One summer, when I was nine, I met my friend Jesse to play at her grandparents’ summer home, near that of my grandmother.
Between our two properties lay a large apple orchard belonging to the Allen family – natives of the area. Mr Allen was a boat builder and lobster man, and in fact he had assisted in the building of my grandparents’ summer home back in 1917.
Everyone respected Mr and Mrs Allen. Mr Allen was a giant of a man with hands like baseball gloves. He wore huge striped overalls and often flannel shirts on chilly Maine mornings. Otherwise his shirt was a white T-shirt. He smoked a pipe and often sat in a rocking chair on his front porch. Mrs Allen reminded me of Mrs Santa Claus. She was always baking pies and cookies, and the smells from that house were glorious.
We all knew that the apple orchard was Mr Allen’s pride and joy. No-one was to go in there, and we respected that – for the most part. The Allens were the only ones around with a telephone. During the war, summer people didn’t have phones, for the metal used to construct the wiring was sent to the war effort. Most summer folks were there to escape business, so no-one was in a hurry to get ‘connected’ with back home much.
Jesse and I decided to return to my house after playing at hers all morning and having a lovely lunch on the lawn served by her maid. We were just walking along, chatting, when we saw that the apples were really ripe. It didn’t look as though Mr Allen had had much time to harvest any, for they were literally falling on the ground all around the trees.
Jesse and I crawled through the fence to rescue the ones on the ground. We found that most of them had already rotted, so we looked up at the ones on the lower branches. We were able to reach a few, but most were just high enough that we would have to climb to get them.
We had a discussion about this, deciding that the ones on the ground indicated that the Allens had more than they could handle. I climbed into the tree and began to hand some down to Jesse, who held what she could. She set those down on the ground and I handed her some more for me to take home. I thought I might make something for Mrs Allen.
All of a sudden, I heard Jesse gasp. Before I could turn safely, I felt strong hands lift me out of the tree and set me on to the ground. We looked up into the face of a furious Mr Allen. He was a giant to us and we were terrified, even though we knew him well.
“You two know that I told the kids I would whip anyone in my apples, right?” We were paralysed with fear. Whip us? What did that mean?
We began to explain as he picked us up, one under each arm and headed towards the porch. As he reached the road that separated the orchard from the house, I saw nanny coming. She was looking for me. I was never so happy to see her.
Mr Allen didn’t put me down. Nanny reached us and asked him what had happened. He told her that he was going to whip us for stealing apples from his orchard and climbing in his trees. Nanny knew that was the penalty. Everyone for miles around knew that was the penalty. If grandmother could see me now, she would encourage Mr Allen to do it, I was sure.
Jesse was a mess. She was sobbing and carrying on as though something had already happened. I looked at nanny helplessly. Nanny asked to speak to Mr Allen privately and he agreed, telling us that we were going to the woodshed with him right after his conversation with nanny.
Jesse collapsed on the grass in sobs. I sat down beside her, and we just clung to each other in fear. Why had we tried to ‘rescue’ those apples? Why do I do these dumb things? I get into so much trouble!
I don’t know what nanny said but there was a deal struck. She would take Jesse home, telling her parents what had happened and request that she be punished. Then she would take me home and punish me.
Mr Allen was adamant that it had to be a whipping in a woodshed, ‘the old-fashioned way’. I think he gave in to nanny because we were girls and because she was Scottish, as his family had been.
We went to Jesse’s house first. Her nanny was out shopping, but nanny talked to Jesse’s father. He told Jesse that she would have to go to the boat house with him and be spanked out there with a shingle.
Jesse was hysterical. She kept pleading that he would change his mind but he was already marching her through the tall grass towards the boat house when we turned to leave.
We had to pass the Allen house on the way home again, and nanny told Mr Allen (who was outside as we passed) about Jesse and her father. “Good,” he replied, “now get this one to the woodshed too!”
The walk home was awful. I was lectured all the way. Nanny couldn’t believe that a big girl of nine could be so disobedient as to violate such a community rule. We were only guests here, and the Allens had always been so good to everyone. We could not trespass on their property. Those were not wild apples etc. I heard it all, non-stop, all the way home on that dirt road.
Nanny took me into the house, where she told my grandmother what I had done. Mother and father were in Boston, and Jeff was taking a nap. Grandmother told nanny that she should do what she felt was best, for she had pretty well raised me from infancy.
Nanny took me to the garden shed, where the tools were kept for landscaping. It wasn’t very large, but it had enough room to move around freely. She unbuckled my overalls and I started to cry.
Finding a box to sit on, she pulled me towards her and said that she was going to use a paint stirrer paddle on my behind. There were several in a drawer in the shed that had not yet been used, but I decided that I’d use one up fairly quickly soon enough.
Nanny placed me face down over her lap and she pulled down my underpants to my ankles. There I was, in just my blouse and socks and sneakers, with overalls and underpants down around my shoes. The straps from my overalls were dragging on the ground.
As I lay there, nanny placed her left hand on my bare buttocks, holding me in place on her lap, and with her right, reached into the drawer for a clean paint stick. I could feel the tension and fear building, for nanny was a hard spanker – lots of experience. I was glad that grandmother was not here.
Then she slid her left hand up my back a bit and pressed me down on to her knees. It was at that point that the dreaded paint stick began to do its damage. Over and over again, Nanny whipped me with that stick, just as Mr Allen had ordered. It was certainly ‘old-fashioned’ – over her knees with my pants down. He was getting his wish.
I was sobbing and sobbing, begging Nanny to stop. She did. It wasn’t too bad, for I think in her heart of hearts she was doing this to please Mr Allen and grandmother.
She pulled me upright and pulled up my underpants and overalls. As she fastened my straps over my shoulders, she told me that picking apples was really fun, but we would have to find an acceptable place in which to do this. She hugged me, and I sobbed into her shoulder.
As we walked back to the house, nanny told me that I would have to explain to grandmother my understanding of why what I had done had not been acceptable. Then she said that I would have to write a letter of apology to Mr Allen and deliver it right away. I was afraid to go but nanny said she would go with me.
Hand in hand, we walked up the dirt road and, tentatively, holding back a bit behind nanny, I handed the letter to Mr Allen. He asked me if I had been whipped, and I nodded with my lip trembling.
Then he gave me a whole bag of apples and told me that if I ever wanted to help him, I would be most welcome. It would have to be a real job, though, and no sneaking into the orchard, or I would see the inside of his woodshed. I never went into his woodshed. Our garden house was bad enough!