I was brought up in the 60s and 70s and at that time, parents generally were a good deal stricter with their kids than they are today – the cane was still used in most schools, including mine, and although I was never punished at school, at home both my parents and my mother in particular were very keen on the subject of discipline.
Throughout my childhood, I received the occasional ‘old-fashioned spanking’ if I stepped out of line. I don’t think these really did any harm and they were always administered within a loving home environment.
The occasion which I want to tell you about, however, occurred when I was about nine or ten. Mother and I were out shopping and I tried to persuade her to buy me some sweets.
Her view was always the same: I was given a modest amount of pocket money each week and I had to fund such purchases myself out of this allowance. Needless to say that the money was usually all spent within an hour of my receiving it and that consequently I had nothing left with which to fund my wish on this occasion.
Despite my pleadings, Mother remained resolute in her determination – I had to learn to save my money or at least keep some back for the remainder of the week rather than spending it all in one go. I regret to say that on this occasion I was so determined to have my own way that I surreptitiously secreted a bar of chocolate in my pocket.
Needless to say, my ruse was quickly discovered – Mother had eyes in the back of her head! She was understandably both very embarrassed and extremely angry. With the dreaded words ‘just you wait until I get you home’ ringing in my ears, the shopping expedition was abandoned and I was virtually frog-marched home.
I was taken through into the kitchen, where Mother went straight to the under-stairs cupboard and took out her cane. This was something of a family heirloom and looked every bit as one would imagine a cane to look: about 3ft in length, very flexible with a crooked handle.
Mother had often threatened both my elder sister and I with it – but up to this point, these had always proved to be empty promises. On this occasion, however, it was clear that she meant it.
I was instructed me to take my shorts down and whilst I was doing as I was told, I remember Mother tapping the stick against her boot impatiently. My other clear memory is one of feeling absolutely petrified – indeed, I recall being very close to wetting myself I was so terrified.
I was then told to bend over, and once in position had to suffer the embarrassment of having my pants lowered. At this point, however, Mother decided that it was time to deliver a short lecture and whilst I remained in position, literally quaking in my shoes, she told me precisely how she intended to deal with ‘wicked little boys who steal’ (the phrase sticks in my mind to this day for some reason).
I cannot recall how many strokes I was given (probably five or six at a guess) but I do remember that the first one was delivered with such velocity that I very nearly fell forward. I can also recall it being so painful that I cried out.
Thereafter, I was in such a tearful state that the number of strokes became largely a blur – they were all, however, delivered as forcefully as the first and my cries were renewed as each struck its target.
After Mother had finished I was told to stand up and pull my pants back up whilst she returned her cane to the cupboard. I was then sent, still in tears, to bed and made to stay there for the rest of the day.
It was a very painful lesson but one which worked – I never stole anything ever again. As for the cane, now that Mother had used this for the first time it became the regular instrument of correction for both my sister and I – although I should add that the occasions when its use was called for were few and far between.