Growing up shortly after the Second World War, corporal punishment was commonplace both in the home and in school. My father was very wealthy, though he was conscious that he was ‘new money’ and that he had a regional accent, and I suspect that’s why he sent me to prepatory school as a boarder at the tender age of seven.
I cannot emphasise enough the importance placed on corporal punishment in the school at the time. This was England in the early 1950s, and the progressive changes that would begin the transformation of the country didn’t begin until a decade later.
I slept in a cold dormitory with 19 other boys my age, and we were looked after by a ‘house mother’, Miss Pritchard. As you might imagine, such a number of young boys had the potential to be a handful so discipline was strict, both in the classroom and the dormitory.
In class, minor misbehaviour resulted in lines, while more serious infractions resulted in four to six strokes of a thin cane. I can’t stress enough how painful the cane was, although it never left a bruise.
When we were due a caning, we would be sent to the headmaster with a note from the teacher. We’d have to bend over slightly and grip the edge of his desk whilst he administered the required number of strokes.
Despite her job title, Miss Pritichard was not in the least maternal. She fascinates me even today. She was a stern spinster who, I suspect, never had children of her own. What’s more, I genuinely believe she enjoyed punishing us.
She would keep a a book in which she would record all of our minor transgressions, such as making a noise after lights out or not making our beds properly. Three black marks would result in a slippering.
Miss Pritchard’s living room was adjacent to the dormitory and next to that was her bedroom. When we were slippered, she would make us grip the end of our bed and administer the punishment to the seat of our trousers or shorts – usually around ten strokes.
More serious transgressions would result in us being invited into her living room, where she would smack our bare bottoms. I honestly think this was worse than the cane. It was, of course, humiliating, but aside from that Miss Pritchard smacked hard and for what seemed like minutes. Even with the door closed, one could hear the slaps and eventually the muffled screams of the poor unfortunate miscreant.
I had the misfortune to suffer many slipperings and whilst they made me cry a little, they were almost bearable. Being invited into the house mother’s living room was so much worse!
My first bare bottom smacking from Miss Pritchard happened close to ‘lights out’. I had washed and brushed my teeth and was lying on my bed when she appeared in her doorway and called out my surname. Immediately, I knew I was in trouble as she beckoned me over to her. With great dread, I made my way over to her room.
Apparently one of the canteen ladies had reported me for refusing to eat all my dinner and ‘being cheeky’. I didn’t think I had been at all rude, but I didn’t dare argue with Miss Pritchard.
She took hold of my arm and marched me over to an armless chair. After sitting herself down there, she ordered me to lower my pyjama bottoms. I complied without daring to show any of the great reluctance I felt.
Then Miss Pritchard said something like: “Children need to respect and obey adults, and this is what happens when they don’t.” She pulled me over her lap and my punishment began.
I don’t know how long I lay there over her knee, getting smacked, but it seemed like about five minutes, and in the later stages of the spanking, it felt like Miss Pritchard was taking the skin off my buttocks. The smacks were relentless – they just seemed to go on and on. I definitely screamed and cried, but this didn’t seem to influence her at all.
When she was finished, I was ordered straight to bed, where I lay with my bottom humming and a face still wet from crying. I had never been smacked like that before, but I did eventually suffer one more such punishment, again from Miss Pritchard.