It was 1962 and I was twelve years old when I got my first real slippering from my father. As a younger boy I’d had a couple of whacks on the backside with his leather sandal, and a fairly mild over the knee spanking when I was about nine or ten, but nothing that really hurt. I had never been caned at school either. Unfortunately I was a somewhat rebellious boy and had a penchant for shoplifting. Anyway, I was at a large shop in Newquay, Cornwall, a town we had moved to when I was nine. There was a little torch on display that was called a pen light; it looked like a fountain pen with a clip so it could go in your top pocket. There was no one looking, so I took it and furtively put it in my pocket, a practice that I had been getting used to. I went home and hid it in my bedroom.
That evening, when it was dark, I took it to the gate of the small back yard of the terrace house we lived in. I ducked into the back lane and tried out my stolen torch. Unfortunately for me, my father had seen me go out and saw me shining the torch around. My heart skipped a beat when I saw him. I knew I was in trouble. He wanted to know where I had got it from. I said I’d bought it with my pocket money, but he said I was lying. I then changed my story and said I’d found it. Obviously, that was a lie as well, and he took the torch off me. I went inside and went to bed thinking I had got away with it.
The next morning was as normal. We had breakfast with my mother and two younger sisters. Sometime during the morning I found myself alone with my father in the lounge room. I wonder if my mother knew what was going to happen next, as she had disappeared with my two sisters. In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious that she knew what was coming. My father went into the kitchen and brought out a large plimsoll; it was about a size twelve and had a thick rubber sole with a canvas upper, the sort of shoe that we had for PE, except this was much larger. I hadn’t seen it before, so he must have had it hidden away.
As it was a hot summer, typical for Cornwall, I was only wearing a T-shirt and summer shorts which wouldn’t have given much protection from a hard slippering, unlike a pair of jeans which would at least have given a little more insulation. Not being quite thirteen, I had yet to graduate to jeans and long pants, it being a rite of passage once you got to around that age.
I was taken aback to see him come out of the kitchen with the slipper in his hand, but I knew what was to come next, and why. The subject of the torch wasn’t mentioned. He said that I could either bend over and take three, or if he had to make me I would get six. I looked at him blankly. I wasn’t going to bend over; he wasn’t a teacher.
After a few seconds, he said, “Right,” and moved a couple of dining table chairs out of the way to make room. I watched him with a sort of mild interest. It still hadn’t really sunk in yet that I was about to receive physical punishment. He then grabbed me under my left armpit, half lifting me up, and marched me over to the dining table where he swiftly bent me over it.
I thought, ‘That was quick.’
He pushed down too hard on my back because I suddenly found I could hardly breathe.
I said in a small voice, “I can’t breathe,” and he immediately let go, but still held me down.
He must have then decided I wasn’t in the best position, because he put the slipper down on the table. I could see it off to one side. He put his hands under my armpits and moved me further across the table, so that my legs were nearly straight out but my feet were still touching the ground. It wouldn’t have been hard for him to do because I was only a skinny lightweight boy with no strength, and he was an athletic thirty-five year old. Then he got hold of both my arms and pinned them behind my back so he could hold on to both my wrists firmly with one hand. I didn’t put up a struggle because I think I still couldn’t believe what was happening to me. Funny how you can remember all these details after so many years. I couldn’t move.
He administered the first whack and I cried out. I could hear the loud whacking noise it made. It was very hard, and my backside stung like crazy. I’d never been hit this hard before and the pain was something I hadn’t experienced. I wriggled and squirmed, and then the second whack half missed and got my backside and the table at the same time, and didn’t hurt quite so much.
I thought to myself, ‘If I can make them all like that, it mightn’t be so bad.’ I wriggled and squirmed some more, but finally couldn’t move as he held me down tighter. I made one last attempt to wriggle out of it but I couldn’t move an inch. I thought to myself, ‘It’s no good, there’s nothing you can do. You’ve just got to take it.”
So I gave up struggling and waited for the next one, holding my breath and grimacing.
My father played tennis and squash, and had a strong right arm and good aim. The slipper came down very hard for the third one. I would say it was as hard as he could possibly make it, and I let out a yell. He waited a few seconds and then the fourth one came down.
I yelped and thought, ‘How much more can I take?’ I started counting them off to myself. ‘Two more to go.’
A few seconds later and the fifth one came down. My backside was really throbbing by now.
I thought, ‘One more. Last one.’
The sixth one came down. My backside felt like it was on fire. I was so relieved it was all over.
But then he said, “You’ve got one more,” obviously because of that botched second one. I held my breath and it came down hard. He then let me go.
I stood up and yelled in a high pitched voice, “That was seven!” but he just looked at me and left the room. The pain I felt in my backside was terrible, but no amount of rubbing with my hands made any difference.
In those days kids could more or less do what they liked once they were out of the house. Discipline was strict only when we were actually at home. I grabbed a book and went outside to go to a favourite spot I had about half a mile away, which was an old shed with a table and chair. I could feel my bottom throbbing fiercely as I walked down the street.
I got to my spot and sat down but it was too painful. I stood up and started reading, but couldn’t take my mind off the spanking. Later, I walked home, and although I felt resentment towards my father, nothing was said. To be honest, I think he was disappointed in me and how I was turning out as a son. We had tea later that evening as a family. My sisters kept glancing at me, so they must have known how I was punished. Anyway, they would have heard the loud whacks if they had been in the house.
I went to bed later that evening, and that was the end of it. I do remember hours later thinking, ‘I can still feel it.’
I wondered if ever I was going to get the slipper again, and if he gave me the choice of bending over again, would I do so knowing how painful six of the best was? Painful as it was, it wasn’t as painful as six strokes of the cane, as I was to find out later at school, although by then I was a couple of years older.