As I have previously written, I attended a grammar school in the 1960s. I was caned on several occasions by teachers in a school where the cane was used frequently for even minor transgressions. However there were two occasions involving my French teacher which still stick in my mind.
The first occasion was in the spring term in 1968 and I was 16 at the time. I had already passed my GCE in French the previous year and was now being taught more advanced French by a new lady teacher. Miss Du Bois was a beautiful French lady, in her early 20s and was always immaculately dressed.
On the day in question she was wearing a figure hugging black dress, seamed stockings and black high heeled shoes which complimented her black hair. All the boys in my class fancied her and I am sure she knew it. Normally her lessons were well behaved because none of the boys wanted to upset her. I do not think she had ever had to resort to the cane to control her classes. However that day was different.
The whole class was noisy and Miss Du Bois struggled to control us. In the middle of the lesson the door burst open and the senior mistress walked in. She shouted for the class to sit in silence, which we immediately did. She was furious and ranted at the class for several minutes. Finally, she stopped and told Miss Du Bois that she should cane the main ringleaders. Miss Du Bois seemed reluctant and the senior mistress told her that she would cane the whole class if Miss Du Bois did not select ten of the worst behaved pupils to be caned.
Miss Du Bois realised that it was unfair for the senior mistress to cane the whole class, so agreed. Miss Du Bois looked around the class and called out ten names, not surprisingly including mine. There were seven boys and three girls. We were all serial offenders except one girl, who was very upset. She was, however, one of the ringleaders who was seen screeching loudly at Miss Du Bois.
The senior mistress selected that girl and told her to go to the school secretary and collect the senior cane and the punishment book. The girl left and returned a few minutes later carrying them both. Miss Du Bois told us to line up by one wall and started completing the punishment book. The senior mistress stood in a corner watching proceedings.
The girl who collected the cane was summoned first and bent over the desk with her bottom facing us. She did not take her caning well and was soon yelping and in tears. The other two girls were then called for their four strokes, but they coped much better although tears still rolled.
Miss Du Bois then called the first boy. He got six strokes and was crying at the end. I was then called out and removed my blazer before bending over the desk. Miss Du Bois may not have used the cane much previously but she could certainly use it effectively. Her first stroke was very hard and central, making me draw breath as the line of fire started. Three more strokes followed at equal intervals and I was struggling to hold back the tears. The fifth stroke was really hard and low, and I felt the tears run. Finally the sixth stroke hit hard and low and the tears flowed. I was then told to return to the line and watched as the remaining boys got their six strokes.
There was no fairness or equality because the girls all got four strokes while the boys got six. At the end, all of us were in tears. I noticed the senior mistress was smiling by this time. Miss Du Bois then told the last boy to return the cane and book. At this point the senior mistress left.
When the lesson ended, Miss Du Bois told the ten of us to wait behind. She said she was sorry that we had been singled out but that she thought it was wrong to cane the whole class. She also explained that she would have been in big trouble if she had disagreed with the senior mistress. She asked us to behave better in the future before dismissing us.
This had been an unusual lesson. I had never been caned so publicly and I found it very exciting. Seeing Miss Du Bois handling the cane was something special and was definitely a truly wonderful sight. Also, it was unusual to see girls getting caned. Watching them was certainly exciting to a teenage boy like me.
Miss DuBois changed after this incident and seemed to have realised the cane was an effective deterrent, although she still did not seem as quick to use it as other teachers. In addition, she changed the way she dressed. She started wearing looser fitting dresses and stopped wearing seamed stockings. Her black hair was now worn in a pony tail.
It was only a couple of weeks later until I discovered first hand how her discipline had changed. I sneaked out of school at break time to go to the local shop for a drink. I knew a back way out and had used it several times previously.
I was in the shop when, to my horror, Miss Du Bois walked in. She spotted me as I was leaving but I thought I might have got away with it as she did not challenge me. However, in the first lesson after break my teacher called out my name and told me to report to Miss Du Bois at the end of the day. I was not too worried because I expected a detention at worst.
At the end of the day I reported to Miss Du Bois. She asked me if I had permission to be in the shop and I told her no. She then shocked me by telling me that I was to go to the secretary and get the cane and book. I remembered my last caning from her and tried pleading, but to no avail. I walked to the secretary’s office and rang the bell. This was very embarrassing because there was a new secretary who was a friend of my sister. She smiled as she asked me what I wanted. I told her and she grinned. She handed the cane and book to me and made a cheeky comment about me needing a cushion at meal time. I walked back to Miss Du Bois who was sat marking books when I arrived. She glanced up and then took the book and cane from me.
I was ordered to remove my blazer while she started writing in the book. When she finished she stood up and told me to bend over one of the desks. I bent over slowly and tried pleading once again. Miss Du Bois merely told me to hurry up or extra would follow. I bent over and listened as her high heels clicked towards me. When she was stood at my side she warned me not to move or I would get extra strokes. She also told me I was to receive four strokes for being out of bounds and a further two for arguing.
I felt the cane tap several times before it swished onto my bottom. I soon felt a burning sensation that was so familiar. Miss Du Bois spaced the strokes evenly and left sufficient time for the pain to be felt between each stroke. I was struggling to stop the tears after the first four strokes. The fifth stroke was extra hard and I recall groaning. Miss Du Bois waited before delivering the final stroke extra hard and low down. I felt the tears start but managed to avoid crying out loud.
Miss Du Bois walked away and told me to face her. I remember feeling excited looking at her holding the cane as she told me to put my blazer on. Finally she dismissed me and told me to return the book and cane. I rang the bell and my sister’s friend came. She was grinning and said she knew exactly how I felt. I walked home and hoped no one would know about my caning. But my hopes were shattered when my sister’s friend walked in with a jar of cream and told my sister I might need it.