My brief time as a bully and what it taught me
By Marv Kohlbeck
With all the news about bullying taking place in all aspects of life, I have a confession to make. I have come to the conclusion that during my sophomore year of high school in 1947 I was involved in an incident in which I could have been declared a bully.
Bullies are not necessarily the larger bodied students. I was wimpy looking and probably weighed 130 pounds soaking wet. As I recall, I was having difficulty dealing with a girl that rode the same bus as I did. I personally decided to collect a handful of burdock seed heads and place it in her hair.
The burdock seed head comes from a weed that grows in pastures and unmowed grassy areas. It has a tendency to stick to anything it comes in contact with once it has matured. The burdock is not easily removed, especially from the hair.
Frankly, I do not know why I decided on that approach to “get even” with the girl named Janice, nor do I remember where I kept the weedy weapon during the day.
I do remember the bus ride on the dusty, bumpy country road on our way home after school. It was then that I placed the burdock clump in her hair. She immediately ran to the front of the bus to “tattle” on me. Our bus driver was Bill Sheahan, the owner-operator of the bus service that was under contract with the Valders School District in Manitowoc County.
Sheahan, a soft-spoken Irishman calmly drove the bus to the side of the road, stopped, stood up in the front of the bus, and simply blurted out, “Kohlbeck, this bus will not move until you settle down and behave. If not, we’ll discuss this with your parents.”
Those words were enough to strike fear into me. I knew that my parents often reminded us not to come home looking for mercy if we got into trouble in school.
Sometimes I feel that in today’s world parents go overboard to protect their offspring no matter what the violation. Administration, teachers, and bus drivers have lost some of the authority they need to control the environment in which they work.
Personally, I learned my lesson from that sole incident and respect the bus driver for his handling of the situation. In fact, when I did some substitute bus driving during my teaching experience, I would warn the students in advance that if there was any disturbance while I was driving, I would stop the bus and not move it until the violation was resolved. That ultimatum worked on me, for me, and should work today. Kids need to know who is in charge.
With my 67th class reunion coming up after Labor Day, I feel that I should confess to my classmates the bullying incident. I also wish that Janice would be present to accept another apology for my thoughtless act of bullying, but she will not be there. She is now deceased.