As an elementary school child in suburban Massachusetts in the 1960′s, the greatest fear in our school was our principal. An Irish spinster, Anne Harnedy, didn’t take any baloney from any child in her school. She used straps, rulers, shaking and standing in the corner to discipline the 300 or so students under her watch. “Going to the principal’s office” meant physical pain and almost certain tears.
My one and only visit to the dreaded Miss Harnedy’s office was for spilling tomato soup on my cafeteria tray. I was sent by a cafeteria worker and was unable to finish my lunch. When I arrived, a boy in my class, known for causing trouble in the cafeteria, was already there. He said to me, “She’s going to get ya”. I was terrified.
The secretary came out to the waiting room, ushered us both into the office where Miss Harnedy scowled at us. She said to me, “Do you know what you did”? I was as pale as a ghost. I answered, “I spilled soup”. She said, “Yes you did and you’ll never do it again”. She whacked both my hands with a ruler.
When I read the article about students having to eat on a floor and receiving $500,000 in a legal settlement, it brought me back to my childhood. My parents would never have sued the school system. Miss Harnedy wouldn’t have resigned. Life went on as usual. I never had soup in a school cafeteria again.
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