My fifth-grade class at Darlington was quite exciting, to say the least. Our teacher lost control of the class early on, so all of the students, including myself, decided we would have a "fun time!" Clay was thrown on the ceiling, spit wads were shot through straws, tacks were placed on seats, rubber bands sailed through the air, and students hid in the cloak room. One boy's thumb was stapled, another boy had a tack stuck in the top of his head, and a very mischievous boy pulled the cord of the wall clock . . . with the clock striking the teacher on the noggin! General mayhem prevailed.
All of the students, except for four of us (thankfully myself included) received a paddling that year, but the spankings didn't hurt, so the craziness continued.
We were told that Bowers school was closing at the end of 1959, and 10 new students would be joining our class of 25 . . . More fun next year!!!
That fall, as we entered the sixth-grade classroom, I knew that our teacher was going to be Raymon Brown, who had taught at Darlington for many years. He and his wife also owned the restaurant and furniture store on Main Street. He assigned everyone a seat, by alphabetical order, and wrote our names in his grade book. I was sitting in one of the front student desks when he came up to me and asked a question, which required a "yes" or "no" answer. When I responded "yeah," rather nonchalantly, he stared at me with eyes that looked like burning coals, and said in a commanding voice, "WHAT DID YOU SAY?"
I thought I was facing God himself. I sat up straight, swallowed hard, and replied, "Yes, Sir."
"THAT'S RIGHT, AND YOU WILL ANSWER LIKE THAT FROM NOW ON...DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT, YOUNG MAN?"
I learned right then and there that Mr. Brown was in charge of his classroom . . . not the students. He was the general, and we were his dutiful soldiers. The paddle hanging on the wall behind his desk was an ever-present reminder of the dire consequences of misbehavior . . . and when he did give a whack, he meant business!
If an assignment was due on a certain day, it WAS done. If spelling words were expected to be known, they WERE practiced and memorized. If math problems were to be solved, they WERE finished correctly. I did not want to face Mr. Brown staring at me again with THAT LOOK in his eyes.
And do you know what the most important thing I learned that year in sixth grade? I learned to SIT STILL and KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT. I concentrated on my homework. I used good manners. I was kind to others . . . and I really improved in math that year, as Mr. Brown was an excellent teacher.
We had spelling bees and math contests, and he also read chapters from "The Sugar Creek Gang" and "Silver Chief, Dog of the North" each morning before class began. Mr. Brown was also my basketball coach that year, and taught me the basic fundamentals of the game. Outside of the classroom, he had a very easy-going personality, but in the classroom, you were expected to behave and pay attention.
Wouldn't it be great if some of today's unruly students had Mr. Brown for a teacher? Raymon Brown was stern and demanding as our teacher, just as any good father should be, but he was also kind and helpful if we were sincere and acted as he expected us to act. I grew up a lot that year and began acting like a responsible youngster, ready to tackle the tough years of junior high school. Another former Darlington student remarked to me once, "You could always hear Mr. Brown's footsteps a mile away . . . he walked so hard!" And all of his former students continued to hear those footsteps as they made their way in life. Thank you, Mr. Brown. I am glad you were my teacher.

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history. He writes a general column that appears in The Paper on Fridays and a local sports column on Tuesdays.