I was at a primary school in a leafy London suburb during the 1950s and 1960s, and a lot of my reading at home had included various incidents of school punishments ranging from Little Noddy getting the slipper to Billy Bunter being caned by Mr Quelch.
I was, quite honestly, fearful of being beaten before I even set foot in the door of the school at age 7. Prior to that I had gone to a private infants school run by two very gentle spinsters who never administered more than a token smack on the back of the hand.
All went well for the first year or so, then things changed.
Our regular teacher, Miss O, who became Mrs B, was away and the fearsome Mr S took our class. He had to leave the classroom for a brief period but warned us to remain silent until he returned. I shared a desk with Geoffery who had some wine gums in his side of the desk. When he looked in the desk he found there was a black one missing. He accused me of taking it. I protested my innocence and, during the time we were arguing, Mr S walked past the room on his way to returning to the class.
He tapped on the glass window separating the room from the corridor. We looked up and he was ominously pointing at me and Geoffery. We were beckoned outside the room.
“Wait here,” he ordered.
He returned with a large, old and floppy gym slipper.
The glass partition went down to the floor, so our classmates could see all that occurred.
“Touch your toes,” he said to Geoffrey. “You can share 6 of the best.”
The boy bent over and Mr S delivered 3 fierce blows to his bottom.
After Geoffrey stood up, I saw tears in his eyes and I immediately felt scared.
It was just before the summer holiday and the weather was very good, so I was wearing very thin cotton shorts which I guessed would offer little protection.
I bent as instructed and, while waiting for the first whack, I glance to my right only to see Susan G staring at me in what I took to be fascinated delight.
Then the first whack landed. My immediate reaction was surprise; it hardly hurt. Then the stinging, burning sensation began. I looked at Susan briefly and tried to smile.
Within seconds the smile turned into a grimace of pain. That one really hurt, and it took a great effort not to emit an ‘ouch’. The third was even harder and my bottom was burning and boiling with an intense fury. I did not, however, cry out or cry.
When I got home and had my evening bath, I saw in the mirror a dark red patch which, within a day, had become a blue and yellow bruise which was still painful to touch. It took about 8 days to disappear but I know I had earned the respect of many of my school mates.
Well worth a wine gum, I’d say!