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Close encounter with a paddle: Truth about young rebel Bush

Finally, the truth has come out about Gov. George W. Bush's rebel past.

He got busted in Midland, Texas.Not once. Three times.

Busted with a paddle, that is. At 9, young George was nabbed for disrupting the peace in his fourth-grade classroom -- by using a ballpoint pen to draw himself a mustache and matching sideburns.

In 1956, that landed Bush in the principal's office for a brief lesson in personal responsibility and three whacks from the feared "board of education."

So far, that's about it for dirt on George W. Bush. It took the Midland Reporter-Telegram to unearth retired school administrator John Bizilo, the principal who had to paddle the future governor of Texas.

"He was a good kid," Bizilo, 80, said Wednesday by phone from Midland. He laughed as he remembered the day when a Sam Houston Elementary School teacher escorted in a young boy with hand-drawn sideburns.

"It was when Elvis was big," Bizilo said. "George came in with these big ol' Elvis sideburns. Except he added a mustache and goatee, too."

Bizilo knew Bush's parents well. Father George Bush, the future U.S. president, was then president of the school's parent-teacher association and lobbied the school board to create Midland's first elementary school libraries.

"They never said a word to me," Bizilo said. "I didn't know they still remembered."

They do.

The young Bush's "brush with authority" came up in a recent Texas Monthly profile. The way Barbara Bush heard it, her first-born "sort of swaggered in, obviously making light of the fact that he was in trouble."

Back then, plenty of boys swaggered into the principal's office. Not many swaggered out.

Bush's teacher, Frances Childress, asked Bizilo if she could paddle him herself. "I said no, let me see him," Bizilo said.

"He had marked all over himself with a ball-point pen, something you couldn't just wash out. I paddled him for creating a disturbance in her classroom."

Bizilo remembered Bush, he said, because "he had made such a mess. He became a laughingstock."

He described Bush in the Midland newspaper as "a little old bantam-rooster type." Wednesday, Bizilo said he meant the fourth-grader "was always taking a leadership role. He spoke his mind."

"I don't have anything but high praise for him."

Schoolhouse paddles are portrayed today as sadistic weapons, but Bizilo said his "board" was a basic model, "more like a big ruler." In 34 years with the Midland schools, 20 as a principal, he said he rarely paddled anyone.

"But not every boy you paddle goes on to become the governor."

Bud Kennedy is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. His e-mail is