How My BFF Saved My Butt (Literally) in High School
Yearbook Photo (Circa 1975)
Today is Jolebration Day 2021: the day that I commemorate my BFF, the late, great Johannah Cantrell.
Jo was the definitive Best. Friend. Forever.
Even when I led her into crazy misadventures or got her into trouble, she always had my back. But one time, she had my butt. Sorry, that didn't sound right. I mean she SAVED my butt—my literal butt—from a terrible fate.
Here's a little background for those of you who don't know me. I grew up in the Seventies, in an ex-coal mining community in West Virginia, much like the town, Coalwood, featured in the Jake Gyllenhaal movie, October Sky. Except Coalwood was way bigger.
I had two best friends—Johannah Cantrell and Sheila Allen—and the three of us dreamed of becoming the next Liza Minnellis when we grew up. Hence we formed a singing/dancing trio called—wait for it—The Minnelli Girls. We also loved the Rolling Stones and when we weren't impersonating Liza, we were impersonating the Stones, mainly because there weren't many sources of entertainment in our neck of the woods so we did whatever we could to keep from being bored.
This included joining a LOT of clubs during high school. One, two, or all three of us were involved in Cheerleading, Majorettes, Pep Club, Keywanettes, the Girl's Basketball Team, Newspaper Staff, Yearbook Staff, Band, Choir, National Honor Society, Girls Athletic Association and, of course, the Bible Club. We were also in the Jet Club, although no one seems to remember what the Jet Club did or what it was even for. **If you know, please contact me immediately. It's been driving me nuts.**
Anyhoo... You get the point. The only way we could have been any more involved in our high school was to have become faculty. Ergo, our teachers always thought of us as "good kids", albeit obnoxious ones because we were constantly foisting our Liza/Rolling Stone impersonations on everyone every day of the week. We were 'Those Girls'; the ones that never got called to the principal's office unless it was to run an errand for a teacher. And it stayed that way—right up until our senior year.
That's when some good weather brought out "the bad" in the three of us.
It was one of those unexpectedly warm, early spring days. We had been taking mid-term exams all week and our class had finished early so we more than an hour left before we could leave the classroom. Apparently the teacher was even more bored than we were because he left the room and never returned. So everyone grouped together in clusters to chat, wisely keeping the noise levels down because we knew that getting loud would result in teacher supervision and maybe (shudder) an assignment.
The windows had been opened due to the lovely warm weather and a cool breeze. We were on the third floor and soon I noticed a small whirlwind spinning leaves outside the corner window. Bored out of my skull, I chucked a small scrap of paper into the whirlwind and watched it circle round and round. Mesmerized by the way the wind spun it like a tiny tornado, I continued to feed the whirlwind bits of paper.
Then I decided it would be fun to give a paper airplane a try. And then another. And another. Sheila and Jo soon joined me and before long we had created our own little Air Force. When the whirlwind died down we spread out to launch our planes from other windows.
All of a sudden, we had an audience. A couple of heads popped out from the windows below. I didn't recognize any of the faces. That's because we never paid any attention to students that were younger than us and these kids were like ninth-graders. We were seniors after all.
Maybe it was Spring Fever, but something took hold of the three of us and we suddenly decided that it would be fun to hurl our planes straight into their freshman faces like spears.
"Muh-waaah-ha-ha-ha!" we laughed wickedly. Until one little stinker suddenly fired back. With a pencil! It nearly took out my eye.
We were outraged and declared outright war.
"Stupid ju-ju heads!" I shrieked. "Don't they KNOW who they're dealing with?"
"Little freaks," Sheila snorted.
"Let 'em have it!" Jo snarled.
And we did, only to have more pencils flung at our faces. We had no choice but to carpet-bomb them. I brought out the big guns and threw my first magazine. Shouting erupted from below. Sheila and Jo joined my efforts and soon we were throwing books. Suddenly, everything went quiet beneath us.
"They're probably planning a surprise attack."
"Right. Be ready."
The three of us dangled out of the windows, books in hand, waiting for a head to appear.
Finally one did and I chucked my book smack into their head and reached for another. Things went quiet below again. We held our positions, lying in wait, hanging half out of the windows, clutching our tomes.
"Hold your positions girls . . ." I ordered.
Unfortunately, it was our positions that gave us away when the Vice Principal burst into the classroom and bellowed, "YOU THREE! TURN AROUND!"
We spun around in shock and that was the moment that I realized that the head that I had just hurled a book into was the head of our Vice Principal!
But if we were shocked, our V.P. was even more shocked.
"Ohmigosh! I can't believe it's the three of you!" he stammered.
Our classmates howled with laughter. It was their collective dream-come-true. The three Dudley Do-Rights had been caught red-faced and book-handed and there was no talking our way out of it.
"Okay," Mr. L. barked. "Let's go downstairs to the office." He held the door open as we stumbled into the corridor. Then we followed him in silence as he led us to the office to be paddled.
YES, PADDLED! In case you didn't know, corporal punishment was "a thing" in the Seventies. And Mr. L's reputation for landing hard blows was legendary. I mean, all three of us had been paddled before by a couple of our female teachers for bits of mischief. But nothing really serious. It was more like receiving hard love taps.
But a paddling in the V.P.'s office was serious. Clearly, real pain would be involved. Fortunately, Johannah—who had a tendency to freak out like C3PO—volunteered to go first because she couldn't handle the wait.
"Alright Jo," Mr. L. mumbled, as he pulled out his well-worn paddle. "Place your hands on the desk and bend over."
Quivering all over, Jo complied, while taking deep Lamaze-like breathes. Mr. L. stepped behind her and lined up his paddle with Jo's butt while Sheila and I cowered in horror. With a reluctant breath, Mr. L drew his paddle back and
"WAIT!!! NO! STOP!" Jo screeched, whirling around. "I'm not ready, I'm not ready!"
We all exhaled together and watched as Jo began fumbling with her sweater.
"Hang on," she pleaded, practically sobbing. "I just wanna tuck my sweater in my pants first!"
Mr. L. blinked and stepped back as Jo began stuffing her sweater into her jeans.
"Just wait . . . I gotta get it over my butt . . . almost there . . . wait . . . I gotta smooth it out so it's not bunchy . . . Crap! It keeps bunching up."
After about two minutes, Jo had her sweater situated. This had the unintended effect of increasing the dread that Sheila and I were experiencing. We were praying to get it over with.
"Okay Johannah," Mr. L. sighed. "Hands on the desk."
Jo and Mr. L. took their positions while Sheila and I cringed.
"WAIT! No, I'm not ready again!" Jo shrieked. "I've changed my mind. I want my sweater on the outside of my pants!
"What?" Mr. L. snapped, as he lowered his paddle.
"I think it'll provide more protection on the outside after all!"
"Fine! Hurry it up!"
Jo slowly pulled her sweater out of her jeans and then began stretching it repeatedly over her butt.
"Just hang on!" Jo stuttered. "I don't want it to ride up when you paddle me so I have to stretch it out so it stays in place."
The three of us looked at each other and blinked. Then we looked back at Jo who was yanking her sweater halfway down her thighs. She ruined her sweater before our very eyes.
"Okay, okay. I'm ready." Jo whispered, as she cautiously approached the desk again.
"Are you sure?" Mr. L. replied with a hint of sarcasm.
"NO! But you're gonna paddle me anyway," Jo whined. "So okay." (Deep Lamaze breathing ensued.) "Okay. Let's do it. Go ahead."
The paddle was almost in its down stroke when Jo whipped around hysterically to plead, "Noooo! Wait! I DO want to stuff my sweater in my pants after all! PLEEEZZZE! I'll be fast."
But she wasn't. All of us watched in exasperation as Jo took another few minutes trying to tuck her now-completely-overstretched sweater back into her pants.
And when she stopped Mr. L. mid-swing to unstuff her sweater YET AGAIN, he gave up.
"Jo! Nevermind!" he huffed. "Here," he muttered as he swiftly tapped her behind with his implement of torture. "That's it. You're done."
"REALLY?" the three of us chimed together, too afraid to believe that we had been granted this great pardon.
"Yes, really. I can't take it anymore." he muttered. Suddenly he remembered that his reputation as an Epic Paddler was at stake.
"And DON'T tell anyone about this!" he warned.
Then he walked behind Sheila and I to apply the same butt-tap that he had administered to Jo.
"Now get out of my office! And never do that again!"
"Yessir! Thank yewwww . . ." we cheered, as we scurried out the door before he could change his mind. Once we were safely out of sight we gleefully exchanged silent high fives.
And THAT is how Jo saved our butts.
And that's what BFFs are for, no butts about it.
This special Birthday Card features a photo of The Three Graces by Antonio Canova.
I think the Graces had just escaped a paddling.