During the early 1990s, my mum had a little part-time job which helped with the bills but meant that I had to be looked after by someone else. Not having any relatives living close to us, she decided to put me in the care of Mrs Mason, a local registered childminder.
I usually went to Mrs Mason’s a couple of afternoons after school, and every Saturday morning. There were generally three or four other children at her house at the same time, up to a maximum of six I think, and they ranged from babies through to about eight years old. I was six when I started going to Mrs Mason’s.
All us children generally enjoyed the experience – there were lots of toys and it was nice to have regular friends there to play with. Mrs Mason was, I would say, kind but firm. She clearly enjoyed working with children but at the same time, she stood no nonsense.
One thing she insisted on from all her clients was permission to smack their children’s bottoms when needed. Smacking was still very much an accepted part of family life even then and most of us got the same from our own mums and dads, so it wasn’t exactly a drama, although needless to say we didn’t much like it!
As I say, Mrs Mason was kind but firm. If you did something naughty, she’d correct you but there was no threat of punishment. If you persisted, there would be a final warning – this time with the clear threat of a smacked bottom if you didn’t come into line. There was no third warning – only corporal punishment.
We were all smacked bare bottom. “This is to make sure it hurts,” Mrs Mason would say as she pulled your knicks down. She put the naughty child over her knee in the traditional nursery position and usually applied around a dozen hard smacks, depending on the recipient’s age. She only ever used her hand, but it was hard as wood and she never had any trouble making us cry. She even smacked the very young children, even taking off nappies where necessary.
These spankings were very common, as I suppose they had to be to keep control of up to a half a dozen spirited children. There seemed to be a smacked bottom at least once a week at Mrs Mason’s.
All the punishments hurt very much but they kept us under control and taught us all good moral lessons – with Mrs Mason’s hard hand as the teacher!