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No Laughing Matter: When Did It Happen

Blog post by Randi Richardson


The abbreviated article from the Telephone

Last week our readers were asked to guess when June Fulford assaulted the teacher of her first-grade son who had been whipped for laughing out loud.  If you guessed 1937, you were right.  The story was based on an article published on page one of the Bloomington (IN) Daily Telephone on April 22, 1937.

Although it was June Fulford featured in the Telephone’s story, there was no June Fulford in the 1930 or 1940 census records for Monroe County.  There was, however, a Sarah Jane Fulford in Washington Township among the 1940 census records, the mother of a son old enough to be the first-grader in question.  Sarah Jane was the wife of William Fulford, and in 1940, the Fulford family was noted on Harris Road in a household with five Fulford children and a nephew, 19-year-old Robert Lydy.  The children ranged in age from 5 to 20.  Austin, age 9, was likely the first-grader who received the whipping.

According to information in the census record, first grade was the highest grade Austin completed.  His three older siblings—Lillian, Harley and Mildred—had sixth-grade educations and his parents only a second-grade education.  Five-year-old Ralph, the youngest child in the family, had not yet attended school.

The Fulfords owned their own home valued at $1,000 and William was a laborer who worked on the roads.  In the year just past, he had worked only 29 weeks out of 52, and had earned only $429 for his efforts.  He died on February 28, 1948, of a fractured skull suffered in a car accident.  Sarah Jane, a widow, died at the age of 78 on January 7, 1967, at the Indiana State Hospital for Chest Diseases in Rockville, Indiana.   Her body was returned to Monroe County for burial in the Hindostan Cemetery.

Comments (2)

  1. Michael Molenda


    The interesting thing to me is how similar this story is to the stories told J.D. Vance in “Hillbilly Elegy.” His rural, underprivileged parents and grandparents had the same pattern of “revenge violence” against anyone who tampered with their children.

  2. Ruth Fishel


    I enjoyed reading the article about June Fulford. She was a neighbor of ours, now deceased. My husband took the first article to her son and he confirmed that it was his mother who tried to defend her son, Virgil. June’s first name was Inez and she is found in the 1930 census still living with her father and brothers, although listed as married and Virgil is 0. June married Willard Fulford in September of 1929. He was living with his parents in 1930. Not sure what was going on there. And I can’t find them in the 1940 census. If you would like confirmation, we can have June’s son get in touch with you.

    An additional fact about this story — June’s son Kim, who is who my husband talked to, said that the culprit was actually another neighbor, Ranous Neal. So Virgil took a whipping for something Ranous did. When my husband (Gary, who attended Washington Township a few years later) first read about the incident, he guessed it was Virgil who his mother was defending.

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