Pops Warfel and the School Playground

“Pops” Warfel, the Principal at Marple Elementary School in Broomall, PA, was like a prison warden. Every prison warden has his guards, his ‘goons’, as the prisoners call them. Every school back in the 1950s had its Safeties, the Principal’s goons who wandered the Yard during recess to keep the students in line. Real guys. Like Sammy Peacock.


School Safeties

In the 3rd Grade Sammy, attired in his Safety outfit, “arrested” his classmate Gordon during recess for cursing. “I DIDN’T curse,” said I.

“You did, too,” said Sam. “You said a bad word. I’m taking you to the Principal’s Office!”

Pops Wafel asked his Goon what happened out in the Yard. “Gordon, you know better than that. You father’s a minister! He wouldn’t approve of you using language like that. We’ll keep this between us just this once. But if it happens again, I’ll have to tell your father.”

Long before I read Kafka’s The Trial, I experienced existential guilt – the feeling of guilt for something I never did – the guilt of being alive. I was Josef K in The Trial.

Meanwhile, Pops Warfel was violating one of the prison rules daily: no eating in class. Pops often reached into his desk drawer, and, pretending to cough, would pop in a jelly bean. No one dared say a word.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Marple Elementary Inmate #00056789, Jan. 22, 2016




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