The Secret World of My High School Principal, Joe L. Sargent

Amelia Earhart poses with her high school principal to receive her honorarium as the school's most-noted student

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Dr. Hill, principal, Classical High School, Springfield, Missouri

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I feared my school principals

During my twelve years of schooling, I had only two principals: Mrs. Lucille Mixon, in grades one through six and Mr. Joe L. Sargent, grades seven through twelve.

Actually, I had three principals. My very-first principal was Mr. L.J. Ballard, my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Gertrude Ballard’s husband.

This man and wife teaching-team ran New Home School when “the” first day of my schooling began. New Home was one of those famous “two-room” school houses that famed artist, Norman Rockwell would have been proud of. I loved New Home for its laid-back, casual way of doing things. Mrs. Ballard, I can call her by her name now, Gertrude, taught grades first through third. Mr. Ballard, L.J., taught fourth through sixth.

F.M. Peterson, principal, Pekin Community School, 1950

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Mrs. Lucille Mixon: overly-disciplined

Mr. Ballard was also our principal. He looked the part with his gray hair, eyeglasses holder in the left pocket of his starched white shirt. And he never wore, pardon the expression, “blue collar” work clothes, but starched pleated slacks with brown sandals and plain white socks in the summer and brown slippers with plain white socks in the fall and winter.

I never had any respect for Mr. Ballard. But I had more than enough fear for him. He had “that” deep, manly-voice that to me, sounded like God talking to Moses—strong, sure, and powerful. Mr. Ballard was not a man for nonsense. He was all-business.

When my family moved, I was in a different school district, so I had to finish my first grade year at Hamilton Grammar School. I never liked this place. It was way too strict, stuffy and smelled too much like a school building, whereas New Home School’s windows were all up in the warmer months—allowing the fresh air to circulate in the building.

Mrs. Lucille Mixon, a petite, overly-disciplined woman with a bun of gray hair at the back of her head, was our principal. Mrs. Mixon must, undoubtedly had a dad who did his military service as a drill instructor in the United States Marine Corps. Ooo-Rah! There were two things that Mrs. Mixon never did: Crack a smile and speak in a friendly tone, but a short, snappy, style of talking.

Frank McKee, principal, Warren Hardin High School, 1950's, 60's.

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I hated Mrs. Mixon's grandmother shoes

Example:

Mrs. Mixon: “Hey! You there!”

Student: “Ma’am?”

Mrs. Mixon: “You belong here?”

Student: “Ma’am?”

Mrs. Mixon: “That’s it! You’re expelled!”

Let me clarify more. All of you Seinfield fans remember the “Soup Nazi,” who talked so mean and cold that he instilled fear in his customers? Well imagine him as an older woman with a stone face and you have Mrs. Mixon.

While I was coping with the culture shock of being “cattled-around” in Hamilton Grammar School, I would sit in class, slumping in my desk on purpose to avoid being seen by Mrs. Ann Wade, my first-grade teacher and then it would come to pass . . . click, clack, click, click, clack, the rhythmtic, military- gait of Mrs. Nixon’s walking in those awful, outdated (even then) “Grandmother shoes,” as I called them, with those nerve-shattering wooden heels.

"Soup Nazi" - Larry Thomas - 116th episode of Seinfeld

Mr. L.J. Ballard's harsh truth

So with her wooden heels hitting upon the old, outdated hardwood floors, you have an annoying “wood-on-wood” sound if used by Nazi’s in World War II as torture devices, they might have all of the secrets of the free world.

If I am going to tell the harsh-truth about Mrs. Mixon, allow me to tell you “the” one harsh truth about Mr. L.J. Ballard. At New Home School, we did not have indoor restroom facilities. We had outdoor toilets—one for boys and one for girls, built on opposite ends of the school property.

One day, Russell Lynch, a dear buddy and older student, ran up to me and said, “Mr. Ballard is down behind the bushes toward the girls’ bathroom smoking.”

“A cigarette?” I asked foolishly. (you can tell by this question that I didn’t have that much “street smarts,” or rather “gravel road smarts,” since there wasn’t an asphalt road that ran near our school building.)

“Yes, a cigarette,” Russell said while holding back a laugh.

We both stood and looked at each other for three minutes or so and never mentioned Mr. Ballard’s vice again.

No, there were no girls inside their bathrooms at the time of Mr. Ballard’s smoke break.

Principal, Rutherford M. Drummond, right, delivers supplies to the Future Homemakers of America club in his school, Falmoth High School

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Wayne L. Sorensen, principal, Brigham Young High

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Introducing Joe L. Sargent

Now onto my junior high school years 1967 through my graduation in 1972 from Hamilton High School which is still standing by the way. FYI: Hamilton Grammar School was reborn into Hamilton Middle School and well, good old New Home School is nothing more than a patch of ground—with some woman named Lillian Peters living in a brick house near one end of our dirt playground. What a shame.

For six years, seventh-grade through twelfth-grade, I was honored to have Mr. Joe L. Sargent as my principal. Sargent was a tall man also with gray hair. Must have been the pressure and stress of dealing with heathens like me five days a week. That had to be it for he didn’t any work, not that I could see.

Mr. Sargent had a distinctive nickname: “Great White Father,” given to him and said often behind his back by resident troublemaker, Loyd Wiginton, who smoked cigarettes to look cool and who was also a member of our first rock band, The Sounds of Time.

I would see Wiginton in the hallways a lot and each time I would see him, he would gaze into space and say, “Well, gotta go see the Great White Father,” and just stand and gaze as if in a Voodoo trance.

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Principals are always on-hand to represent their schools

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This principal is introducing students who have achieved great milestones

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Principals help lead their schools in successful avenues

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Template for a high school principal

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Our mascot at Hamilton (Al.) High School

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Mr. Sargent's harsh truth

And now for Mr. Sargent’s one harsh truth: He was very gullible. If you wore an honest face and acted humble, “the world was your oyster,” because he seldom checked anything—from absentee excuses to the halls late in the day.

To show you how gullible he was, I present this example:

Me: “Oh, how good a cigarette would taste right now,” I whispered to my cousin, Donnie, another malcontent and cigarette-smoker, sitting in front of me in our eleventh-grade English class taught by a Mrs. Idella Young.

Donnie: “Write yourself an excuse and sign it as your mother,” he advised. Donnie was an evil boy.

So I weighed the odds of Mr. Sargent checking the validity of my handwriting, and proceeded to write the most-believable excuse for leaving that ever crossed Mr. Sargent’s big Walnut desk.

I walked up to his open door and asked if I could come in. He nodded yes and I came in wearing my honest face and acting as humble as Job, of Biblical fame.

Me: “Sir, I had this excuse for going home early, but I got caught-up with myi English studies and forgot to turn it in to you.”

Mr. Sargent: “Well, you cannot be doing that. Here, let’s sign this and get you on your way.” “You get home and help you mother, Kenneth.”

I felt halfway bad at deceiving him, but I was a junior in high school, almost a man for I had my driver’s license and I liked to smoke the occasional cigarette now and then.

Me: “Thank you, sir.” I said as I was leaving his impressive office.

Want to know what “I” wrote for my excuse?

Mr. Sargent,

Please excuse Kenneth to come home at 2 p.m. today to help me work on our heater. It is broken and his dad doesn’t get home until 5 p.m.”

Sincerely, Mary Dean Avery

I had three things going for me in this con. My good handwriting, a legitimate excuse, and the fact that it was October and chilly outside.

Hamilton High School, 2014

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This principal advises a student about study habits

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High school principals are never idle

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It has been said

that we tend to imitate, impersonate, or even try to take-on the characteristics of those authority figures who are present in our formative years.

I lean toward agreeing with this thinking.

For no other authority figure(s) impressed me as much as:

Mr. L.J. Ballard, Mrs. Lucille Mixon and Mr. Joe L. Sargent.

I hope that where you are, in heaven, that you are not frowning at me for writing this because it was from the heart.

Kenneth

Inside Mr. Sargent's office: Eye-opening experience

Ladies and gentlemen, those were all of the principals I had during my school years. Sadly, all of these dedicated “souls of the schoolhouse,” are deceased and enjoying their huge rewards in Heaven right now.

You recall the three harsh-truths I told you about these three people? Did you think that one harsh-truth were all I knew on the three?

Well, I am going to go easy on my principals for they have had enough trouble over the years, but I will share with you the inspiration for this story.

On another occasion I was sitting in Mr. Joe L. Sargent’s office and we were just passing the time talking because it was my morning break and I was sent to the office by another teacher to deliver some papers and like the obedient student I did just what I was told.

Before Mr. Sargent came into his office, I took a good long look at his office, which I had been told, says a lot about the person who uses the office, and wherever I picked that one up, was right. His office spoke volumes of what he was like.

There was this copy of a Marvel Comics, Tales to Astonish on his desk, along with a good assortment of pens, pencils and paper clips—all laying strewn over the papers on his desk. This ate me up for I was afflicted with OCD at the age of ten. Why didn’t this guy who had reached the pinnacle of high school advancement just buy himself a good-looking pen and pencil holder? At this time they only run a couple of bucks.

There were a lot of shelves behind his chair and on some shelves were books. That made sense. On some shelves were nothing. Just vacant shelf-space collecting cobwebs and spider communities. Again, a man of his education not utilizing shelf-space. On the shelf next to the top shelf was a figurine of a Greek-looking warrior or something for it was a male, I could tell that from where I was sitting, and he was holding a spear in his right hand. I deduced it was a Greek warrior because he was wearing an small olive piece around his head.

I made myself understand Mr. Sargent’s failings, shortcomings to fill-up his shelves and that great Marvel Comics Tales to Astonish, but the 5 x 7 black and white photo of an elephant rising up on its back legs bummed me out and I mean big time. The photo was sitting in a diagonal position in a nice gold frame—possibly where Mr. Sargent could look at the performing elephant at times of deep stress. This is only my observation.

On his fancy-looking hat rack in one corner of his office was one, blue-sriped shirt, unbuttoned and just hanging on a steel hanger. No hats, suits, or raincoats. Just that one blue-striped shirt. Could be he kept it there in case he were called on to save a student or teacher’s life and if they were injured, they might vomit or bleed from a cut or scrape or both. I did understand that about Mr. Sargent. The blue-striped shirt spoke to me that he was trying to be a man who plans for the future.

My morning break was almost over and still no Mr. Sargent. I stood up to see if I could see him coming. Then I spied two pair of shoes of different sizes and colors sitting behind his desk. If he were preparing for the acopalypse, he was on the right track because that’s one thing that all people will be clamoring for in the acopalypse, shoes. Oh yeah, I thought about things like the acopalypse even in the early 70’s.

Near the wall where I had been sitting was a small cabinet with three drawers and one drawer was wide-open. Obviously a well-laid trap for some nosy student, but it didn’t work on me for I had seen enough. I was going to my third-period Physical Ed class. What a mind-blowing experience I had sitting in my high school principal’s office all alone.

And just like “Peter Parker,” a/k/a, Spider-Man (Marvel Comics reference), Mr. Sargent came lumbering into his office.

“Oh, hi. Need something today?” he asked while sitting down and adjusting his tie at the same time.

“Uhh, no, sir. It can wait. I will come back later. It wasn’t important,” I replied as sincere as I could act.

“Well, okay. I’ll be here trying to work on my office which I think is way too organized and that’s one thing I cannot stand is those “Neatie Peetie,” people who get on my nerves. You like that?” he said with a stern, all-business look on his face.

“You bet, sir. I am the first to admit that those people need some kind of help, sir.” I said with such gusto that if Robert Dinaro had heard me he would have grew green with envy.

Mr. Sargent smiled. I returned his smile. And thanked God that my shirt-tail was out.

How did you feel toward your high school principal?

  • Loved him/her
  • Hated him/her
  • Avoided him/her
See results without voting

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Comments 6 comments

torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 2 years ago

I think it is great that you decided to do an article on your high school principal. I found it to be intriguing and nice that you mentioned other principals that you had as well throughout your twelve years. my favorite part was what you wrote on your note, deception is not good but you were young and its quite understandable. overall,well-written article. voted up.


sheilamyers 2 years ago

It was interesting to read about the principal's. Every one I had was pretty easy going. They often looked stern as they walked the hallways, but I think that was so the kids wouldn't take advantage of them. Yet once you got to know them (not because of getting into trouble, but just talked to them), they were all cool.


old albion profile image

old albion 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Kenneth. A lovely hub today. Your memories of your schooldays are outstanding. A real insight into yesteryear. I enjoyed it. Voted up and all.

Graham.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Hi, torrilynn,

Thank you so much for the sweet, uplifting words. You are a special friend, follower and talented writer.

Thanks for making my day brighter.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Hi, sheilamyers,

You are correct. Principals are very suspicious and sometimes paranoid. Mr. Sargent, rest his soul, was cool once you got in his good graces. Most kids despised him. I am glad that I didn't.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama Author

Graham,

You say the kindest things. Thank you and I hope that we will continue to see each other in our travels on HP.

Thanks too for the vote.

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