I was in the supermarket yesterday when I bumped into a woman I had been at school with. We got chatting about the usual stuff, what our children were doing now, grandkids, the hideous new office development blocking all the sun from the town hall square, etc, when suddenly we heard shouting.

Looking around, we saw a younger woman and her daughter, who looked about nine or ten. I don’t know what the girl had done, but the mother had had enough of her doing it, and was letting her know. To make sure she understood, her words were followed by a hard smack to the child’s bum.

The girl began to cry and her mother told her to save her tears for when she got home, as she was going to get something to really cry about. A slipper was mentioned, along with the promise that if the girl was not on her best behaviour between now and then, her dad would be the one to give it to her. Clearly the child did not consider this an idle threat because she quietened down immediately.

When they had passed us and gone around the corner, Amanda and I continued our conversation, although now it turned to the subject of corporal punishment. As far as we were aware, it was rare nowadays for a parent to spank their children, and neither Amanda nor I had ever spanked ours.

Then she surprised me by saying, “I remember, you were always getting the slipper at school.”

So, this was how I was remembered!

I pointed out that I had only actually had the slipper three times at school, which I didn’t think was very many. Amanda seemed surprised.

“I was sure it was more,” she said. “You even got sent to the headmistress, didn’t you?”

You would not think that someone would remember something like that after fifty years when they were not even one of the girls involved, would you? I said as much to Amanda, and added that I had no idea how many times she had had the slipper, if at all.

It had been just the once, and when she told me about it, it turns out that I did remember it after all. There was a fight on the playing field one lunchtime between two third year girls. I was a long way from the action, but I heard the commotion and when I looked I saw a crowd of girls running over to watch. I would have liked to see what was happening, but I couldn’t run very well, having twisted my ankle playing netball the previous day. So, I was making my way slowly in the direction of the incident when I was overtaken by three teachers travelling at speed.

When the older girls surrounding the fight saw the teachers approaching, they hurriedly left the scene and only a handful of first year girls remained, transfixed by the brawling pair and oblivious to the imminent arrival of the grown-ups. Two teachers pushed through the ring of onlookers and seized the two girls wrestling on the ground.

The third, Miss W, head of the first year, instructed all of those watching to stay where they were. She then went around the circle writing down the names and forms of each girl before sending them on their way.

The two third year girls were then led away to see the headmistress. One had a black eye and the other had a nosebleed. They were both muddy and dishevelled, but worse was to come for them. Although the slipper was in common use, canings were a rare event at our school, but everyone knew that fighting and bullying were offences which guaranteed the culprits six of the best, and so it was with these two.

Obviously, this rare event was the only topic of conversation for the rest of the lunch break. After lunch, I had double Geography, and well into the second period Mrs W entered our classroom and instructed Amanda and Kathy to step outside into the corridor. They had both been in the crowd of girls who had not dispersed while watching the fight. Apparently, so Kathy told me later, this was unacceptable and they should have been reporting the fight to a teacher rather than enjoying it.

Mrs W did not take them far from the classroom, and they had only been gone a minute when we heard the first whack. Five more followed before Kathy returned to the classroom with tears in her eyes, clutching her bottom. By the time she was lowering herself gently onto her seat, we were all listening to Amanda getting the same.

All in all, a dozen first year girls were slippered for their part in the incident, even though none of them had done anything except watch. It obviously had a lasting effect on Amanda as she never earned herself a slippering at school again.

I told Amanda that at the time I had thought it very unfair she and the others had been punished when they had only been watching. I asked if her parents had complained to the school about it. She gave a short laugh.

Amanda had not dared to tell her parents she had been slippered at school, knowing they would think she must have deserved it. This was confirmed when her mother learned about it from another source, and Amanda found herself bent over the kitchen table getting a whacking with a wooden spoon. This was the normal reaction in the 197Os. Parents would always side with other adults who spanked their children.

If I had made it to the scene of the fight before the teachers, I would have got the slipper from Miss W. My sister would have made sure my mother knew about it and no amount of arguing that I hadn’t deserved it would have saved me from another slippering on my bare bottom at home.

I don’t know if the young girl in the shop did get the slipper when she got home or not, but the threat from her mother brought back so many memories.