#833: Flag Boy (Part Two of the 1986 Saga)

STOPARRETPotentially triggering material ahead.

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE #833: Flag Boy

Part Two of the 1986 Saga

One of the many recurring themes here has been the awful experiences of being a metalhead in Catholic school.  A story that has somehow escaped being told until now is the one where those bastard kids gave me the name “Fag Boy” for a whole school year.

Grade 8, the 1985-86 year, had to be the worst.  It was kicked off by a huge fight with the school bully Steve Hartman, a total piece of shit, but at least I won.  Not that it helped.  I was teased relentlessly all year for my love of Kiss and Judas Priest.  Then I had mono.  Incidentally, Catholic school bullies are the worst and the teachers didn’t give a fuck.  When one kid, Ian Johnson, got into a fight with another bully, the teachers made them walk around the schoolyard together hand in hand.  What was that supposed to do?

The only thing that made life easier that year was beating Hartman in September of ’85.  That kept him off my back for the school year, although there were other bullies waiting in the wings.  Jeff Brooks, who stuffed snow down my jacket every Thursday after shop class.  Kevin Kirby, who copied my homework.  Towards the end even Hartman was campaigning for a “rematch”.

My sister used to call that school the “Hell Hole”.  She would sing Spinal Tap’s “Hell Hole” when we drove by.  This is a little kid in grade 4 calling her school that name.

At the start of the eighth grade, to learn social responsibility, we all had to volunteer for something.  There were a limited selection of slots for each role we were offered.  I cannot remember all of the duties that were set out on our menu of options.  Volunteering at the church was definitely among them, but I volunteered for the one I thought would be the most interesting:  security!  On a regular basis, we were to walk around the school when it was closed to make sure all was well.  Keep an eye out for anything wrong, like vandalism.  It was perfect because I was always biking around that direction anyway.  It was really the most appealing of all the options to me.

I’m sure you have already guessed they didn’t give me the security assignment.  No, I was given something that was supposed to be better, but was actually far worse.  It was such a dubious honour.  I was Flag Boy.

I wasn’t athletic, I was a skinny kid who openly listened to Judas Priest.  No way were they putting me on security.  They gave the two open positions to a couple of the athletic kids.  I don’t think either of them did any security that year.

As Flag Boy, I was responsible for putting out and bringing in the Maple Leaf at the start and end of every day for the year. It was worst at the start of the day.  When announcements were about to commence, I had to get out of my seat and leave the class, which always seemed to amuse them.  Then I had to walk down the hallway past the other grade 8 classroom, who always mocked and laughed and pointed at me as I went.  They called me “Fag Boy” from day one.  What made it even worse were my boots.  My dad gave them to me.  I thought they were so cool.  They didn’t have laces, they had dual zippers.  The boots only made me more a “Fag Boy”.

When the first pair of boots wore out, my dad gave me his second identical backup pair.  Ironically those boots would be considered so retro and stylish today.

The abuse that year was pretty bad and I faked sick a lot.  I faked sick mostly on Thursdays, which was shop class.  They bussed us to another school, St. Joseph, which had a woodworking shop.  The supervision was minimal and the bus rides were all but intolerable.  At one point or another I just decided I couldn’t take it anymore and faked sick as many Thursdays as I could.  By the time I got sick with mono for real, I had several incomplete projects in woodworking.  I was home for the rest of the term, and I never had to worry about those Thursday bus trips again.

Having mono sucked a lot, but Thursdays on the bus were far worse.  I considered it more than a fair trade.

While sick at home for real, I absorbed as many Pepsi Power Hours as I could.  I heard Hear N’ Aid for the first time.  I became addicted to “Rough Boy” by ZZ Top because of that damn music video.  (I guess I learned from an early age that I’m really a leg man.)  My heavy metal credentials grew by leaps and bounds and I listened to more and more songs:  “Metal on Metal”, “Never Surrender”, “Turbo Lover”, “Rock and Roll Children”.  To this day, I associate those songs with my sick time in 1986.  Especially Dio’s “Rock and Roll Children”.  The surreal music video suited the way I felt physically.  It didn’t look like the real world and I didn’t feel like myself.

My association of heavy metal music with relief from the outside world was cemented that year.  I had always come home to the comfort of a few Kiss tapes.  In 1986, sick with mono, I was safe from the school and surrounded not by bullies but by Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, and Bruce Dickinson.  They didn’t call me “Fag Boy”, in fact their lyrics encouraged me to dig for strength.  Recovering from my illness, I had built this wall of metal around me.  It would be my armour for life.

I don’t know if those kids remember calling me “Fag Boy”, or if they would admit it.  I know I wouldn’t recognize Hartman if I saw him today.  They used to talk about forgiveness a lot in Catholic school.  You can forgive, but you never forget.

 

17 comments

  1. That’s awful, Mike – I’m sorry you had to go through this, especially the bus rides.
    I appreciate you sharing these stories, you never know who has had similar experiences (or have been like the bullies in these tales & are only later realizing the impact of their actions)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can identify with that for sure. Grades five through seven were a nightmare for me and I wasn’t a metalhead, they weren’t a thing yet. However, while I wasn’t bullied in the traditional sense when I went to the community college after leaving the service, I was made an outcast on account of my hair length and exotic footwear. (I wore Native American moccasin boots.) Both those experiences influenced me to write books about it. Fortunately, like you, I had the music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Man, I would have loved your moccasins. I loved native american clothing back then. My dad would take us to the Olde Hide House to buy it. It’s nice that we can talk about this today, long distance, because like I said to KK, I think we would have been friends had we been around in 1986. Well now we can all meet and be friends. I like people who are individuals.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can definitely relate to this tale. I’m sad to say teenagers hadn’t changed much by the time I made it to high school in the late nineties.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry to hear that. I think it’s probably far worse today than I had it as a kid. But I kept all this to myself. These were terrible secrets I kept. It wasn’t until a few years into writing these stories that I felt OK talking about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I try to look at it as a good growing experience. It’s definitely made me more sympathetic to groups that get discriminated against.

        Like

  4. Sorry to hear all this.What courage it must have taken for u to share these stories. I still wonder what makes one a bully. I had the opposite stories. Was the one to defend my friends. Big fan of Clint and Tarzan movies, always believing that good wins. These days standing for something isn’t cool anymore. Money wins no matter who and how many it crushes. Tired of the only looking for number one gang and the relative what’s in it for me gang. Compassion is so last century it feels. I’m the one who had the cool friends and was always a firm believer that everyone should be included and none left out. Was the sport star so it was easy for me to include everyone since I got nothing to lose. I remember a fight from elementary school, just one punch to the nose and the guy had a bleeding nose and teacher separated us and was all over the bleeding one not even interested in what he had done to get into the fight in the first place. But after that it was another bully who left us alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for this awesome comment. You and I would have been friends,. You remind me of Bob. He was always wanting to stand up for what was right.

      Thanks again, really appreciate this comment.

      Like

  5. Powerful story.
    I was fortunate in the public school system that the majority were metal heads.
    But there are dicks in the metal community as well. It’s just something about people that gives em that satisfaction to be a dick. I do know that some of those dicks assaulted people, did time and a few of em are dead.

    So in the end, to me, they weren’t real metal heads, just pretending to fit into a crowd.

    Like

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