A Dose of Dad’s Discipline
A psychologist would have a tough time today trying to analyze the behavior of my cronies and me back in the sixties. I’ll never really know the reasons for some of our actions, but one thing was certain - Dad did not condone my conduct for one second. In fact, he did his very best to thwart any recurrence of any of my dastardly deeds and my age was no factor in dad’s chosen method of discipline.
A set of events lead to one particular punishment that will stick with me forever. We were sixteen, immature and feeling somewhat invincible as we frequently pummeled our Junior English Composition teacher’s house with corn, eggs, tomatoes and any other soft, suitable rubbish we could find. After tossing the debris onto his porch, door and windows, we took turns using a different getaway car after each assault.
One evening, after repeated nightly bombings that rivaled the (then current) war in Vietnam, we discovered our teacher was waiting for us, concealed by the darkness in his dark green Volkswagen Beetle Bug. He immediately gave chase.
We were heading north on Route 160 between Salix and Sidman. Jim “Stu” Neri was at the helm in his dad’s new ’69 Pontiac Grand Prix and I was riding shotgun. (Note: I have little recollection why two of our high school cheerleaders, Susie Ronan and Susie Chuckalovcak, accompanied us on that mission, but to this day Stu swears that they were with us in that great escape.)
A planned stop at the Potchak home was quickly aborted. As we raced through Sidman, Stu maneuvered that blue beast onto Route 869 east and dusted the bug on the road known as the Sidman stretch. (Note: That stretch was a straight shot, a mile long, and a hot spot for drag races back in the day when it seemed everyone had a muscle car.) Although the VW’s speed was admirable, it was no match for the Grand Prix and we celebrated our getaway with hoots, howls and laughter.
A few nights later, Stu and I foolishly tried another drive-by tomato attack. This time, the chase car was right on our tail. You couldn’t get a Sears Catalog wedged between the bumpers as both cars sped toward town. I can still hear Stu declare, “My God, he’s in a Vette.” Unfortunately for us, Stu was right. Who would have ever thought that our English teacher owned a Vette?
As quickly as the Corvette appeared, it also vanished, but not before Mr. Neri’s license plate was spotted and the number recorded.
Our teacher visited Stu’s dad a day later and described the assault and chase in detail. I have no idea how Stu avoided the gallows, but after talking his way out of that mess, I always thought he should have joined the Forensics Club and competed in the persuasive speech category. He truly missed his calling.
A few nights later, we were at it again. My stupidity as a teen marvels me to this day. Stu’s Grand Prix was grounded, so it was my turn behind the wheel in my dad’s ’64 Ford Fairlane 500. News of our antics spread quickly and we had two new volunteers, Mike Poldiak and Toby Cordek, join us. (Note: Mike was eager and willing. The antics were so uncharacteristic of Toby, though, that he remains embarrassed by this incident to this day.)
After I swerved intentionally to hit a possum crossing the road, I promptly stopped the car to retrieve the road kill. Stu took the wheel, and I took the passenger seat. A few minutes later, I proudly tossed that dead possum by the scale of its tail onto our teacher’s front porch.
This time a motorcade of his neighbors awaited us. Using their cars, they had our getaway route cut off in a flash. All four of us were huddled together in the Fairlane and under illumination of a half dozen flashlights, we were identified. After a scolding by the local posse and threatened with reports to the police, we were released. But I knew my penalty was far from over.
“I will take care of this,” my dad explained as he talked with our teacher in our driveway later that night. One glance at Dad’s face and I fully expected what followed. He promptly kicked my behind repeatedly as I walked up our driveway. Dad had used this technique a number of times prior to that evening, but always used the top (the instep) of his shoe. This time, the discomfort was distinctly different and it was apparent he was using the toe of the shoe in his torture.
He said nothing. Neither did I. Then he displayed his palm, indicating he wanted something. I must have read his mind, because I instinctively placed my driver’s license in his open hand. Licenses at that time were composed of non-laminated, flimsy cardboard and were rarely kept in any kind of case. So, I simply watched in silence as Dad turned that license into confetti and tossed it into the night.
With that, my driving privileges ended for months. And any thoughts of immaturely harassing teachers or any others vanished forever, too.
In the years that followed, I never complained once about his punishment. It was clear that I had received a well-deserved dose of Dad’s discipline.
Above: Stu's '69 Grand Prix as it looks today. Yes, He still has the car.