Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Bad Old Days (School Paddling)

Author's Note: Today's entry discusses the paddling of children in a school setting. If this kind of thing upsets you, please find another entry to read. This is not a discussion on whether spanking children is right or wrong. It's simply my own personal recollections of going to school back in the bad old days.

I attended school from 1965 to 1979. It was a simpler time. Children were influenced by television and movies, not the Internet. Mothers still stayed home with their kids (although mine sold Avon to supplement my dad's income). Milk still came in glass bottles and was still delivered by the milkman. And schoolteachers used the paddle to instill order and discipline in their classrooms. There was one teacher and usually about 30 to 35 students per class. The teacher HAD to be in charge or the kids were going to be. And that was a recipe for disaster. The paddle was a reality in every school kid's life back then. No one was exempt. If I had to guess, I would say I was paddled at least a dozen times in grade school and twice in high school. The paddle was the outward symbol of the teacher's authority; like the cane in England or the belt in Scotland. We knew the teachers to avoid because they paddled hard and without apology. We knew the ones who were wimps, who would scold and lecture and then give you three or four "love taps". And we knew the ones who were sick; who got a demented pleasure from paddling a kid and seeing him (or her) cry. These were the sadistic ones whose paddles had holes drilled in them or had friction tape on them. These were the ones you wanted no part of. They got off on fear. I saw and received my share of all kinds of paddlings over the years. Usually, the kid would be ushered into the hallway for punishment. But sometimes, his (or her) sin was so egregious that only a paddling in front of the whole class would answer. I also participated in several instances where the teacher made the decision to paddle the entire class. The first time this happened was when I was in sixth grade. I had the social studies teacher, Mr. Donelly, for home room. He was a 6'6" strapping Irishman who took no nonsense from any kid. I once saw him haul the biggest boy in class out of his desk by his shirt collar like he was lifting a puppy. Anyway, on this particular day,Mr. Donelly was in a foul mood. One of the boys got it into his head to get back at a girl who had rebuffed his invitation to attend the upcoming Coke Party (what we later called Mixers in high school) with him. He got two of his friends to go in on the plot with him. Needless to say, the resulting chaos did nothing to improve our teacher's mood. He took out his paddle and announced that we were all going to get paddled. Only three boys had actually instigated the riot that later ensued in class but we all laughed, adding to the disorder. So we were all going to get it. All of us who had laughed (myself included) were bent over our desks and given two stinging swats, just enough to remind us not to laugh at another person's expense. The girl who was the target of the prank was allowed to witness everyone's punishment without getting anything herself, she being the inured party, after all. But Mr. Donelly, like many teachers before and after him, saved his special venom for the three boys who had been the ringleaders of the whole affair. He marched them to the front of the room, put each boy over his knee in turn and spanked them with his hard right hand until he received a promise of better behavior in the future. Then he made the red-faced (and red-bottomed) boys face the girl and apologize to her. "Now you know how it feels to be humiliated," Mr. Donelly said, short of breath from his exersion's. You can believe that room 6A never had an incident like that one again. At least not that year. The following year, Mr. Addy our Math teacher gave me what probably stands out in my mind as the most vicious paddling I ever received in school. Mr. Addy was a sandy-haired tall and wiry guy who wore what we called John Denver glasses. His favorite show was "Kung Fu" and he took to calling us "Grasshopper" when answering our questions. He was also the coach of the basketball team. I admit he was good at it. He was also a pretty good teacher, but was prone to impatience. He opened each class with the admonition "Close your mouths and open your ears!" The incident I'm about to relate occurred in early October, 1973. I was 12 years old at that time and getting pretty tall. I was still skinny, flat-chested and knock kneed. And I was not good in Math. Everything else I seemed to conquer with no problem but Math (New Math as it was called then) had me stymied. I tried to unravel the mysteries of fractions but to no avail. One day, he handed out a test to us announcing that anyone who didn't pass it would be required to stay after school. Well, I had already stayed after school for him before and all that it entailed was sitting in the gym watching him coach the basketball team. No extra studying going on. I did my best on the test, but missed passing by only two points. Those of us who failed were told in stern tones to report to his class after school. A hand shot up. It was my friend, Julie (the one who had asked all the questions about my friend, Trudy's spanking in one of my previous posts). "What if we don't?" she asked. Mr. Addy, who was light complected, turned red as a blood clot. This was a challenge and he took it as one. "You don't want to find out," he replied. Well, I lived two miles away and the car was at work with my dad so I knew I wasn't going to be walking home. Julie and I both took the bus home that night. We talked on the phone after supper and I asked her what she thought would happen to us. She sighed. "We'll get swats," she said. "Big deal." The next morning, I wore jeans to school. Well, hiphuggers actually (what are referred to as lowriders these days). Julie wore a skirt. That afternoon, when we reported to Math class, we discovered that everyone else had reported to Mr. Addy's detention. We had been the only two who hadn't. He took his paddle from his desk and beckoned us out into the hallway. Tugging at my courage, I went. Julie looked completely unconcerned. She had been paddled by nearly every teacher in the school and none had even been able to draw anything more from her than a deep breath. I admired her courage. When we got to the hallway, I could see that the double doors that led onto the playground were open and he closed them. With a sigh, he turned and faced us. He voiced his disappointment that we had willfully chosen to disregarded his order to stay after school. He asked each of us for an explanation. I replied that I hadn't wanted to walk the two miles home. Julie said she just didn't feel like going. "I'm going to paddle both of you," he said, "as long and as hard as the rules will let me. Open insubordination and rebellion can't and won't be tolerated in my class. I think it's best to nip this in the bud before it goes any further." There was a metal folding chair sitting near the double doors where the hall monitors (eighth graders with the power of life and death over the rest of us) sat between bells. Mr. Addy pulled it next to him and said "You first, Cheryl." I was incredulous. Why did I have to go first? He explained that Julie being there was no surprise. He had expected that. But seeing me there was a disappointment. Because of that, I was going first. He sat down on the folding chair and beckoned me. "Come and lay over my knee" he said. "That's for babies," I argued. "We'll discuss that another time," he said. "Come here and lay over my knee." He had already said he was going to go as hard and as long as the rules would let him. What did I have to lose by resisting? I planted my feet. "No," I said. Let me just say that, after having nearly 40 years to reflect back on my decision, it's one of the few that I truly regret. In those days, teachers had in loco parentis rights. This means that the teacher took the place of the parent while the child was in school. If my father had told me to get over his knee and I had refused, he would have been within his parental rights to put me there himself. And Mr. Addy was also within his rights as my teacher to do the same. "Don't be foolish," he said. "I'm giving you a chance to get through this with your dignity intact." Julie said "Just get it over with." So with as much dignity as I could muster, I went and laid across his knees. They were bony and hurt. I think Julie realized what a poor wardrobe choice she'd made that day. Mr. Addy gave me the absolute limit that day--six swats, all of them hard. But then, as now, I was stoic and took them without too much reaction. Maybe that made him madder? I don't know but when he was done he told me to stand up. My bottom was burning from the little hickory paddle he swung. He motioned Julie forward and she went, acting as unconcerned as possible. He made sure to hold the hem of her skirt down to keep it from riding up. I secretly wished he would hit his hand one time, but it never happened. Julie also got six very hard swats. I'm sure the kids in the classroom were awestruck by the sounds of the swats, which must have sounded like rifle shots. Then we were told to go in and sit down. I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing how hard it was to sit in that wooden desk, but the first time my bottom touched the chair, I winced. No one laughed. They didn't dare. But I learned a valuable lesson that day; one I've never forgotten. The person with the paddle has the power. I never told my parents about the paddling I received. They both would have been furious at me for ditching detention. Thankfully, I didn't get paddled again by Mr. Addy. However, the History teacher, Mr. Gliech, did decide to paddle the whole class one day. It was a very serious matter. Someone had stolen something from his desk and no one would 'fess up. He said "If I paddle everyone I'll be sure to get the person who did it." We each got three swats and there were 33 of us in the class. I could tell he regretted paddling me. I was a good kid and a good student. He knew for sure I hadn't been the one. But having said he would paddle everyone, he had to go through with it.

When I got into high school in 1975, I thought I had left the threat of a paddling behind me. It seemed pretty absurd to paddle a high school kid, after all. The kid in the photo is Leonardo Di Caprio suffering the indignity of Catholic school discipline in the 1995 film "The Basketball Diaries". Since I'm not really

a fan of his, seeing him in this position doesn't make me feel sorry for him. The paddling, however, is one of the most unmerciful paddlings I've witnessed onscreen. The priest just rears back and fires away at the upturned bottom of Mr. Di Caprio. When the bell rings, he says with a grin that it was a shame because he was just beginning to enjoy himself. The priest replies "We can do it again tomorrow if you like, Mr. Carroll". Catholic schools weren't the only place where discipline was tough. The high school I went to had a reputation at the time for its excellent academic record. It also boasted a pretty good basketball and football team. My freshman year, because I knew (or thought) I couldn't be paddled, I started to rebel in ways I hadn't before. I amassed a large collection of "pink admits" (unexcused absences) mostly for gypping class. I would go to lunch with my friends and then we just wouldn't go back. One day, in first hour, a page from the Dean of Women's office came in with a call slip (a summons to go to the office). She handed it first to my teacher, Mr. Genge, who then removed his glasses and said "Miss G, it seems you're wanted by the dean." He handed the call slip to me and I saw that the box "immediately" was marked, meaning I had to go right now. I took my purse and my books because presumably I was going to miss the remainder of Mr. Genge's highly entertaining Ancient History class. When I got to the office of Miss Cooper, the dean, I saw that my guidance counselor, Mr. England, was there, too. This puzzled me. "Shut the door, Miss G," Miss Cooper said. "Do you know why I called you in today?" she asked. I shrugged. "Probably because of the pink admits," I replied. "That's right," she replied. "Do you have any idea how many you have?" "A lot?" I guessed. She consulted the folder in front of her. "According to the records, you have 13. An unlucky number for you, it turns out." Then Mr. England did the talking. "Cheryl, you were a good student in middle school. This change is perplexing. I think you might be hanging out with the wrong kids. But we feel you're not a bad kid. You're just easily led. So Miss Cooper and I decided to put our heads together to see if we could come up with something that will block the dam before it bursts. Now I know a certain amount of rebellion is to be expected at this stage in a young person's life. But you aren't a bad kid, as I said. But I feel you're being influenced by bad kids. So I've decided to give you a paddling today to get you, hopefully, back on the right track." My jaw dropped. "I didn't think you paddled kids here," I said. "Ordinarily, we don't," Miss Cooper replied. "We only paddle kids when we think it will be effective." "I'm too old," I said. "Probably," Miss Cooper said. "Mr. England, will you do the honors, please?" "You mean I don't have any say?" I asked. "You don't have to call my parents or anything?" Mr. England shook his head. "Miss Cooper will stay in the room and act as a witness," he said. "I want you to turn around and bend over." Having no choice, I did. I heard the desk drawer open and heard the paddle being extracted. Mr. England, who I always pegged as a nerd and a joke gave me four swats that day while the lesbian Miss Cooper watched. She probably enjoyed looking at my ass while I was bent over. When he was done, he sternly told me to stand up. "I hope you learned something here today," he said. "I better never have to do this again. I hate doing it." The bell rang and I grabbed my books and hustled off to my next class. As awful as that paddling was, my second one, received a year later, was head and shoulders above it in terms of humiliation. As a sophomore, I was buckling down better and getting good grades, but my mouth and my attitude towards authority were sources of chagrin for my teachers. I especially enjoyed engaging in verbal duels with Mr. Hagen, my art teacher. I would guess in 1976 (the year I had him) he was probably in his mid-thirties. His room was located in a part of the building called the annex, a long corridor that linked the old original building with an addition that had been added in the 60's. My locker was all the way up on the third floor of the old building and I was more than halfway to class when I realized that it was Friday Sketch day and I had forgotten to grab my pencils. So it meant going all the way back to my locker to get them. I didn't want to risk showing up to class on time but unprepared. Better to be late and have my supplies with me. By the time I fought the stream of humanity all going the opposite direction from me, I was more than ten minutes late. When I got to class, the door was open and Mr. Hagen had his back to it. A golden opportunity to slide into my desk unnoticed. "Too late, Cheryl," he said without turning around, "I already marked you absent." "I'm here," I said. "You're late," he said turning to face me. "And what's more, you waited until my back was turned to sneak in." "I did not!" I said vehemently. "Your back just happened to be turned." We argued back and forth for a few minutes, my classmates enjoying it immensely, until Mr. Hagen tired of the game. He told me that I could do one of two things as a punishment for being late. I could either clean out his sink or take a paddling in front of the class. Now you might think this would be an easy choice, clean the sink, right? But you haven't seen the sink in Frank Hagen's room. It was an absolute nightmare. We made bets on whether something was living in the drain. It was full of clay and oil stained rags and brushes. And it was smeared with paint. I think there were maggots in there, too. No way was I going anywhere near that sink. He stood there with his arms folded and his mustache twitching. "Make up your mind," he said. "I'll take the paddling," I said in a barely audible whisper. Now I always thought Mr. Hagen was a pervert. But I thought I saw a hint of a smile cross his mustachioed lips when he heard that I would take a paddling. I'm almost certain that's what he was hoping I would say. Now I was not the prettiest girl in that class, but I was far from the ugliest. Of course, I was young, firm and nubile. I was beginning to realize my athletic skills, too. He went to his office (which was next door to the kiln on the other side of the hallway) and returned with a mean looking paddle. I took it to be a fraternity paddle because there were Greek letters on it. There was a table in room where he kept paint jars and extra canvases. He pointed to it. "Bend over," he said. I could feel the eyes of every kid in that class on my back as I bent over the table. This still reigns in my memory as one of the most humiliating moments of my life. He told me if he had his way, he would give me ten swats (presumably one for every minute I was late) but admitted he would lose his job if he did. So he told me he would give me five, but they would be hard. Yeah, right. Let me be the judge of that. It was my first taste of a frat paddle over tight jeans. I love the feeling now. But back then, it was horrible. I heard some students snicker as the paddle connected the first time and I let out a little yelp. His delivery was slow and deliberate, as if he was drawing it out as long as possible. When it was over, he told me to stand up. As I did, every bone in my body ached and it took a lot of effort to keep from crying. "Take your seat," he said. That was my last school paddling. Here's the kinky part. I had a date that night (it was Friday, after all) and I told the boy I went out with that I had been paddled that afternoon. The boy asked if I had any bruises. A couple, I admitted. He asked to see and I took my jeans down and showed him. He was impressed with what I had taken. That guy is a top now. I have chatted with him a few times but he isn't interested in playing with me.

So that's my story. The story of what it was like to go to school back when teachers ruled their students instead of the other way around. I recall those days with a mixture of fondness and loathing. I recall the teachers who spanked me and the ones who should have. I remember the public punishments of many of the kids I had in various classes. I remember just the threat of a paddling kept a lot of kids in line. The paddle was an ever-present part of school life back then. Some teachers kept theirs in a drawer, while others hung theirs on the wall as a warning. I remember big, strong boys reduced to whimpering crybabies over the knee of my big Irish sixth grade teacher. I remember weighing the pros and cons of breaking a school rule and wondering if the paddling I would receive would be worth the temporary feeling of victory. These are things modern students need not concern themselves over. This is a world long gone and it exists now only in memories and movies.


Unknown said...

that reminds me of my high school days back in late 1970s paddling was allowed in california public schools,male vice principals paddled boys and girls back then ,unlike todays same sex rule in most states.We had a fat old never married perv vp named mr meyers ,he paddled girls more then boys it seemed.
i was office assistant in 11 th grade ,my main duties were collecting slips from teachers and copying tests,handouts etc ,that xerox machine room was right next to mr meyers office.
when i saw a girl sitting in chair outside his officei only listened to girls paddlings) ,i knew she was there to be paddled,so id go into the copy machine room and close door behind me,and put my ear to the wall.
mr meyer would call girl into his office ,then the secretary to be witness ,so no one was in office area to notice me.
mr meyer would tell the girl to go to the small chair(like size of 1st graders chair) against the wall and bend over grab onto the legs meyer grabbed his huge thick paddle,and walked over the the bent over student ,gave final instructions to the student ,stare at dot on floor ,dont look back or get up until i say its over,then hed say you are getting 6 to 12 swats ,to remind you to follow the meyer was 6 foot 4 and 275 lbs ,nd swung the paddle like babe ruth.
then id hear the first swat ,a surprised yelp,then swat 2 a louder moan ,by swat 3 most girls began crying,swat 4,5,6 and up brought howling from most girls even seniors

Jim Bob said...

I was sent to the principal's office for a paddling one time, about 1966. The assistant principal was the paddler.
I was there with the other kid, the one who had tried to beat me in the hallway after class. He got three licks. Didn't make a sound.
The paddler then told me that I was getting three licks. I said, "No, I'm not. You're not going to hit me with that thing. You're not going to touch me."
The assistant principal looked surprised. Perhaps no one had spoken to him like that? He then said that if I wouldn't take the licks, I would have to stay after school three days (an hour each afternoon).
I said, "No, I won't, either. If I miss my bus I'll have to walk three miles on the highway to get home."
He let it go with telling me that I had to stay after school whether I had to walk or not.
I rode the bus home and returned in my car. As the bus took 45 minutes and my drive back 15, I was an hour getting back. Since the detention started 15 minutes after school let out, I missed all but 15 minutes of the detention.
He commented that I was late.
I responded that I didn't care, that I had told him the day before that I wasn't going to walk home.
I didn't show up for the last two days. Nothing came of it.
I'm not sure why he didn't do anything when I refused to take a paddling. Perhaps hitting a student without parent's or the student's permission wasn't allowed?

Unknown said...

Jim Bob, it is not too difficult to reason out that it most likely is because that assistant principal did not personally approve of the otherwise set-in-stone policy that 'both' fighters were to be paddled, regardless that he believed you when you said that you were the 'victim' rather than the 'aggressor'.

Rakovsky said...

You wrote: " I remember just the threat of a paddling kept a lot of kids in line."

It has an effect where kids are more scared to break small rules, but it also has an effect where people become more violent because they are used to seeing serious violence, and not just seeing it, but seeing authority figures presenting it as a positive. It has a hardening effect on a person's spirit. I think that alot of "old" generation teachers were mean because they themselves had been beaten in school.