Nov. 3 WEEKENDER: Second Opinion – Locker stuffing and the good old days of bullying

In 1959, bullies were merely ignorant louts, not clever technophiles and bullying was an exercise governed by unwritten rules.

Grand Forks Gazette WEEKENDER columnist Jim Holtz.

Grand Forks Gazette WEEKENDER columnist Jim Holtz.

I never would have thought, at the time, that being stuffed in my school locker by Big Ernie and Bobo Gray was, relatively speaking, a fun time.

But back in 1959, bullies were merely ignorant louts, not clever technophiles, and bullying was a fairly common, straightforward exercise that was governed for the most part by unwritten rules.

True, one could get “beaten up,” punched, given a black eye and bloody nose and knocked down but once the victim was on the ground, the rule was that he couldn’t be hit any more, and in those days, kicking was considered something only girls did and back then girls didn’t get into fights  “Two-on-one is chicken fun” was another rule.

Big Ernie and his buddies never ganged up on anyone; ganging up was considered cowardly.

So was using any sort of weapon; fights were always with fists.  As well, I knew that Big Ernie wouldn’t try to pick a fight with me; he was about 6-3, 190 pounds. I was 5-8, 120. Picking a fight with someone my size would have ruined his reputation as a tough guy.

In those days, escaping bullies was a cat and mouse game.  Big Ernie had a locker right next to mine, so to avoid becoming locker stuffing and having Ernie spit water from the nearby drinking fountain on me through the slats at the top, I would always check the hallway from the far end and watch as he went to his locker and left.

Big Ernie always left school quickly; he was 17 and still in Grade 10. In 1959 if you had learning difficulties, you kept failing until you quit.

Today, the physical bullying that kept me on my toes has been greatly reduced in schools.

Among teenagers and pre-teens bullying is more often carried out in cyberspace by anonymous individuals.

That makes it particularly distasteful to people of my vintage, though the cowardly aspect for some reason does not seem to create the same reaction in young people, or in those who have taken it upon themselves to defend the freedom of the Internet.

They confuse anonymous speech with free speech. Protecting the right of someone to speak anonymously is the opposite of protecting free speech.

The former allows people to say harmful things without being identified; the latter allows people to be identified with things they say without being harmed.

I would have been a good target for cyber-bullying.

My ears stuck out, I got good grades, I liked being in plays and I turned in Dennis Lackey for cheating on a math test.

Dennis and his twin brother Dean would have been clever and devious enough to have made my life miserable in cyberspace.

Thank goodness I only got stuffed in lockers.

– Jim Holtz is WEEKENDER columnist and former reporter for the Grand Forks Gazette