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That building called the old gym looked new on the outside, while the new gym had an ancient feel, like a place Jimmy Chitwood and Hickory High School would play a road game in “Hoosiers.”

This old gym/new gym mystery baffled me in the small town where I grew up, all part of the school “campus,” though no one in rural Missouri would use such a highfalutin word in those days.

The elementary school, which I attended, stood at the northern end of this property, with a playground out back and a cotton field beyond that.

Across a gravel driveway to the south was where the high school stood, a cafeteria and the old gym in between.

The old gym had gained a new façade, no doubt a topic of consternation, I realize now, for school board members having to answer to their “it-was-good-enough-for me” constituents.

In my time there, the old gym had utility only for grade school programs (in one, I played Christopher Columbus) and sock hops, where the song “Wooly Bully” seemed to be played in a loop.

To the south of the high school, the oldest of the buildings housed the vocational-agriculture classes. This building came into play as a ground rule for the baseball field at the far end of this acreage. It defined the left-field corner, and any ball batted off its bricks remained in play.

If someone muscled a ball onto the two-story flat roof, a long poke but doable, it would be a home run. These are the quirks that make country baseball special.

It helps to know the lay of this land, but I focus this tale particularly on the gravel driveway. I attended classes on one side of it. My mother, the school nurse during my formative years, had her office on the other side.

Thus, I spent considerable energy trying to keep information of my trouble-making from crossing that slim beltway of fine rocks.

Obviously, this proved a fruitless task. Seen from the perspective of a mischievous boy, every small town is a nest of rats. Citizens over a certain age surely swear an oath to report the foolishness of the young. My mother had more than her share of spies.

In short, I got away with nothing. News of my capers made it home before I did, and Juanita Frances Newton did not dally between judgment and execution of sentence.

Probably because of this swift justice, she did not exhaust me with threats about misdeeds becoming part of my “permanent record.”

This proved the domain of teachers and principals, who warned any student acting up that the incident would be written in red ink and deposited in a never-to-be-redeemed accounting of their devilry.

Of course, the “permanent record” proved a useful bit of flimflammery, something to trick guilt-ridden kids into doing right. Years later, on the day they handed me a diploma and every day to follow, I cared nothing about what had been placed in a file.

Given the nature of our political days, maybe such a threat could resurface among Americans.

The lying, the hypocrisy, the name-calling, the dodging of accountability … sure, a cottage industry has grown around fact-checking, but the more grave indictment might spook candidates into straightening up.

We members of the voting public are not only calling you out, goes the warning. We’re putting it in your permanent record.

Silly, perhaps, but with nothing else stemming this tide of balderdash, it might be worth a try.

Ken Newton can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.​