It is now 50 years ago that I visited an aunt with my mother. On arrival, we were shown into the dining room and my aunt apologised for asking us to wait, as she had a job to finish upstairs.
As we sat down we could hear my aunt sharply issuing instructions and the pleading voice of her youngest daughter (then aged 15) who apparently was being instructed to drop her knickers, lift up her dress and petticoat and bend over the side of the bed.
There then followed a series of six sharp cracks, well spaced out and each one followed by an increasingly louder wail and promises to be good etc.
I knew that there was a conservatory at the back of the house where three thin flexible canes hung on the wall, one for each of the three daughters. It seemed that Jane’s was being put to good use.
After issuing instructions to ‘get dressed, wash your face and come straight downstairs’, my aunt appeared in the dining room and apologised again for keeping us waiting. From the ensuing conversation between my mother and my aunt, various facts about the family discipline emerged.
When a punishment was due the girl had to fetch her own cane from the conservatory, go to her mother’s bedroom and wait. My aunt believed that the cane only started to sting properly at the fourth stroke, so she always administered a minimum of six, going up to 12 for serious offences.
The reason for Jane’s punishment that day was that she had recently become rather cheeky and, as it was some six weeks since she had last been punished, it was time for her to have another dose.
At this point my aunt called upstairs.
“Jane, I told you to come straight downstairs. Do you want some more?”
Immediately, Jane’s small voice called that she was coming and she promptly appeared.
She was told to sit down on one of the dining chairs. She started to protest but after a warning look from her mother, she eased herself gingerly on to the chair.
Her eyes were glistening as tears continued to well up and there were tear streaks on her cheeks. She tried to shuffle unobtrusively to try to ease the stinging sensation in her bottom but was sharply told to ‘sit still’.
At the time, I thought that this was rather cruel but I have since realised that having to do as she was told, even though it was very difficult and the last thing she wanted to do, was excellent discipline for her and stood her in good stead for her future life.
Although such discipline was common among families in those days and I was well aware of similar events, this was the closest that I had been to such an event (other than my own!) and it has remained in my mind ever since.
Incidentally, the three girls grew up to be delightful and successful adults who had happy marriages and families of their own. Their love for their mother was always evident and, as they grew older, they appreciated the way that they had been brought up.