Neither my friend Cathy nor I were that good at Chemistry, but we were partnered up for lab work which was probably not a good idea. This particular afternoon, we were using chemicals to produce water, or something equally pointless. We hadn’t really understood the instructions, but just proceeded blindly on with a Bunsen burner heating tubes and glass bottles. After a while there was a funny smell, not a very pleasant one, apparently emanating from our bubbling cauldron.
Mr Hyde, the Science teacher, smelled it a few minutes later, came rushing over, and asked us what the hell were we doing, trying to blow up the school?
He switched everything off just as it was about to spurt everywhere and told everybody to get back away from our work area to avoid the spill. He hurriedly put copious rags and absorbents around the desk top, all the time shouting at us.
Sorry wasn’t good enough, as he grabbed my wrist and dragged me roughly across the classroom, calling for someone to get the slipper out of the cupboard. He landed me on the spare desk at the front, pulled my skirt up, held it and me down with his left hand and started to smack my bottom hard with his right hand pending the arrival of the slipper, which he then applied vigorously, I don’t know how many times.
I was allowed to get up, clutching my bottom and eyes watering, in absolute shock.
Cathy was called over and held down in the same way as he whacked her bottom, probably eight times. I think she got off more lightly, which suggested he’d taken his rage out on me.
When he had finished tanning Cathy, we were told to stand in the corner, hands on heads, and warned that he hadn’t finished with us yet.
At the end of the class, he called us over, gave us some rubber gloves and told us that we had to clean up not just our mess but every work surface, and the floor under where we were working where the chemicals had spilled. He opened the cupboard where the cleaning materials were kept and told us we had half an hour. For the whole time he stood over us, rather perturbingly with slipper in his hand. When I was on all fours under the desk, I felt sure he would take advantage and give my upturned bottom a whack, but he didn’t.
After about fifteen minutes, the cleaning lady came in and asked when she could come in to do the room as she’d finished all the other classrooms. Mr Hyde invited her to take a seat, explaining what was going on. This was apparently the first part of our punishment for trying to blow up the lab.
Cathy and I exchanged glances to say: ‘What the hell was that then, the wild spanking we had been subjected to?’
Usefully, on our behalf, the cleaner asked the question as to what was going to be the second part. Mr Hyde said nothing, but out of the corner of my eye I saw a movement in the hand that was holding the slipper. The cleaner’s response clarified the issues, when she said her daughter was playing up at the moment and could do with a dose of that.
Cathy and I looked at each other in horror and I whispered to her that it would hurt to sit down.
Cleaning over, we were ordered to the spanking desk, Cathy first this time, skirt pulled back, and I watched with a combination of fascination and misery as my friend yelped, gasped and cried her way through six strokes delivered hard but coolly across her poor bottom. I noticed the cleaner had put her magazine down so she could observe proceedings. She didn’t say another word. The room was filled with silence apart from the sound of the slipper cracking down.
I was in tears before my turn started. How I endured it, I don’t know. It was my first proper school spanking and I couldn’t believe how much it hurt.
Slipper returned to the cupboard, Mr Hyde picked up the tissue box and gave us one each, as we were still trying to ease the heat from our bottoms. He then gave us a stern warning that, even though we were girls, if we pulled that sort of stunt again he would get a cane from the storeroom and make sure we couldn’t sit down for a week.
After all he’d done to us, that was a real threat. We didn’t know whether he could or would carry it out, but believe me we became perfect chemists after that.
For the first time we found ourselves in the toilets, knickers down, comparing notes on how bruised and battered our bottoms looked. Cathy put a hand on my right cheek and said it was absolutely roasting. I actually quite liked the soothing feel on my skin, and I returned the compliment to find that hers was just as hot. We gave each other a hug, no recriminations, even though it was entirely Cathy’s fault. But would he really cane us? Does the school have canes even though they are not used? And would he really cane us on the bottom? So many unanswered questions, just one certainty, we had learned our lesson and were never going to be that stupid again.
Henceforth Mr Hyde’s nickname was ‘Dr Jekyll’.
A couple of years later, I was sent to the storeroom for some stationery. While I was in there, I thought I might have a quick look around as I could still remember Mr Hyde’s threat very well. Under a storage rack I saw a large box, about four-foot long and eighteen inches wide, very dusty, but I covered my mouth and nose and pulled it out. When I turned back the top flap I was astonished at what I saw. There must have been at least 20 school canes of various types and sizes, some with crooked handles, some straight. Made me shiver, the slippering he gave us was bad enough but the cane?
In whatever era, in whatever circumstances, it is not possible to justify hitting a child in anger. I do not justify or glorify the actions of the teacher in the first half of this account. I do believe that he was under a great deal of strain at the time, but that is no excuse. I do believe, though, that the second and third parts of the punishment were fully justified.