The longest 30 minutes

Published 8:55 pm Monday, November 9, 2020

It was in the spring of my fifth-grade year that I decided to skip school for the first time. Oh, there were to be more later in high school but not for the entire day like this time.

I thought that I had a well-devised plan and had hidden my overalls and a T-shirt outside, behind the garage. Since we normally dressed up for school, I had my good clothes on as I walked out of the house after breakfast. It had to be fool-proof, because I had planned it for weeks and even hid my bike and fishing pole, along with my overalls and can of worms. It was to be all by myself and not a chance of leaks to other parents. It was all my idea!

After leaving the house and changing my clothes behind the garage, I was on my bike heading to Charlotte Street and Runyon Creek where I was to fish all day. I never thought about being caught because it was a safe and fool-proof plan. I even had it written on paper as to follow it completely!

Mrs. Frances Swain was my fifth-grade teacher and, like most teachers, was good friends with Mom and Dad. I had not missed a single day since the beginning of school (first mistake) and this was a Friday in late April. I was thinking that the fish would be biting then and decided to head to railroad tracks crossing Runyon Creek. I really did not care what type of fish was biting, I just wanted to fish and carry out my plan.

Along about 10 o’clock, I saw that yellow Studebaker pull up beside Leroy Carver’s shop and a deep feeling came into my stomach. It was Dad! He started to approach me and never said a word and sat down right beside me.

“Catching anything buddy?” he asked.

“No, sir,” was my reply, thinking he may let me fish.

He must have sat there it seemed like for hours but it was only maybe 30 minutes, but it was a long 30 minutes.

He looked at me and then said, “Think you ought to be in school?”

I knew the right answer and it was, “Yes, sir, Dad.”

He then said, “I want you to ride your bike to school and go in just like you are and do not change any clothes.” In my overalls, T-shirt and no shoes, what an embarrassment to me! What was he thinking? He even gave me a dollar to get some chili dogs from Mrs. Carver’s and a big drink with crushed ice,

Once I got to school, I reported directly to Mrs. Swain and not Mr. Grist. I found her in the auditorium having lunch on the stage with my class. I could tell that they wanted to laugh but never did, and I am thankful they did not. Mrs. Swain told me that my father had left my clothes in the first aid room but said not to say anything to Mr. Grist because she had not reported me as absent. I had never been so glad to see my dress clothes, and I changed before Mr. Grist could catch me. I put my dirty overalls in a spare bag.

Mrs. Carver was the one that called Dad because she thought I should be in school and reminded him of the day he and Leroy did the same. I really think they all four were in on the plot after Mrs. Carver called Dad. The secrets that lady must have had and never really told anybody could have filled a book. She knew when we skipped school because later on in high school, we usually ended up there.

We were so lucky! My dad was like a diplomat and never brought that subject up to me because he knew I would never do it again, and I did not. Maybe I skipped a class or two, but never all day. Yes, we were lucky to have the role models we had during our generation! From teachers and parents, to friends and coaches who showed us the right way to live our life. So lucky and the older I get, the more I recognize that, and the more I miss those people. We need them back in our fractured society of today.

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.