When I was little, I played with Stickle Bricks. One day, when I was in the second grade, I took a few bricks with me to school. I liked having them in my hand. It just so happened that Stickle Bricks were also among the toys we had in our classroom. They were very popular in the 1970s.
At the end of the day, as I was about to go home, my teacher Miss K saw the bricks in my hand. I wasn’t hiding them. She came over and said that I could not take the bricks home. They belonged to the school. I explained to her that these bricks did not belong to the school. They were my bricks that I had brought with me from home. Miss K got quite cross. “Don’t fib!” she said, and she took my bricks.
Although I haven’t thought about it recently, this incident stayed with me for many years. I remember distinctly that it was the first time I had ever heard the word “fib.” I knew the word “lie,” and I wasn’t lying. I must have worked out the meaning of “fib” from the context.
From that day, I lost all trust in Miss K, and thankfully I only had her as my teacher that year. The following year, I had Mrs. M, whom I had had in first grade and liked much better.
I don’t think I ever told anyone what happened, because I was sure I would get in trouble.
I remembered this today when listening to the voices of people on the BBC – now adults – who were victimized by the late BBC star Jimmy Savile, as much a fixture of my 1970s childhood as Stickle Bricks. Savile sexually assaulted hundreds of children over six decades, often targeting the most vulnerable in hospitals or residential schools.
A recurrent theme was that children did speak up and time and again were not believed; they were accused of fibbing. The earliest report of Savile’s offenses occurred in 1955, and the most recent in 2009, according to the official police inquiry released today.
As I listened, I remembered how upsetting it had been to be accused of lying over something as insignificant as a few Stickle Bricks. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live with what these and so many other victims had to endure because no one believed them or they feared no one would.