Mr. Defore

When I was a first grader, in addition to my father, I thought there were three powerful men in the world: Franklin Roosevelt, Eugene Talmage, and Joe Defore. Of these three Mr. Defore was the only one I knew very well. He was the principal of the high school and superintendent of the Fayette County School System. If he came to our school we all knew someone was in trouble. I always stood in awe of him. He was a handsome, neatly dressed, young man. Although he often smiled, he did it with a look of stern authority. No one wanted trouble with him. Just hearing the name “Defore” sent chills up my back.

My elementary school is now the Fayetteville City Hall. It was a new building the year I started school. Since no one in our school had inside plumbing in their home, the only place we had seen a flushable toilet was at school. It was a novelty to all of us. All grades had their recess and lunch periods at the same time. The younger and the older boys used the one restroom and were usually unsupervised. Some of the older boys decided it was great sport to catch smaller first grade boys and stick their heads in the commode and flush it. I was terrified of being caught and when one of the boys caught me, I wrestled loose and ran home to tell my mother. I lived just across the street from the school. My mother told me to stay at home while she hurried over to the school. She was dressed in her work dress and mad as rip. I went to our front door and watched her. As she got to the side door of the school where the boys’ restroom was, she met one of the teachers. I could see Mother waving her arms and shaking her head. Then she and the teacher disappeared into the school. After a short while Mother came home and sent me back to school, telling me to let a teacher know if I were threatened again.

It was not long until I saw from my classroom window Mr. Defore’s car stop in front of the school. He left his car and briskly walked up the front walk. Then after a while I could hear “whop, whop, whop” from down the hall. The boys guilty of the head flushing were paying the price for their meanness. That was the end of the restroom terror. Many years later I ran into a young man who admitted he still remembers his punishment from Mr. Defore.