It was 1966 and a year to remember for many reasons. I was at Harrow Grammar School, a very strict school but with excellent sport and academic results.
Debbie, my girlfriend, was nearly seventeen, a real beauty, and I was in the year above. We had been going out for about six months and we felt very much in love. She was very popular at school with staff and pupils. Corporal punishment was not common, but used when teachers thought it was warranted.
Teachers could cane boys and girls on the hands, but I never saw a male teacher cane a girl, although women teachers caned both sexes. For truancy, smoking, swearing, cheating and behaviour that warranted it, girls were sent to the headmistress where punishment was expel, suspend or the cane. Boys had the same punishments, but they were administered by Mr J, the deputy head.
We had to wear school uniform from day one to the day we left, the powers to be said not just to look smart but it prevented competition amongst pupils for fashion and expensive clothes.
Detentions and slippering were not used as a punishment, but lines were used by the teachers that did not like corporal punishment.
I had been caned twice in class, once by our music teacher Miss L, one stroke on each hand. It stung, but nothing terrible.
Debbie had been caned when she was fourteen by Miss A, when she and three mates were late for class. They each got one stroke on the left palm. Debbie said it stung but she didn’t cry. She enjoyed telling me her friend, Jane, cried even though she had been caned before. I know because I had been out with her.
It was a Monday, a day we will remember for ever for many reasons, and one we still talk about today.
Debbie, now my wife, had a maths test the next day and was struggling with it. She was in the year below me, so I helped her do a crib sheet and showed her how to hide it. Of course, she was caught, disqualified, and had to see the headmistress at four pm. The head lectured her about how cheating never solved anything and wrote a letter to her parents to come and see her. When Debbie showed her mum the note she was mortified and told Debbie to explain her action. She told her mum the truth, and her mother said she was silly and deserved punishment. Her mother and Debbie saw Miss James the next morning and the headmistress said if it had been the exam and not the mock, she would have had no choice but to expel her.
Debbie’s mum told the headmistress the story and the headmistress said she would deal with me latter.
Her mum said Debbie was so in the wrong and needed punishing, but she was glad she was not being expelled, and didn’t see suspension as the answer. Miss J said the only other suitable punishment was the cane, and Debbie’s mum agreed a caning would show her that honesty is the best way. Debbie was horror struck, but relieved that she would be caned and then it would be over.
Miss James asked Debbie’s mum if she would like to leave or stay for Debbie’s punishment. Debbie’s mum said she had no problem watching, as her daughter was fortunate to escape with a caning.
Miss James went to her cupboard and returned with the cane. She told Debbie she would receive two strokes on each hand. Debbie was scared but felt slightly excited. She had one stroke before and her best friend, Jane, had been caned two strokes each hand for smoking by the headmistress, and said it really stung. Debbie got quite excited later thinking about it. Debbie had seen the stripes on Jane’s palms, and now she would find out for herself.
Miss James told Debbie to stand in front of her and hold out her hand and she would receive two strokes on each palm. She said the sting was excruciating and the second stroke worse, and she felt sick. It was so much harder than her one stroke caning had been. She was determined not to cry. She was sixteen, nearly seventeen, but tears leaked from her eyes. She then held out her left hand and the pain was even worse. She groaned and the tears flowed. She tried, but couldn’t hold them back, and then it was over. She put her hands under her arm and then rubbed them together. The stinging was something she would never forget.
Miss J said to her mum that Debbie could go home with her and return tomorrow. She was sure Debbie had learnt her lesson and could return with a clean sheet. I went round Debbie’s house after school and told her I was caned as well; six on the palms from Mr J. I showed her my stripes. She showed me her palms and I kissed her stripes. She smiled and kissed me on the lips with passion. She said the caning was so painful.
Her mum got in from work and we told her the full story. She was sorry for us but said we did deserve the punishment and hoped it was a lesson learnt. She looked at our palms and said it brought back memories of her school days. She told us she was caned at school three times and got six for smoking when she was sixteen. She told Debbie that she took her caning better than she did as Debbie had yelled and cried as the cane struck her palm.