Our principal was a dour fellow by the name of Puffenbarger. Fiftyish, we thought him quite ancient and quite intimidating.
Tall and portly, his face glowed crimson when provoked. As a result, he earned one of the truly classic nicknames I have ever encountered: "Puffy." The title said it all!
We'd be on the playground engaged in some nefarious activity, like pitching pennies or shooting marbles, and a lookout would shriek in a hoarse stage whisper, "Here comes Puffy!"
Puffy … er, Mr. Puffenbarger, used to make the daily announcements on the school's public address system.
I was forever losing my textbooks — the bane of my junior high experience. Books seemed literally to climb out of my locker.
It became almost routine for my mom to notify the office that I'd lost another book and Puffy would sorely embarrass me on the PA. He'd say something like: "Jimmy Carnett has lost his seventh-grade social studies book. Let's help him find it." (He could have further narrowed the search by adding: "The book contains the message, 'In case of fire, throw this in,' scrawled in pencil on the fly-leaf.")
One afternoon, at the end of my physical education class, our coach entered the locker room to make an important announcement as we showered. He shouted, "Listen up men!" then read from a clipboard. As he spoke, I committed the grievous sin of saying something to the guy at the showerhead next to mine.
The coach stopped in mid-sentence and called me over. I was to be an example.
In his right hand he clutched the dreaded "paddle" – specially crafted by the school's wood shop teacher. It had fiendish holes strategically placed on the flat surface of its "business" end.
The coach, who probably stood 6 feet tall and 2, 220 pounds, proceeded to swat me. The dastardly smack stung like blue blazes and my eyes misted, but I refused to cry.