The Dreaded Mr. Honafous

In 1974, Mr. Honafous was one of my elementary school teachers. Mr. Honafous was a boogey man in my childhood background who terrorized me on a deep level unlike anyone I’ve ever dealt with. I have to qualify that statement as a former soldier and retired federal law enforcement officer who dealt with murderers, rapists, and violent persons.

Mr. Honafous was an angry man prone to losing his temper in violent outbursts. When he yelled at a student, he tended to get beet red in the face. He would get right in your face, an inch or two away. The closeness was both intimidating and inappropriate. You could smell his chronic halitosis, which was bitter and metallic. He would spit at you while yelling in his uncontrolled rage. If the close-up shouting didn’t scare you, the spittle on your face had a certain dehumanizing effect. I remember wiping off my face after being yelled at by him. It felt like I was cleaning off shame.  

Mr. Honafous was a short man with dark brown curly hair combed to one side. He wore wire rimmed glass, dark suit jackets and never smiled. He was a smart man, but his unbridled wrath overshadowed his intelligence. He liked order, compliance and submission. Those traits were in short supply in our sixth grade class bustling with hormones, hyper active energy, and youthful exuberance. Ours was an open space school, so we had no classroom walls as part of the 1970’s failed student centered learning experiment. No walls meant lots of unbridled enthusiasm, which did not fit in with Mr. Honafous’ neat world of compliance.

Mr. Honafous was in charge of the school safety patrol. Who better to put in charge of the young jack booted pre-thugs than the head bully? The safety patrol was one of the goofier things about elementary school. The safety patrol wore badges and a glow vest as they worked as volunteer crossing guards policing the movement of students on and off school grounds. Power corrupts and the badge sometimes got to their heads as they attempted to police running students in the hall, on the playground, or in the cafeteria.

I came into contact with Mr. Honafous for disobeying one of the safety guards. How or why I chose to display my civil disobedience, I can’t be sure. I’m sure it was more to do with youthful high spirits than rule breaking, but it netted me a meeting with Mr. Honafous. The 31 year old Honafous yelled at my 11 year old persona not unlike my drill sergeant would yell at me years later. Those drill sergeants would yell at me with a lot less terror and no spitting. If anything Mr. Honafous made me appreciate every supervisor, mentor, or trainer I’ve dealt with from the US Army to Outward Bound. That early bullying motivated me to become a police officer and a teacher and to fight back against bullies.