Friday, February 27, 2015

What NOT to wear to school for Halloween...

Den of the Beastly Bear

Hi Folks!

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, back in the early 80's I had taken a job at my old High School as security/hall monitor.

Most of my adventures revolved around keeping the kids from smoking at the ends of the buildings, catching those skipping classes or smoking in the bathrooms. Pretty mundane stuff.

There were some more interesting events, told here and here. But aside from a few drug buys interrupted, fights stopped and girlfriends rescued from overly jealous hormonal boyfriends, my days were pretty dull.

Back then, Waterford Kettering was a pretty WASPish place. I think our ethnic diversity amounted to 3-4 African American kids, 1-2 Hispanic, and one Asian kid in a school of about 700. 

Drugs were just starting to infiltrate our suburban location, mostly pot...and booze.

The first thing I did every morning was to stand outside as the buses disgorged the kids. I made sure they all made it into the building and none wandered off.

At the beginning of the year, this was a nice way to start the day as the mornings were cool before the heat of the day. But as the year wore on it got downright cold.

A bright spot as it got colder was Halloween. In a time when schools still encouraged kids to be creative and dress up, it was entertaining to see what all the kids came up with.

Clowns were abundant, as were Hobos. Pirates were as popular as zombies... A couple more enterprising kids even dressed up as their favorite member of the band "Kiss".

As I said, it was a simpler time...
So as I stood and watched the nearest bus empty, a couple in love dressed as Raggedy Anne and Andy, a Princess Leia, Indiana Jones...
And a Member of the Klu Klux Klan....wait, A WHAT?!?!

Yes, it was true my eyes were not deceiving me... A bona fide Klansman dressed in full regalia, hood and all and carrying an aluminum baseball bat. 

When he saw me he tried to get into the school before I could intercept him. But students admiring each others costumes got in his way and I met him at the door.

I held up a hand to stop him.

"Off with the hood!" I told him.

"Why?" he asked defiantly.

"Because I told you to, and give me the bat while you're at it!"

"It's part of the costume," He grumbled as he handed it grip first to me and pulled the hood off.

I recognized him immediately, Hiram.
This kid had already made a name for himself that year, smoking, walking out of classes, fighting...
One of those kids who were under the impression that if he wanted to do it, we should just leave him alone and let him do it, no matter what "it" was. We had already locked horns a couple times, and the year was young. Because of suspensions, Hiram had almost missed as much of the school year as he'd attended.

"Hiram, what in the world is wrong with you? You can't wear this," I indicated his outfit, "as a costume in school. You've got to know that."

"It's NOT a's a uniform, and I wear it to meetings!" Hiram replied.

"You're kidding me, right? You're a member of the KKK?"

"Yeah," he answered defiantly "my whole family is!!! So what?!?"

"Well, you can't wear it in school, you're gonna have to change..."

"I can't," he said smugly. "I'm not wearing anything underneath it!"

"In that case we're going to have to go up to the office and have you call home, they can bring you up a change of clothes."

*Heavy sigh* "Whatever..."

So I walked him around to the front of the school and into the offices. Instead of walking him through the halls and giving him more of the attention he was after. As we entered the building, Hiram pulled his hood back on.

The secretaries gave a collective gasp as we walked through the doors... Which turned to nervous giggles, I walked him into the Assistant Principal's office and told him to sit down, indicating a chair. I plucked the hood from his head and tossed it into his lap as he sat and I explained the situation to Mr. Bennetts.

Mr. Howard Bennetts, our Assistant Principal was a kindly, bespectacled and Grandfatherly man. With a soft voice and an understanding nature. But even he "Tut-Tutted" when I explained why I had brought Hiram to the office.

For a moment, he studied Hiram through his thick lenses...heaved a long-suffering sigh before he spoke.

"And a weapon Hiram?" Mr. Bennetts asked shaking his head.

"It's part of the costume..." Hiram grumbled.

"I thought you said it was a uniform," I added.

"Why the Hell is he even still here?!?" Hiram pointed at me, voice raised a couple decibels in his annoyance.

"Enough of that now Hiram," Hiram collapsed back into himself in dejected fury "now give me your phone number so I don't have to look it up...I assume someone is home." the slight rise at the end of Mr. Bennetts sentence making the last a question. 

Hiram nodded in silence.

We waited and when it appeared he had no more to say, Mr. Bennetts cleared his throat and asked:

"The number?"

"Fine!" Hiram said and he ripped off the number in a quick staccato.
"You know my Dad works nights, and he's gonna be pissed. You waking him up for something so stupid."

"You let us worry about that Hiram." Bennetts calmly replied as he dialed the phone.

Hiram was right...his Father was NOT pleased. Mr. Bennetts explained that Hiram had worn an inappropriate Halloween costume and would be needing a change of clothes.
He did not mention what that costume happened to be.

20 minutes later a plus sized version of Hiram showed up with a paper bag of clothes and a lip full of tobacco. His face thunderclouds as he stomped into the office.

"Just what the Hell is the problem here?!?" He said addressing Mr. Bennetts.

"Well," Bennetts calmly started "He can't wear THAT in school." 
Indicating Hiram's attire.

Hiram's Dad turned and regarded his son a moment.

"Why the Hell not? It IS Halloween ain't it???"

"And he was carrying that." Bennetts pointed to the bat I still held, and lifted to show him.

"School policy clearly dictates that clothing or dress designed to disparage, intimidate or demean others will not be permitted."

"Unh-Huh," His Dad looked at Hiram "You plan to disparage, intimidate or uh...what was that other one?"

"demean" Bennetts offered.

"demean anybody?" His Dad asked.

"NO!" Hiram sullenly replied.

"Well, there ya have can send him on to class then, he ain't hurtin' nobody!" Hiram's Dad said.

"Whether he intended it or not, he can not wear that in school. I hope you can see it from our perspective. We have students and their parents that would find this quite offensive and inflammatory!" 

"What he is wearing is part of his heritage! This is still America ain't it? Freedom of expression and all??? I don't have a problem with what he's wearing!!!" Hiram's Dad had swelled up with indignation and was working himself into quite a lather.

"I'll put this simply," Mr. Bennetts said calmly, hands flat on his desk "Either Hiram changes or you take him home, unexcused.
And the way his attendance has been he really can't afford that. The choice is yours."

Hiram's Dad glared at Mr. Bennetts for a minute then tossed the bag of clothes in Hiram's lap. Without even looking at him he rumbled:
"Go Change..."

As Hiram changed in the office restroom his Dad continued to fume but remained silent. When Hiram was done and had handed the bag back to his Dad, his Father turned to go.

"Could you take this home with you?" I asked extending the baseball bat grip first. He glared at me, then at Hiram and made no move to take the bat.

"You brought it with you, you can bring it home!" And with that, he stomped out.

I looked at Hiram, much deflated now in jeans and t-shirt, I told him:

"I'll hold onto this until the end of the day, you can get it from me before you board the bus."

Hiram nodded and Mr. Bennetts released him to class.

"Well, the apple certainly didn't fall far from THAT tree, did it? Thank you for staying, I had previously only dealt with the mother..." Mr. Bennetts said to me when Hiram was out of the offices.

"No problem, I admit to having been a little curious..." I confided.
"Now I know."

The rest of the day passed uneventfully, aside from the obligatory school rumors. Which depending on the one you believed either had me stopping Hiram from attacking a black student with a baseball bat to Hiram's Dad being the Grand Dragon of the local Klan and they'd be marching on the school in protest! Or variations thereof.

I went to Hiram's bus as the kids boarded for home. I saw them come and I saw them go...but Hiram didn't appear. I later learned that he had ditched after lunch... So I put his baseball bat into the break room I shared with the other security folks and custodians.
It sat there all year...

And when school let out for the summer, I took it home. It now rests in my garage, some 30 years later...I've never had the heart to throw it out.

It reminds me of a troubled young man, that I hope found some peace and understanding in his life.

I hope you all have peace in your lives.

Be Well Folks, 

Beastly Bear


  1. Another great story. I suspect the Principal would have had a tougher tie if you had not stayed around.

    I had a similar, story about a different kinda kid, my son's good friend wore his alter boy outfit with a hood (not a klan hood). He went as a Phantom...the school thought otherwise.

    1. Wow, Joeh that was eerily similiar...except your young man was THE "polar opposite" of old Hiram! Glad nothing happened to him!!!

  2. Wow. That's messed up. I wonder whatever happened to Hiram? What a horrible way to be raised, in a home like that. I bet he's doing time.

    1. That would not surprise me at all JoJo...
      There wasn't much supervision at home near as I could tell!

  3. Wow. That's such a horrifying story. Not because the family was active in the Klan, it was a volatile time, but because this boy never had a chance at learning tolerance. He may have embraced his parents ideals anyway, but he never had that choice. Just makes me sad.
    Great writing, btw...I was right there in that office with you. Only difference, I was crying.

    1. Well Hey Jo, long time no see...hope Florida is agreeing with you!
      He sure was a piece of work and Daddy was a damn sight worse if first impressions are any indication.
      Thank you for the compliment on the writing too!

  4. Geez, pretty obvious the dad had no regard for rules either and did not care one iota. I bet Hiram is either in prison or dead. Just saying. He didn't really have much option considering how he was raised.

    1. All we can hope for is that Hiram rose above his upbringing, Kathy.

  5. That is a great story, and well told. I have known kids like that (not so brazen) but the ones that have a terrible home lives. There was this one kid, he was the biggest bully, but he grew up to be a kind and respectable member of the community, and he treated his children better than his father treated him; maybe Hiram turned out just fine.

    1. Thank you, Thomas! I hope so, I think he definitely had the deck stacked against him!
      Thank you for stopping in and leaving a comment, I hope to see you again.

  6. Wow, I can't believe he had the guts to wear it to school, mostly I can't believe he had two parents at home who let him! So glad you stayed with Mr. Bennetts, and I'm pretty sure he was glad you stayed too! He would've been no match for those two if things had escalated.

    1. Yeah, I'm pretty sure Mr. Bennetts would have had a time with just Hiram, let alone he and his Dad both! Probably helped I got to stand there holding the bat through the whole thing. Lol

  7. I wonder what happened to that boy. I hope others tried to be a good influence on him too, so that he saw the difference between right and wrong. Change is possible - it just needs to be chosen, not waited for. Hopefully he chose well. Thanks for sharing this - you are really good at writing your life!

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Thanks for dropping by! And thank you for your kind words, never a dull moment it seems... Lol