ONE - Edward Jones
My dad had often threatened to whack me if I did something naughty. He sometimes told me how grandad had beaten him with his razor strop, making him lie on his front and then pulling back the bedclothes and strapping his bottom till he howled. He also told me about the canings he got at school, how the headmaster used to give boys six of the best, and how the games sergeant had slippered their bare backsides. He told me how he was going to do it: he would send me to bed and then come up and slipper my bare bottom. Is that what I'd like? he asked. I wouldn't, I always answered, and you can bet that I meant it.
But whenever I did something naughty, like going to Sunday School across the waste ground after being told that I was to go round by the road, or like the time my teacher, Miss Morris, told him that I had put glue in a girl's hair, he never seemed to punish me at all. He was very cross and told me off pretty savagely, but he never made a move to send me to bed or to fetch anything that he could beat me with.
In addition, after all that he had told me on the subject, I took an interest in the beatings that boys were subject to. Dennis the Menace seemed to get a dose of the slipper every week. I was a bit surprised that it didn't seem to put him off being naughty. But then the slipper that his dad used looked exactly like the felt slippers that my dad wore and they didn't look as though they could hurt much.
I tentatively brought up the subject with my two best friends, Colin and Billy. Colin said that his dad had whacked him a couple of times with his belt, but that it hadn't hurt all that much. Billy didn't have a dad because he was away in the Navy, and he said that his mum never hit him at all.
So, all in all, I reckoned that my dad was all wind and noise and that he was never going to actually carry out his threat. And if he did, it wasn't going to be very painful. My bottom was safe.
How wrong could a boy be?
On many Saturdays the three of us took to the fields round the town and played cowboys and Indians, or British and Germans along the hedgerows and through the lanes. After we'd seen Stewart Granger in 'Scaramouche' we cut sticks out of the hedge and played sword fighting. We'd built several dens and defended them against the Rickyard Park gang. Usually we went home filthy and tired.
I was meant to be in before half past five because that was tea-time. But one Saturday things went a bit wrong. We got lost to start with, and then Colin lost his wellington in a stream and we had to fish it out, which took ages. While we were doing that we found a great plank of wood and it was too good a chance to miss to bridge the stream and that took another two hours. Colin had a watch, but when I asked him the time it had stopped. It was then I noticed that it was starting to go dark.
"Oh, cripes!" I yelped. "I'll get killed."
"No, you won't," said Billy. "We've got ages yet."
It took us all of those ages to find our way back into lanes and fields that we knew and then more than an hour to get back to our street. The street lights were on. Billy disappeared into his house with a cheery, "See ya." Colin's was just round the corner and there was his dad on the doorstep, looking for him. As we appeared, he pointed at Colin and started unbuckling his wide leather belt in a meaningful way.
"In!" he said, doubled the belt over in his fists and snapped the two halves together with a crack. I thought of hanging around outside to see if I could hear Colin getting his whacking, but when I was on my own I was less sure that I would escape what dad had threatened so often.
At least he wasn't waiting on the doorstep, and I tried to saunter in as though nothing was the matter. I wasn't very sure what sauntering was like, but it seemed to be a good pose to adopt.
"Where the bloody hell have you been?" dad demanded.
"Out playing," I said. "It's not late, is it?"
This wasn't a good approach to the situation.
"It's gone seven!" he shouted. "Get up those stairs and get yourself ready for bed."
"And then I've got some nice sausages for tea," said my mum.
"He's getting no tea tonight. I won't have him waltzing in at all hours demanding food. Up to bed with you."
I stood my wellingtons by the back door and sadly went upstairs. I hadn't realised until now how hungry I was – and now I was to have no supper. The thought of those nice sausages somehow made the prospect of being whacked even worse.
I peeled off my clothes and put my pyjamas on. Then I didn't know what to do. I had somehow expected him to get there before I was fully changed. Was I to get into bed? I sat on the bed and practised looking repentant. I wondered how he was going to do it. Since I thought I knew it wouldn't hurt all that much, I considered the question with a kind of scientific detachment. Would he put me over his knee, like Dennis the Menace's dad did? Or would it be more like the caning I had read about in a school story? Would he say, 'Touch your toes'?
I could hear the Dick Barton music coming from the radio downstairs. And then the living room door opened and closed and his footsteps started coming up the stairs. I knew they were his from hearing them so often when he got up to go to work in the morning. The handle on my bedroom door turned and there he was, filling the doorway.
"Now then," he said. "How come you stayed so late and had us all worried sick about you?"
I explained about Colin's watch and getting lost. I missed out about bridging the stream and losing Colin's wellington. Dad wasn't impressed.
"And what did Mr Bolt have to say when Colin got home, eh?"
"He was angry."
"He took his belt off," I said, trying to restore confidential relations with dad.
"Did he?" He was silent for a minute. "D'you think I should whack you?"
I hung my head and didn't say anything. Actually, I thought he should, but if I said so that would make it inevitable, and I still hoped that it wouldn't come to that. But dad wouldn't let me get away with it. "Well?"
"I s'pose so."
"And look at this bedroom. Were you going to leave your dirty clothes like this for your mother to pick up?"
"No." I got up from the bed and picked up my shorts and pullover and put them on the chair. When they were tidied he had sat down on the bed and now, for the first time, I saw the 'slipper' that he had brought. It wasn't his fluffy carpet slipper. It was one of his big plimsolls, that he wore to play tennis. The sight of it made my stomach knot and my throat suddenly had no moisture in it.
"Come here," he said. I went close to him and then let him manoeuvre me round to his other side. The feel of his hand holding my wrist so firmly was somehow reassuring, that although he was going to punish me it would never be more than I could bear. I never really saw how he did it, but the hand that was holding me pulled me down over his knee and at the same time his other hand pulled the cord of my pyjama trousers. For a second I struggled to keep my feet but then collapsed face down over his knees and my face was down close to the mat. One quick jerk and my trousers were down, leaving my bottom exposed. I felt no particular outrage at this indignity – only fear for the extra pain that would now be involved. I must have put my hand back to protect myself, but he just gripped my wrist and held it firmly out of the way so that I could now do nothing whatever to save myself.
"I've told you many times that I'd do this, haven't I? And you've pushed me too far this time. Try to take your medicine like a man."
For a second I felt the rubber sole of the plimsoll resting on my skin. Then he lifted it and brought it down with a sharp CRACK on my left buttock. The sting was instant and very, very painful. The next was on the other side, and the whole of my bottom was stinging. Every time the plimsoll came down on my suffering flesh the burning pain got worse and worse, but still part of my brain managed to count the whacks relatively calmly. I knew from school stories that six was the number you got, but six were over and still the slippering went on. I had to bite my lip but I managed to hold on without making a sound.
At last he stopped and hauled me back on to my feet. My bottom felt as though it was on fire and I clasped both hands to my buttocks but tried not to show on my face how much it was hurting.
"Now, has that done the trick?" he asked.
"Yes, dad," I croaked.
"Right pull up your pyjamas and get into bed." I stooped and pulled up my trousers and somehow tied the cord. I scrambled into bed and lay my head on the pillow. "I hope I never have to do that again," dad said.
"So do I," I managed to say and I thought I heard him chuckle.
His hand ruffled my hair. "Right. That's the end of the matter. We'll say no more about it." Quickly he bent down and kissed me. "Good night, son."
"Good night, dad."
He put the light out and closed the door, leaving me to the intense stinging of my bottom. I'm happy to say that he never did have to whack me again, though there were more and worse beatings to come at school that he never knew about.
TWO - Martin Cleaver
Martin had been at boarding school since he was seven years old. It was his home now and he loved it. Going to stay with his Aunt Mary for the holidays was always an aggravation and he felt home-sick for his friends and the rough and tumble of the dormitory and common room.
The youngest boys were housed in a separate building and looked after by Mrs Luscombe. She mothered them, wiped their tears and mended their teddy bears, and if they were naughty told them off or, very, very occasionally, smacked the back of their legs.
But now the time had come for Martin and his friends to move across to the main school where the big boys, up to thirteen-years-old, lived. They were all very excited and Martin at least was looking forward to it.
The first night, Mr Duckham, the headmaster, came up to their dormitory and explained, in the friendliest possible way, how things would be from now on. It all sounded difficult and grown-up. Putting their laundry into bags on Friday nights and writing the list in their laundry book sounded like a seriously adult responsibility.
"And now," he went on, "what will happen to you if you behave badly or break the rules? I don't suppose any of you ever behave badly, do you?" And they laughed. "In lessons, masters will give their own punishments if you deserve them. It might be writing lines, or it might be staying in to do some extra work, or in some cases it might even be corporal punishment. Who knows what corporal punishment is?"
Martin certainly only had the vaguest notion that it involved being hit in some way. Some others had put their hands up and Mr Duckham picked one.
"Being whacked, sir."
"That's right. Some masters keep a special gym slipper and if you misbehave they will probably smack your bottoms with it. I've got a specially big slipper to whack you with if you're sent up to me. And I've also got a cane that hurts a lot more than the slipper. So I should watch out if I were you. Anybody got any questions?"
Meyer put his hand up. "Is it true, sir, that you get the cane on the bare bum?"
"Yes it is. But only if you do something very serious, and I only make the older boys take their pants down for a caning, so you don't have to worry about that for a while. What you do have to think about though, is that every time you're given lines or a detention it's written down in a book and if you get three detentions or if the number of lines reaches three hundred in a term, then I shall send for you and slipper your backsides pretty hard."
Martin lay in bed thinking how exciting it all sounded. The idea of actually being beaten was so remote that it never occurred to him that one day it would happen to him, and the idea of watching while his friends had to bend over and be slippered seemed a terrific joke and he looked forward to it hugely.
But next morning he flicked ink over his friend Price's exercise book and Mr Newsmith, who was teaching them maths, was cross and told him to stay behind at the end of the lesson. The telling off lasted a couple of minutes and ended with the master telling him to write out, 'I must pay attention in class' fifty times. His first ever punishment.
That afternoon he played rugby for the first time and by the time all the little boys had showered and changed it was tea time; then it was prep with Mr Phillips sitting at the front of the classroom. Martin finished his sums and got out the lines to get on with them. He'd written it twenty-three times when the master, strolling up and down the lines of desks, saw what he was doing.
"Don't you know that prep is not the time for doing lines, Cleaver?"
"Well, you do now. Give them to me." Martin handed over the sheet of paper and watched in horror as they were ripped into tiny pieces.
Supper was straight after prep and then they had to go to bed. Maths was the first lesson next day, but it never occurred to Martin that anything was about to happen.
"Lines, Cleaver?" demanded Mr Newsmith.
"I'm sorry, sir, I haven't finished them."
"Then you'll have to do twice as many, won't you? By next lesson, please."
A hundred! Martin couldn't believe it. But at lunch time and straight after afternoon lessons he set to. By tea time he was still lots short of the target. During prep he hid the paper under his French exercise book and managed to get several more done. By working at them all through the short time after supper, and again after breakfast when he should have been cleaning his shoes and through morning break, he just managed to complete all hundred. With relief he handed them over and watched as Mr Newsmith ripped his hard work across the middle and dropped them into the waste paper basket.
Three days later Mr Phillips caught him and four other boys throwing paper darts around the classroom during break. They had just learned how to fold the paper and it was an exciting new skill. "You'd better all stay in on Saturday afternoon," he said.
He made them sit at desks spread out round the room, facing the front with their hands on their heads. They had to sit absolutely still and he added five minutes every time one of them moved. The time seemed to stretch out for ever and the sun was shining outside. But at last it was over.
Martin didn't give these punishments another thought, nor did he realise that lines and detentions would be added up together and that he was already perilously close to a visit to Mr Duckham's study.
Two weeks later, however, Martin's class were naughty as they walked up the road to the games field. There were some early conkers on the pavement and they shied them at each other and one accidentally hit a passing car. Mr Copley, the games master, was very angry and demanded to know who the guilty boys were. Thoughts of slippers and whacking were in all their minds, and no one owned up. As it happened, Martin was completely innocent and he didn't really know who had done it.
Mr Copley became even angrier and said it was disgraceful that the culprits wouldn't own up and the whole form would have to stay in after the lesson. There was great unhappiness about this and outrage that innocent boys were being punished along with the guilty. He made them move heavy chairs from one room in the pavilion to another and then sweep out the showers and toilets and at last they were allowed to go back to school and change. There was some argument and even roughness about who had been responsible for the group punishment and Martin resolved that he would never, ever be responsible for innocent friends being punished if he could avoid it by owning up.
It never crossed his mind that this punishment would even go in his book. So the summons from Mr Duckham was like a bolt from the blue. It wasn't until he was standing in front of the headmaster's desk and could see the big gymshoe on the desk and the master said that he was there because he had too many punishments in the book that the dreadful possibility of what was going to happen burst into his brain. Even then, he thought, maybe it wouldn't really happen because the last detention had been for the whole class and he hadn't actually done anything himself.
But no. Mr Duckham stood up with the slipper in his hand and bent it ominously so that Martin could see how terribly flexible it was. There was a big low armchair in the window and Martin felt the man's hand on his arm leading him round to the back of it.
"Bend over, please, Cleaver, and hold the arms as far down as you can."
The blood was singing in Martin's ears as he did as he was told. Mr Duckham pushed his feet apart slightly with his boot, lifted his jacket high over his back and pulled his shirt and vest out of the back of his trousers. He was a skinny little boy but his short trousers were two years old and he had grown. The cloth was pulled smooth over his tight little buttocks and was worn and shiny. He had time to be surprised that he wasn't really very frightened, though he hoped above anything that it wasn't going to hurt too badly.
"This is going to hurt a lot, Cleaver, but you must hold still and take your medicine as bravely as you can. Are you ready?"
"Yes, sir," said Martin.
"I'm going to give you one for the hundred lines, one each for the detentions and one as a warning for the future."
Mr Duckham stepped back, taking aim, swung the slipper back and brought it down hard and fast on the little boy's taut trouser seat. It struck home with a loud THWACK!
"Ow!" cried Martin.
"Hold still now," said the headmaster. He swung the slipper again and smacked it down hard across the same spot, connecting perfectly with Martin's bottom. Martin took the second without a sound. The third was delivered in the same way, but again he made no sound. "There," said Mr Duckham. "Is it beginning to sting nicely?"
"Yes, sir," said Martin in a murmur.
"One to go then. This is your warning for the future. This will be the worst." He stepped back and launched the slipper at the boy's trembling backside.
"Ouch!" he cried out.
"That's it. You can get up now."
Slowly, the boy pushed himself upright and both hands clutched at his bottom, rubbing at the terrible fire that the slipper had made. Mr Duckham had laid the slipper back on the desk and now looked at him quite kindly.
"Was that your first whacking?"