No misdeed was immune to the silent code

Published 6:19 pm Monday, September 21, 2020

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After moving back to Washington from Raleigh — we were only gone for a 1 1/2 years — the school system placed me in Mrs. Frances Swain’s class in the fifth grade.

Elementary school was at John Small School, and Mrs. Swain’s class was on the second floor. My seat was exactly 36 inches from her desk, so that she could tap me with her yardstick when I was bad. Remember those brown boxes on the wall above the blackboard? Please let me tell you a story about watching the clock and waiting for Mr. Grist to come over that brown box (intercom). The story will explain to many about the mystery of the “Silent Parental Code” and how it worked in Washington. Some do not know about the silent code.

During recess one day, Cambo, Bubba and I were playing a trick on the late Claudia Gardner (Parvin). Claudia was in another class and one of the prettiest girls in our grade. She was always jovial and fun to be around. We all had known one another since kindergarten. We decided to play a trick on Claudia that later got us in trouble. Bubba and Cambo may have forgotten that trick, so I will not tell you what we did.

Mr. Grist came over the intercom once we returned to class and called us to his office. He said, “Boys, either I will handle this, or I will call your dads and they will handle it” — the last thing we ever wanted to hear. Lunch was only 45 minutes from that fateful visit to his office, and we really wanted him to handle it. Those were the longest 45 minutes I have ever spent at school, and I watched that clock like a hawk. Maybe he had forgotten and that would work in our favor, rather than our dads coming out to school!

To this day, I can tell you exactly where I was sitting at lunch when my dad appeared in the back of the auditorium. At that time, we sat on the stage to have lunch, and the food was always good. When I saw my dad standing in the doorway of the auditorium, at that moment, the food had no taste! I guess Mr. Grist decided to call our dads, and the waiting was over.

Big Cam, Big Walter and Dad were waiting in the hall. We went in one at a time and after explaining what we had done to our fathers individually, each dad walked their son across the hall into the First Aid room, and we received our spanking. The last thing my dad told me was not to tell Mom and to stay in the yard until he got home. This is where the Silent Parental Code kicks in!

When I entered my house, there sat Mrs. Droops, Virginia and mom, all three crying out loud. Now, I had already gotten a spanking and sure did not want another, so I went outside and did not leave my yard. To this day, I could never have told you who called those three ladies up and told them, but you can rest assured, it was not Harold Jr.!  It had to be the “Silent Parental Code” that existed during the ’50s and ’60s, and all of us tried to break the code but were never successful.

Now that I’m older, I can appreciate that “Silent Parental Code” and all that other parents did to help us become the men and women we are today. Parents, when I was growing up, led by example and everyone’s mom and dad pitched in to keep us kids in line. Then, worst of all, they called our parents to tell them what we had to done. The same code existed at school, and teachers and coaches were the first to call our parents.

Tomp Litchfield and I have talked about this code, and we both hope that it still exists today. I could list examples of how the code worked and so could Tomp. Tomp was an example, like his brother, Bill, and many others in my generation, who remember the “Silent Parental Code.” They made us better because of it, and I am thankful to other parents for the role models they displayed growing up in Washington.

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.! The Original Washington!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.