By Bud Herron
I was fired from two jobs in my life. One of them worked in journalism. The position was co-editor of the 1963 “Jetstream” yearbook at Hauser High School. The reason given for the dismissal was “lewd conduct and disrespect for authority”.
As juniors, my classmate Loraine (Clouse) Wells and I had been selected to work on the book, along with staff from the senior class. The way things worked back then, we became co-editors as seniors.
But, as fate would have it, the faculty advisor who appointed us left our senior year and was replaced by a new professor. The new teacher did not welcome me with open arms and with great confidence.
I admit that a “my way or the highway” teacher might have had valid reasons for not feeling deep affection for me. I questioned more often than I accepted instructions. I found humor in situations that the teacher often found serious. I was not afraid to express my opinion.
If being “respectful” meant never questioning or disagreeing, I was guilty. Still, I survived the cold relationship until Christmas and into the second semester.
By February most of the pictures had been taken and all but a few of the layouts were done when I caught the flu and stayed home for about a week.
The day I returned to school, I was sitting in the yearbook desk faking pictures on a page when the teacher walked past me, looked at my work, and turned off. like a Roman candle. She shouted that I had a “dirty mind” and accused me of maliciously slipping a vulgar image into the book – an image she said she had expressly banned from publication the previous week.
I looked at the pictures and couldn’t find anything vulgar or inappropriate. So I asked the teacher which picture was vulgar.
She refused to answer my question but said she would not tolerate my vulgarity. So I replied that if she saw a vulgar image, she was the one with the dirty mind.
A few minutes later, I found myself in the principal’s office.
Obviously, having learned no lesson about asking disrespectful questions, I pushed the principal to explain to me what was vulgar in the photos.
The teacher had left him with the “offensive” layout, so – after a brief pause – he pointed to a photo of a girl during a school convocation. A magician had hypnotized the girl and placed her on her back on three folding chairs. He then told her to stiffen her body, removed the middle chair and left it hanging between the two remaining ones.
Perplexed, I asked the principal to explain to me what was vulgar in this photo.
After a bit of verbal dancing, the principal quietly confided to the teacher that the photo showed the girl’s sweater hugging her chest in a way that left her breasts looking like “Christmas trees”, revealing that she was wearing False”.
(It looks like the girl in the picture pulled off her trick. She had indeed tricked me.)
So I was fired. The teacher refused to allow me to return to class. The confused principal decided to exile me to study the hall during yearbook time for the rest of the school year.
My banishment was an educational experience, however. I learned that someone is always willing to serve as a censor, convinced that their opinion is the only final judge and jury in determining what is too “vulgar” or “inappropriate” for the rest of us to see, read or hear.
I also learned that I did not have to accept this judgment quietly. Asking the questions authorities deemed inappropriate led to a fairly successful career in journalism. It was well worth a few boring months of study hall confinement.
(By the way, my other layoff came during a summer job in a factory when I drove a forklift through an 8 foot high door – when the elevator was about 9 feet away (It was quite a shock to me and the production manager who hired me. No one tried to censor the foreman’s words while I was carrying my lunch box out the door.)
Bud Herron is a retired editor and newspaper publisher who lives in Columbus. He was editor of The Republic from 1998 to 2007.