Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's the Prinicpal of the Thing, Part 2

Each morning, J. Willy would start the day with announcements over the school's intercom system -- upcoming events, miscellaneous awards, reminders to follow the rules.

It was his chance to reinforce his vision.

One day in the late 1950's, though, he encountered a problem: the planes from nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base set up a new flight path that brought them over Wilbur Wright High School precisely at 9 a.m., shaking the ceilings, rattling the windows -- and interrupting the announcements.

Over the next week he considered various options. He tried talking louder, but couldn't outshout an F-105 Thunderchief. He considered rescheduling the announcements, but that meant they'd fall into first period, when the pupils were actively engaged in learning, rather than homeroom. Besides, there was no guarantee the strafing runs wouldn't change their schedule to match his.

A week later, after a particularly abortive attempt to warn the students to stay off some newly-sown grass seed, he'd reached his limit. Snatching the phone from its cradle, he dialed the number for Wright Patterson. After working his way up the chain of command, growing more incensed with each bureaucratic obstacle he encountered, he finally got hold of Major General Stanley T. Wray.

“Do you know who this is?” he demanded as soon as Major General Wray came on the line. We don't know how Major General Wray responded, but J. Willy’s next words were these:

“This,” he said, “is J. William Holmes, principal of Wilbur Wright High School. And I am not happy.

“Would you like to know why I’m not happy? The reason I am not happy is because each morning at 9 a.m., as I am trying to make morning announcements to my students, your planes buzz my building.”

According to my source, the crown of J. Willy’s head, at this point, was the color of a cranberry, and the fringe of white hair around his crown was almost perpendicular to his scalp.

“I demand,” he went on, his voice quaking with rage, “that your planes cease buzzing my building immediately.

“And if they do not cease buzzing my building,” he shouted, “then I will have them SHOT DOWN!”

And he slammed down the phone.

And, according to Ben Campbell, the teacher from whom I heard this story, those planes never flew over during announcements again.


  1. Fantastic. My favourite post of the week. No, the month. I love characters like that. Reminds me of a principal that Chesterton wrote about in his auto-bio, eccentric, pompous, brilliantly arrogent.

  2. Do you think J Willy could come over and give my kids a good talking-to?

    And you know what? I was totally picturing him like Strickland in Back To The Future even BEFORE I read Part 1!

  3. What a character! I wish I knew a guy like that, but definitely from afar.

  4. Love it.

    It takes some serious balls to yell down a general.

  5. I really, really hope that's a true story!

  6. Awesome. I lived near Wright Patterson and attended a local Dayton high school. (Dad is career airforce).

  7. Things like that could happen in the '50's.
    These days, there would be inquiry, back ground checks, etc.

  8. Now THAT'S showing a principal the proper respect.

  9. Brilliant! Don't you just love tyrants?

  10. Is there a Part 3? This was a good one.

  11. You're right ... there should be a movie about this man. I loved this and the previous story. You may be able to piece together a short story anthology. Keep going ... I know I'm waiting for more.


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