DEATH IN THE FACULTY ROOM- CHAPTER II

Fleming Elementary School was built in sections. The original edifice was completed in 1896, the second part was done in 1917 and the third and final piece was erected in 1932. The community had kept the building in great shape throughout the years. The teachers were proud of their building. They made sure that each classroom was well maintained. When something was askew, they were quick to call a maintenance man to come and fix it. The halls were chock filled with student work. It was a pleasure to walk through each day and see the changes in the student produced work that became increasingly intricate as the year wore on.
The only room in the building that could be termed sloppy was the faculty room. Upon entering the hallway that preceded the frosted glass doorway was a coke machine that spewed forth glass bottles at 15 cents a shot. Some of these vintage glass bottles are now worth some dough. You could always find something to eat on the table in the middle of the room. During student lunch time, the teachers ran to the faculty room to scarf down their lunches and return to their posts as the kiddies left the lunchroom to go back to their classes.
One of our teachers, the diminutive Mrs. Pagliorulo (known as Mama Pags), kindergarten teacher ran the lunchroom with a Quaker enthusiasm. She actually announced at the beginning of the year that the lunchroom would be run like a Quaker meeting, which meant silence unless someone wanted to speak. Over the years, she maintained that kind of control, so that the next level of school, the junior high became a hotbed of rebellion against any kind of rules in the lunchroom.
I remember it as a cold January day in 1965 when I got up in the morning and wished that there weren’t a bunch of little kids waiting for me to lead them on their daily adventure with learning. My wife felt the same way. Unless, we were near death, we had to go in and be in the classroom with the kiddies. I believe it’s a kind of elementary school mentality. I have noticed throughout the years that secondary people don’t feel the same way. Their feelings revolve about content and elementary people are more about how to get along and learn at the same time
We ate breakfast and I drove Daphne to her school and meandered over to my building at about 7:45. We were supposed to be in the building by 8:00 and ready to face the kiddoes by 8:30. When I arrived, I noticed that there were no other teachers in the hallway. Rather than going directly to my room, I walked over to the faculty room to see if any other folks were there.
The first indication that something was wrong was that the door to the faculty room was slightly ajar. The frosted glass, divided into panes, had one of the panes smashed. I also saw an empty coke bottle on the floor in front of the door. I walked cautiously and carefully into the faculty room. What met my eyes was Mr. Driggs sitting in his accustomed chair with his head down on the table. At first, that did not concern me at all. I had often seen teachers in that position. Teaching can be an exhausting profession.
I called out to Mr. Driggs to ask him what had happened to the door and was he the one who used the coke bottle to smash in one of window panes. It was not an idle question. Sometimes Mr. Ryerson, the principal got off on the wrong side of the bed and did not open the faculty room till much later in the day. Since he had the key and the authority, we did not argue with him,
Getting no response from Mr. Driggs, (he was either sleeping or something else), I moved over to tap him on the arm. I got no response at all. I tried to summon up enough courage to whomp him on the back, but thought better of it. I finally bent down and spoke into his ear in a rather sotto voce. He did not stir. I really began to get worried. I shook him and he fell to the floor. I saw his face. It was drained of all color. As I tried to lift him back into his chair, I felt his hands and they were cold. Not the cold and clamminess of life, but the absolute frigid sign of death. I had had enough experience as a medic in the Army to understand what I was looking at.
I quickly ran to the office and got behind the counter, picked up the phone and dialed the police ( 911 did not arrive until the 1970’s). I told the person who answered that there was a dead body in the faculty room and that we needed police, rather than an ambulance. At that moment Mr. Ryerson came into the office and asked why I was behind the barrier. I gave him a full report and was happy to see that he was discombobulated. He face turned an interesting shade of green. I asked if he wanted to see the body. He demurred with the wave of his hand. It was as if I knew what his reaction would be and was satisfied that I had read him so accurately.

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