by Hugh Herbert
In 1936, we moved from our beloved Oxford, MA to Central Village, CT. We all hated it! It was a mill town with a large number of poor wood framed tenements, provided by the mills for their workers. A good number of these workers were of French Canadian origin and education was not a big factor for them.
Our grammar school was only a few hundred feet up the street from our house.
On the first day of school, Paul and I arrived together. At the time he was 11 yrs. old and I was nine. We were standing around the school yard when we noticed a commotion. An oversized bully (he had been kept back one or two years) would walk up to a smaller boy, shoving him to the ground. The kid would simper and say “hiya Leo.” And then Leo proceeded along the line, pushing more kids down. I turned to Paul and said we’re not going to take that are we? Paul said no. Then Leo walks up to Paul and says, “Huh, you’re a new kid!” As it looked as if he were going to shove Paul, I dropped to my hands and knees behind Leo and Paul gave a real hard shove. He backed up and fell over me hitting the back of his head a real whack on the ground.
Paul then said, “Yeah we’re new kids and no one is going to push us around!”
Once over their surprise, the other kids began laughing at and jeering Leo. Leo got up and as far as I knew, never did any more shoving. And for a while, Paul was somewhat of a hero.