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Scrub Day

Updated on March 20, 2012

The Red Coats Are Coming

Boxing in the Sixth Grade
Boxing in the Sixth Grade

Fight or Die

There was a time starting somewhere in the fifties, lasting into the sixties that was known as "Scrub Day." This was not what it sounds like. It wasn't a day where entire families got together to do house cleaning.

No, this was closer to the movie "Fight Club" fought between sixth and seventh graders. It occurred on the last day of school for sixth graders and Scrub Day became a way of the seventh graders to initiate their juniors into the world of JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL.

I know for a fact that Scrub Day was not an urban legend. My sister, three years my senior, knew it as well. She got away by merely being covered in whipped cream from a can.

What you needed to know about Scrub Day was that (1) You never talked to teachers or any adults about Scrub Day. (2) Even among your peers, you only mentioned Scrub Day on an as-needed basis. (3) Scrub day was to be feared because the seventh graders enjoyed degrading the graduating sixth graders ... and it was a time for their retribution, time for them to kick ass, as had been done to them.

You may already be thinking: "Oh, well, Mr. rjbatty must have clearly lived in a neighborhood where such violent undertakings became common practice. Wrong. I lived in Glendale, California. For a long while it was Lily white and home for the John Birch Society. The lamppost cement blocks at their base was ringed with swastikas -- and it was just too obvious to regard this as mere coincidence.

In my high school class there were NO blacks and somewhere around four to eight Hispanics.

Scrub Day was a white-boys' invention and nightmare. As a sixth grader, graduating from elementary school, you were faced with the unrequested test of finding out whether you were worth more than chicken shit. You might have been a big man on your play yard or sandbox, but don't think any of that entitled anyone to anything once entering the halls of junior high, and Scrub Day was just a little preview of what was waiting for us up ahead.

In junior high the seventh graders got their asses kicked by the eighth graders who got their behinds kicked by the ninth graders. The seventh graders had no one to abuse except on Scrub Day. It's important to remember that boys of this age bracket grew in size in an exponential way. One year's age difference made a huge difference in physical ability. (For instance, when I entered seventh grade and had to take gang showers with the boys who were in the eighth and ninth grades, I was astonished to find how hairy some of them had become. By comparison, I was a prepubescent gnome.

Scrub Day contained a long list of humiliations. They included: getting covered with paint; getting beaten; losing your clothes and underwear; being driven to undisclosed locations; verbally assaulted until the victim was reduced to tears, made to swallow hideous concoctions of liquid; become a strawberry pie covered with whipped cream (minus the strawberries); egged; hosed down by some unsuspecting neighbor's garden hose.

Worse elements were eluded to, but not to be repeated in what I expect to be a mixed crowd. As some kind of defense (that probably only instigated the seventh graders to greater heights of fury), the sixth graders tried to prepare themselves. While the teacher was reading a story at the front of the class, the brave and the bold at the back, quietly prepared paint-filled balloons, paint-filled water pistols, and paint-filled squirt bottles. A few of the braver souls were equipped with M-80s -- firecrackers that were supposedly as strong as a quarter stick of dynamite.

Our zero hour was 3:15 p.m. When the minute struck, it was every man for himself. My advantage (if it could be called that) was (1) my home was close to the school; (2) I was very speedy; (3) I looked more like a fourth or fifth grader. Thus, I made it home without a punch, without a scratch, or even without a drop of paint.

After summer passed I learned that the seemingly more prepared (and who unfortunately lived closer to the junior high school) did not turn out to have my good fortune.

Some years later I learned Scrub Day was officially banned, and the police made a practice of rounding up any youngsters who seemed to be idle on street corners. In this way Scrub Day drifted into limbo.

Many of these kids would eventually end up in Viet Nam. Some of them would remember the feeling of what it was like to have the enemy "inside the wire."

Who here has read "Lord of the Flies?" If you've read it, you might get a glimmer of my meaning. If you haven't read it but went through your own initiation right, you already understand the point of this Hub anyway.

Our Defensive Weapons
Our Defensive Weapons


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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      This was a real glimpse into a different time. Sorry I did not find your work earlier. I think our school systems could use officially sanctioned scrub days even today. Might toughen kids up and take on the bullies. Who knows? Maybe mandatory boxing or stick wrestling could substitute. Voted up.