A swat to remember
’Boards of Education’ from 1970s found in vintage wing renovations
A stinging piece of history was unearthed recently during the vintage wing renovations at Cassville schools.
Tucked behind an old bookcase that was nailed to the wall were a couple of significant pieces of wood some former Cassville students may rather forget — two hole-ridden paddles used for discipline in the 1970s.
Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent, said one paddle was filled with names, written and carved, from students who in those years found themselves on the wrong end of the stick.
“We believe one paddle [with all the names], belonged to Mr. [Jack] Vore, and the other probably belonged to a female teacher,” Asbill said. “We found them behind an old bookcase, which had many gaps in it that if something fell in the gap, it was just gone because the bookcase was nailed to the wall and couldn’t be pulled out.”
At least three names on the paddle stood out to current administrators — Joe Horner, Paul Preddy and Mike Schlichtman.
Horner, cousin of current school board member Jon Horner (who was not named on the paddle), said he remembers exactly why he ended up receiving swats.
“Forty-five years does not take away the learning experience of corporal punishment,” he said. “Once I got paddled for a bad habit I still have now of sitting back in my seat. Mr. Vore warned me three times, and on the next time, he brought me to the front of the class and paddled me.
“The other time was when I was in class with Ernie Hayes. He fell asleep in class and I tied his shoe strings together. He woke up and went to Mr. Paul Watson’s office, the principal at the time, to get help untying them. Then I got the call to come to Mr. Watson’s office and he was already red-faced from untying the laces so I got a good paddling then.”
Horner said although he couldn’t remember exactly who dished out the punishment, both men were clear in his memory.
“Mr. Vore and Mr. Watson were both top-of-the-line, old-school teacher and administrators,” he said. “They were people you respected for a lifetime.”
Horner said Preddy and Schlichtman were both a year older than he is, but they had some classes together.
“That was just the culture back then,” he said. “We didn’t do anything horribly wrong. People in shop class who got paddled got to make a paddle to give to instructors, and they were always trying to make them meaner and tougher with more holes.
“It’s fun to think back 45 years ago and about who you were and what your concerns were in life.”
Preddy said he also believed the signed paddle belonged to Watson or Vore.
“In all honesty, it could have been either one of them for me,” he said. “I can try to deny it, but the evidence is right there.”
Preddy said his initial reaction when seeing it was to wonder how it had been lost in the building for four decades.
“It’s interesting to me something like this would be discovered just now,” he said. “My second reaction to it was embarrassment, I’ll be honest. I don’t even remember what I got in trouble for. I guess now they won’t give me a key to the city or let me grand marshal the parade.
“I sure got a kick out of it. I hope the statute of limitations has passed on whatever I did.”
Preddy said seeing all the names on the paddle brought back memories.
“I’m in good company,” he said. “Joe and Mike and all of us got in trouble from time to time because we had a lot of energy at that age. But, we all turned out OK.”
Schlichtman said he could not remember why he was paddled, but he recalled his punishers never held back.
“Mr. Watson had polio but he could give a good swat,” he said. “Mr. Vore paddled me at least once, and Mr. Don Trotter, I was swatted by him several times. We were just always causing trouble and we’d get sent to the principal’s office then get swats, and they didn’t hold back.
“That was how it was back then. It was not a big deal to walk out of the restroom down the hallway and see someone bent over getting swats.”
Schlichtman said a lot of times, administrators would give students a choice between three to six swats or three days out of school suspension.
“Nine times out of 10, everyone took the swats,” he said. “I took the suspension one time and my father made me work through all of it.”
While Schlichtman remembers quite a bit about the educational experience, there’s one thing that has escaped his memory.
“I don’t ever remember signing that paddle,” he said.