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In the spring of 1943, the fish had started biting and a group of men around Blountstown were planning an early morning fishing trip and lunch on the banks of the Chipola River. My father, then a senior in high school, wanted very much to go with them. The only problem was that the trip was planned for a Friday, when he would be in class.
Never one to let education stand in his way, Daddy decided to ask his principal, Jim Ramsey, for permission to skip that day. After all, he would be graduating soon and it wasn’t like he needed to be an A student to fight World War II. Surely one day wouldn’t be a big deal.
But education was a big deal for Mr. Jim. He was a big, burly man who had the thankless job of keeping a bunch of rowdy, strapping boys in line so that girls like my mother could actually learn. And although he certainly didn’t condone skipping school, he probably figured that having Daddy off campus would be a net positive for the rest of the student body.
Whatever the reasons, Mr. Jim eventually decided that my father could have the day off. The only condition was that he would have to bring a note from my grandfather, Daddy Mac, the following Monday. If he failed, it would mean a whipping – which Mr. Jim was more than capable of delivering.
Daddy agreed to the terms, went fishing and had a big time. But it wasn’t until late on Sunday evening that he remembered the note. In a panic, he found Daddy Mac working at his desk and told him about his deal with the principal. Without looking up, Daddy Mac said, “No problem.” A few minutes later, he handed my father an envelope addressed to Mr. Jim.
The following morning, Daddy strolled into the school office (with a smug look on his face, no doubt) and handed over the envelope. Mr. Jim opened it up, read it and laughed out loud. Grabbing his over-sized paddle, he said, “All right, Gene. Put your hands on the desk.”
Shocked, my father said, “Wait a minute! You said if I brought a note, I wouldn’t get in trouble.”
“Read the note,” Mr. Jim replied.
Daddy looked at the slip of paper. All it said was: “Beat hell out of him, Jim.”
* * *
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how the “Greatest Generation” was raised.