigan, who taught Latin, was about the size of most junior high students – five feet tall or so, and slim. I happened to be walking a little behind her one day when a tall guy, mistaking her for a student, gave her a shove. "Move it, girlie!," he grunted. I saw her touch his hand, and suddenly he was flat on his butt on the floor, staring up at this tiny little teacher!
Here's another memory. The bell had just rung and I was walking very briskly ("No running in the halls!") to get to my next class. I saw a few other last-minute stragglers desperately darting down the stairs and around the corner. Mr. Simes stepped out of his classroom to check the hallway just in time to see someone zip around the corner and start to bound up the "down" stairway. "Hold it right there, young man!," roared Mr. Simes. He grabbed that little offender by the back of the neck right off the third or fourth step, stood him at the foot of the stairs, and turned him around to "face the music." It was Mr. Danieux, another teacher.