The Otis A. Brumby elementary school can be found at 815 Terrell Mill Road in Marietta, Georgia. The original (round) school building is gone, the original school site has been redeveloped as a multi-use commercial site but the Bobcat legacy continues. The school is named for Mr. Otis Anoldus Brumby who was born in Marietta in 1889. He founded the Cobb County Times which later merged with the Marietta Daily Journal. He was known for his “lively” column “Jambalaya”, a name he adopted from his time at Tulane University. Mr. Brumby served briefly as an interim Cobb County school superintendent and he had interests in his family business: the Brumby Rocking Chair Company. He died in 1953. In 1966 the school board named this elementary school in his honor.
The first day of the 2019-2020 school year for Brumby was August 1, 2019. Fifty years ago I entered Brumby Elementary School as a 1st grade student. I have previously written about my first day of school and receiving my first notebook, a purple plastic 3-ring notebook which I selected from a box of notebooks of many colors. Why purple? I’d yet to learn purple was a color of veneration or royalty among the Romans. I’d learn that in my high school Latin classes. I had no idea purple also signifies “joint” or “jointness” in the U.S. military. I’d learn this during my decade working on a joint staff. In the military “joint” refers to anything involving two or more military services, e.g. Army, Air Force. But I knew none of this that first day of school as I peered into the box of notebooks and selected a purple one. It could be I simply liked the color purple.
There are countless other memories of my days at Brumby Elementary School. I witnessed my first public vomiting as we watched a boy named Ricky spew his lunch in the bathroom. We scattered and abandoned the young man. Our teacher had to go into the boy’s restroom to deal with the mess. There was the time in 4th grade when I got into trouble for talking when I wasn’t supposed to. Mrs. Dodson punished me and another boy by making us write our multiplication tables, from 1-12, twenty-three times. In grade school we were required to memorize the multiplication tables and we were constantly tested on our mastery but writing them twenty-three times was an exercise in writer’s cramp. This is the same Mrs. Dodson who had a wooden paddle and would use it. This is the same Mrs. Dodson, if she caught you chewing gum, she would ask you if you were a cow chewing your cud. Then she’d sent you to the principal’s office. She also had a mean set of States and Capitals flashcards she would use to send us to the principal’s office to call our parents. She would have us line up in front of the classroom and she would walk the line as if inspecting troops. She would face each student and quickly snatch a flashcard from behind her back and put it in their face. We had a few seconds to tell her the state and the capital. If we answered incorrectly or we could not answer she would make us sit down at our desk. Afterwards we would be sent to the principal’s office to call our parents to tell them we were not prepared for class. Harsh methods, but I know my multiplication tables and the states and capitals.
Our elementary school playground was two large fields adjacent to the school. We used these fields to play kick-ball, Red Rover, dodgeball, and a game with a silk parachute. Our football team, the Brumby Bobcats, would practice (and play our home games) on those fields. Mrs. ______ introduced us to a game she created which she called Newcome or maybe it was Nuke-em, the Cold War was still going on. It was like volleyball but instead of hitting the ball you were supposed to catch it. It you missed you were out of the game.
We also had a few pieces of playground equipment. We had swings made from railroad ties, chains, and rubber seats. We had two huge ladder obstacles like one might experience at a military boot camp. These were fifteen feet tall, about four feet wide with steps (rungs) made from 1-1/2 steel pipe. We would all line up and be forced to climb up, swing your leg over the top rung, turn your body and climb down the other side. I don’t think you will find this type of equipment on any elementary school yard today. There were two sections of concrete pipe to play on and in. These pipes were about five feet in diameter and laying on the ground like a beached whale. We would spend a whole recess period on the pipes. Curiously I only witnessed two playground injuries at Brumby Elementary School: one boy received a wooden splinter in his hand from the swings and another boy received a concussion during football practice.
Our principal was Mr. Green. He was strict and had a gruff exterior; he ran a tight ship. Occasionally he would take a class out for recess. This was considered a treat as he would most likely take us off school grounds on a hike. Some of my fellow students may have thought of it more of a forced march but I rather enjoyed these excursions. It smelled like freedom. None of us were dressed for the woods or the mud we would likely encounter. I’m sure parents weren’t too happy when their child returned home with dried mud on their shoes and cloths.
Mr. Green recognized me once while we were lined up and standing silently in the hallway waiting for our adventure to begin. No one was talking except me. I had noticed a tiny blue light illuminated on the public address box mounted on the wall over my head. I couldn’t contain myself and I was trying to show it to whoever was standing next to me in the line. Mr. Green walked over to me and said, “Did you hear me say no talking?” I replied meekly “Yes sir.” He said “Come see me in my office this afternoon.”
My freedom adventure and the rest of my schoolday were ruined. I was in agony with a lump of stress the size of a softball in my stomach. I thought to myself I am in BIG trouble. Instead of freedom I was incarcerated by fear, fear of the unknown. I thought through several potential scenarios. Would Mr. Green have me call my parents? If so, what would I say? Would he just give me a stern talking to, man to man? Would he send me home with a note for my parents to sign as evidence they had seen the note? Or could I ignore his meeting request and just hop on the schoolbus like any other day? Hmmm, this is dangerous but if it worked I could avoid punishment.
You might be surprised to learn I chose this dangerous route; I walked right by the front office on the way to the bus lane and hopped on the bus like everyone else. The whole time I was waiting to be singled out by a tap on the shoulder and dragged back into the school. This never happened as the bus pulled away from the school the tension and stress attenuated. I had escaped.
As you can predict the softball sized lump of stress returned the next morning as I got ready for school and realized I hadn’t escaped punishment; I had only delayed it, or worse, prolonged it. From now on, each and every day, I would live with the stress that Mr. Green would remember (assuming he’d forgotten the first place) and I would face my punishment. This never happened.
Looking back I would say he did not forget. I think he knew my secret agony would be far worse than anything he could do. He was right. Fifty years later I remember that day like it was yesterday. I can still see the tiny blue light. I can still see his face. I can still hear his voice. He made his point.
Sadly my only memory of Mr. Green is as the school principal. I did not know Mr. Green. I did not know he had earned his degrees from Emory University in Atlanta. I did not know he had served in WWII as a combat rifleman in the Army. (He served in the 100th “Century” Division.) I did not know he spoke German and he was used as an interpreter during the German surrender of the town of Esslingen. I did not know he was awarded a Bronze Star and earned Combat Infantry Badge.
After WWII Mr. Green had a 44 year career as a teacher and an elementary school principal. He is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for his development of the After School Program for “latch key” children at Brumby Elementary School where he served as the principal from 1968 to 1982. Graham Green died on January 22, 2007 and was survived by Hazel, his wife of 67 years.
I knew Mr. Green as my elementary school principal but I did not know Mr. Green. I respected him but I feared him. And my fear cost me the chance to see another side of him, one on one. It may have cost me the opportunity see him at his best. Mr Green tried to set us on our way through life. I think he succeeded but I regret not taking that meeting with him.