Everybody Has a Story: First-grade tagger learned a tough lesson

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A recent news article and pictures of properties disfigured by taggers aroused comments of disgust by my wife.

“What possesses a person to do such a thing?” my wife commented.

I looked up from reading the paper with my comment. “I don’t know. I guess they just wanted to leave their mark.” With that, I went on reading. After some time, I made the unseemly comment, “I was apprehended as a tagger once.” And I went on reading the paper.

After some time, I looked up at my wife. She was sitting there looking at me with a puzzled and angry look on her face. Thoughts must have been racing through her mind: “My husband of 66 years, a tagger? What secret life was he carrying on? He was a Sunday school teacher, a Boy Scout scoutmaster and father to our four daughters. Now he confesses that he was a tagger. Is it possible he was the great serial tagger Kilroy?”

In 1932, when I entered the first grade in Hazel Dell School, I was overwhelmed. My teacher, Miss Mantor, taught first, second and third grades. Each class had about eight students. I had my very own desk. In my desk, I had two new pencils and a nice tablet that my mother had bought for me.

Miss Mantor gave us each two or three school books and proceeded to teach us the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic. What fascinated me the most were the huge blackboards that lined the front and one side wall. On the bottom, there was a chalk tray that held the pieces of chalk and erasers.

I had my own pencils and crayons at home, but I had never seen this way of illustrating before.

At recess time, we went out in the front of the schoolhouse, which faced Hazel Dell Avenue. It was then referred to as the Old Highway. We had teeter-totters and swings in our area. The Old Highway was close, and I noticed the smooth blacktop. That allurement prompted me to pocket a piece of chalk one recess time, and to kneel down and write.

My mother had taught me how to sign my name and there, in big bold letters, I signed it.

The next thing I remember was Mr. Monte Bunge, the principal, taking my hand and marching me into a store room in the seventh- and eighth-grade class that he taught. He told me that what I had done was wrong. I had taken chalk, which was school property! I had defaced public property!

Mr. Bunge’s duties, besides teaching seventh- and eighth-grade classes, were school principal and counsellor. After “counseling” me he took a paddle off a hook on the wall and gave me a good paddling. That ended my experience as a tagger.

Being a lifelong resident of Hazel Dell has given me many ways of leaving my mark on the community that I love. After learning the carpenter trade, I was able to build a house for Monte Bunge on Overlook Drive. As I grew up we became good friends. He did not remember the incident.