Have you ever had a teacher or other adult authority figure whose punishment of your misdeeds was excessive? In Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I related many occasions when my supposed sins were recompensed far beyond their worth. This is the story of one of the most egregious incidents of a supervisor taking my punishment too far.
I am not certain why Mrs. Parker punished me one June evening. All I remember is that I did something which angered her and she sent me to bed immediately after supper. While I was talking with a few boys, she came in and broke up the meeting, ordering my friends to the Quiet Room. “Since you seem to want to stay up instead of going to sleep like a good boy, you’ll stand at the end of the hall with your face to the wall.”
I did as she ordered, silently fuming at the injustice of it all. Humiliation and boredom weighed heavily on me as I stood dressed only in my pyjamas. Summer vacation was almost upon us and everybody else was in a celebratory mood. The sound of the television and boys’ excited chattering wafted from the Quiet Room as shafts of golden evening sunlight lit up the rotunda beyond the glass doors.
As I stood, my mind wandered. I heard a rumour that I, as well as some other boys, would be moving up to the intermediate dorm in September. The thought of being out from under Mrs. Parker’s thumb encouraged me. She would have no power over me up there. Unfortunately, that was of no help to me at the moment. My legs grew tired as I endured my punishment. Eventually, I resorted to leaning against the wall. That only afforded me a little relief.
“God,” I prayed,”Help me get out of this. Make Mrs. Parker let me go to bed.” My legs began to ache as I stood with my face almost touching the bricks.
“Well, don’t you look pathetic.” I began to turn but Mrs. Parker snapped, “Stand up straight and face the wall.” I did so, wishing this tyrant would let me lie down.
“It’s your own fault that you’re being punished,” she lectured. “You disobeyed so you have to face the consequences.”
She promptly launched into a tirade regarding what a “twerp” I was and how I justly deserved every punishment I received. I could only wait and hope the tongue-lashing would end soon. After what seemed like a long time, my supervisor allowed me to go back to bed. Finally being able to lie down never felt as wonderful. However, sleep eluded me that night. I silently fumed at being humiliated in front of my peers.
Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)contains many more vignettes, both humorous and poignant, of life in that government-run institution during the sixties. Before mainstreaming became popular, disabled students were routinely exiled to distant residential institutions. Experts and the public assumed that only highly-skilled professionals could educate such “unfortunates.” Please check out www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison for more information about this memoir.