Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spanking, Spanking Everywhere

If you were in grade or middle school in the 60's and 70's, then the chances are good that you probably had a face-to-face encounter with the Board Of Education. I know I did, about a dozen times. And, as I said before, I was a good kid. I knew of kids who were paddled every week for one thing or another. But I wasn't like I was now. I was a very meek child and afraid of discipline. I saw my friend, Julie, go happy-go-lucky to get paddled and come back with a grin on her face. Once, when we were over at her house on a lazy Saturday (getting into her older sister, Kathy's records) doing each other's hair, I asked her point-blank how she could just go get paddled and act like it didn't bother her. She told me "You can't let 'em see they hurt you. If you show 'em even a little fear, they will go worse on you. They're like dogs." She was right. Now that I think back on it, I saw some very sadistic teachers in my time. I saw sadistic discipline measures turn devil-may-care pranksters into seething, angry young men who hated authority. So I determined from that day on that if I was ever paddled at school again (and I was) I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of knowing it hurt. This conversation happened in fifth grade, when we were bussed to a different school. Busing was very popular in those days. The population of Peoria was growing and there simply wasn't enough room for everyone. Besides, for some odd reason, my school didn't have a fifth grade. I hated this new school with a passion. It was a newer building, right next door to the fire station where my uncle was a fireman. If you went past the Library, the smell of tar would gag you. To this day, I can't smell roofing tar without getting a hitch in my stomach. The warden of this prison was named Mr. Slater. The times were changing, but he didn't. He was probably only in his 40's when I had him as principal, but he was as old-fashioned as they came. He addressed us on the first day of school; ostensibly to welcome us new kids, but also to warn us. He made it known what kind of behavior he expected from every student in the school. Students were to address teachers, lunch room ladies and the janitor as "sir" or "ma'am". Failure to do so would earn you a paddling. So would sliding down the banister on the stairs leading to the upperclassman's' playground. Yes, the playgrounds were divided. There was a breezeway between the buildings where kids would meet to smoke and play cards. But you didn't want to get caught doing either. In fact, I was convinced before the end of that assembly that ANYTHING could get you paddled in that school. Of course, I didn't have to wait long before I put his words to the test. About three weeks after school started, we had a bad rainstorm and our bus got bogged down in the mud. A man from the Superintendent Of Schools came in an official-looking car to tell us that another bus was coming to take us to school. I guess the bus that was in the mud was waiting for a tow. The man warned us all to file off the bus in an orderly fashion. When it came my turn to get off, the girl behind me gave me a shove that sent me sprawling down the steps and face first into the mud. My favorite dress (green with little yellow flowers) was soaked through to my undershirt. I also managed to drop my books and most of my homework in the mud. I heard laughter and I felt my neck get hot. My sister, Carol, came and helped me up. The girl who had pushed me just laughed "Have a nice trip. See you next fall". I wanted to kill her. I was only ten years old but I wanted to kill her. The man from the Superintendent's office asked me if I was alright. Of course I wasn't alright. I was soaking wet and my homework was ruined. He volunteered to take me home to change, but I didn't want to. It would dry once I got to school. But, while I outwardly seemed to take this in stride, inwardly, I was plotting my revenge. That morning at recess, my teacher (a very nice lady with a newborn at home) kept me inside. She knew I would probably go gunning for the girl who had pushed me. Schools did not have a Zero Tolerance Policy when it came to bullying in those days. They expected kids to fight their own battles. Just make sure you do it off school property. My teacher and I spent quite a bit of time in the restroom using the shaved soap to get the mud off my dress. A teacher couldn't do that nowadays. She would not be allowed to touch me or my clothes. But times were different then. Luckily, the mud washed out of my favorite dress. I was still plotting my revenge when we had a chance meeting on the playground a few days later. A couple of her friends were with her, still laughing about my "trip" and making oinking sounds (because pigs belong in the mud). I was only human and could only take so much. I jumped on her and started to swing my fist at her face. Of course, a circle formed around us with kids yelling "Fight! Fight!" She was getting he worst of it when I felt a strong hand pull me away from her. It was Mr. Miller, a sixth grade teacher who was doing playground duty that day. He was blond and somewhat handsome. And his paddle had holes drilled in it. "Is that any way for a young lady to act?" he asked me. "She pushed me off he bus Monday," I told him. "I don't care what she did," he said. "You know the rule about fighting." Yes, I knew the rule about fighting. I knew all the rules because they were all written down for us. I also knew the unwritten ones. Taking me by the back of my jacket, he hauled me away. I knew where we were going. He was taking me to see Mr. Slater. Unlike most principals in those days, Mr. Slater didn't leave the physical discipline to an assistant. He preferred to meet it out himself. He had an ash paddle that was stained red mahogany, which he called the Red Snapper. I was about to meet the Red Snapper up close and personal. I hadn't had my growth spurt yet, so I was still small and terribly skinny. I'm sure I was nothing to pull around in those days, at least for a grown man. When we got to the office, Mr. Slater's secretary, Mrs. Hawk was there. Her name fit her in every way. Mr. Miller explained that I had been caught fighting on the playground and we needed to see Mr. Slater as soon as possible. He was in his office, she said, eating his lunch. But she went in and I could hear a muffled conversation through the door. In a moment, I was ushered in by Mrs. Hawk. When I got inside, I saw Mr. Slater. He had a sandwich and a Thermos of coffee in front of him. The Red Snapper was already on his desk. It looked as big as me. He had me sit down and tell him what had happened. I spilled out the story about how this girl had pushed me in the mud on purpose and was still laughing over it. Mr. Slater wanted to know why I hadn't told him about this when it happened. The way he had heard it, it was an accident. I told him I didn't tell him because I didn't really want the girl to get in trouble. "I don't abide fighting," he said. "No matter what the reason." I looked at my feet glumly and muttered "Yes, sir." Then he announced that he was paddling me. Not because he wanted to, he assured me. But because the rules called for it. "Bend over," he told me. I knew he meant over his desk. I can still smell the coffee from his Thermos as I bent over. I see looking back that the three swats I got that day were delivered with a lightened hand. He could have gone much, much harder on me. Four months later, he would. By February, we were all aching for Easter break. The routine of school had gone on since Christmas with no let up. We were all getting a little restless. Toward the end of the month, we had an unseasonably warm day. If I remember correctly, it was probably in the high 60's. Mischief was definitely in the air that day. Call it Spring Fever for lack of a better word. But something got into me that day that I still have a hard time believing. At morning recess, me and Carol and Julie and our friend, Sally (whose mom dated my uncle, the fireman) decided we had to do something to break up the monotony. Julie suggested pulling the fire alarm. It would be a great way of getting outside and getting some fresh air. I was against it. The penalty would be too severe if we were caught and, because my uncle was a fireman and worked right next door, the odds of pulling this off without getting caught were slim. Sally volunteered to pull the alarm, something that raised her esteem in my eyes. Julie wanted to because if it came time to divide and conquer, she knew she could take the punishment Mr. Slater would surely dish out. But Sally insisted. No one would suspect her. Julie, meanwhile, would be one of the first kids suspected. She had a good point. So it was agreed that Sally would pull the fire alarm. She had Mr. Melvin (a fact I didn't envy her for) and wasn't in my class. Later that day, we were sitting having a reading lesson when the alarm went off. My teacher kept everyone calm as she knew this wasn't a drill. We all walked single file down the hallway and to our assigned area. I saw Sally standing there innocently with her class. Mr. Melvin was an older, Southern man who Brylcremed his hair and carried a fearsome paddle called Billy Boy. Everyone, even the bravest kid in the school, was afraid of him. Within minutes, I could hear the fire engines roaring down the road to the school. I saw my uncle as soon as the truck came to a stop. It didn't take them long to figure out that this was a false alarm. Mr. Slater vowed to get to the bottom of this. The next day, my uncle came to the school in his official uniform and lectured the entire school on pulling the fire alarm when there wasn't a fire. My uncle had lost his daughter in a fire five years earlier (his reason for choosing that profession) and he took fire safety very seriously. He didn't suspect his nieces had anything to do with it. Mr. Slater wanted a list of all the students who had been out of their classes when the alarm went off. It didn't matter for what reason or how long they were gone. It took a few days, but Mr. Slater finally received a list from the different teachers. The names of 14 students were on it. Some of the students were honor students. Some were playing hooky. All were rounded up and brought in to be questioned on what they were doing out of class and if they happened to see anyone hanging around any of the four alarms the school had. When it came Sally's turn, she cracked under pressure. She gave Mr. Slater the name of every kid who had been in on it. Carol, Julie and I were pulled from our rooms and brought in. I knew the jig was up. "We're gonna get it," Carol said flatly. We all put our best innocent looks on our faces, but Mr. Slater waved his hand and said "Don't bother. Your cohort has given you up." I didn't know what a cohort was but if he was talking about Sally, then she was a dirty squealer. She no longer deserved our loyalty. We threw her under the proverbial bus. "It was all her idea," Julie said. "Yeah, we wanted t' do something, but not that!" "You volunteered t' do it!" Sally shot back. Mr. Slater put his fingers in his mouth a whistled, one of those long, piercing whistles you hear at sporting events or when someone is called a dog. The Red Snapper got exercised on the bottoms of four ten-year-olds that day. To the day he died, my uncle never knew that we were involved in that famous false alarm.

Needless to say, we never tried a thing like that again. I had a couple of surface bruises from that paddling. They didn't need permission from your parents in those days so my parents never knew we were involved either. The school didn't see fit to send a letter home telling our parents what dangerous waters we were treading. Of course, we made up with Sally. We couldn't stay mad at her for long. We all skated together on Saturday nights and our parents played bridge together and sometimes went to the movies. Julie's older sister, Kathy, was often put in charge of us at these times. One of those Saturday skating nights provided me with enough spanking fantasy memories to last a very long time. The roller rink where we skated was called Fernwood (long before "Fernwood Tonight" was on TV) and the man who owned it, Mr. Arnold, had a daughter, Robyn, who was my age. To put it mildly, Robyn was a brat. She wasn't someone I would call a friend, but we talked on the phone about boys. She went to a different school. She had an annoying habit of listening in on her older brother's phone conversations. Anyway, Mr. Arnold employed several young men whose job was to get people who were either creating a disturbance on the floor or skating too fast off the floor. They were recognizable by the whistles they wore around their necks. If they blew the whistle and pointed at you, you were to leave the floor immediately. One of those boys was a teenager named Malcolm who we all had a crush on. He worked after school at the gas station a few blocks from my house (where I later would buy cigarettes). I guess he was about 16 or 17. No older because he was still in high school. He had brown hair, which he wore much too long and had the beginnings of a scraggly beard. He was stocky and self-conscious about how tall he was (well over six feet and still growing). Robyn was his nemesis. Week after week, she would do bratty things just to get him to blow his whistle on her. Since her father owned the establishment, there wasn't much he could do if she decided to ignore him. One Saturday, it all came to a head. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had gone to the snack bar to get an ice cream bar when I heard a commotion. Malcolm (or Mal as we called him) was blowing his whistle furiously. There was Robyn and a boy laying out on the floor and people trying to skate around them. They had apparently run into each other and Mal had decided she was at fault. But she wouldn't leave the floor. She skated off while Mal tended to the boy she had run into. Once he made sure the kid was OK, he went after Robyn. He was a first class skater and caught her easily. He took her by the arm and led her, protesting all the way that it was an accident, to where there were some rows of benches where people sat to change into their skates or to take a breather. He led her to a bench and picked her up, skates and all. He put her over his knee and spanked her until she was hoarse from screaming. No one stopped him. Needless to say, my crush on Mal blew into full-blown puppy love after that. For the next week until we went skating again, it was all we talked about. I can still picture her skates (with the pink and white tassels on the ties) going over her head as he picked her up and dropped her over his knees. I said "uh oh" and Carol nodded. He spanked her like no one else ever had or probably ever did again. Before that night, she'd had the run of the place. A few weeks later, I lost a ball bearing out of one of my skates and hit the floor hard, skinning my knee. Mal came over and helped me tenderly off the floor as I bawled. He sat with me while the girl from the snack bar put tincture of Merthiolate and a bandage on the skinned knee. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to have to endure having that evil red medicine applied to an open wound knows how bad it stings. I cried and cried and Mal sat next to me, patting my shoulder. He helped me out of my skates and took the skate that had thrown the ball bearing to be fixed. When he suggested that I not skate the rest of the night, I protested, but remembered the position Robyn had been in a few weeks earlier. She now acted as if she didn't know him and ignored him whenever possible.

This just serves as another example of how spanking was everywhere in those days, even at the skating rink. My older brother had a friend, Brandon, who was a couple of years older than he was, who was always bringing over comic books. These comic books almost always had spanking in them. I was so fascinated that I always opened them up and looked at the spanking images. He also liked to leave a pile of plastic dog poop lying around where it was likely to be seen. One day my grandmother was over and he put it on top of our Quazar TV, where she noticed it while she and my mother were watching "Lawrence Welk". I'm sure Brandon was a spanko. When he was in eighth grade, he was dating a girl named Lori, the prettiest girl in the class. On her birthday, he grabbed her on the playground and administered a birthday spanking to her while all the kids stood in a circle around them. He turned her over his knee and counted out 14 spanks then kissed her. When I was about 12, Brandon spanked me on my birthday. However, he wasn't fast enough to get Carol. She ran and locked herself in our room. He approached me and told me had something for me. I thought he meant a present. I was dressed up in a dress because it was a combination Christmas/birthday party. There was eggnog and champagne and all kinds of food. How Brandon got invited when he wasn't even my friend is beyond me. Anyway, I had on a long dress (in which I felt very grown up) and I remember when he grabbed me to spank me, he told me the dress was coming up. I was laughing, not so much because I enjoyed being spanked, but because I thought he wouldn't do it. But he was enough of a prankster that I should have known there was nothing he wouldn't do if he said he was going to. All of the adults were in the kitchen and they were laughing loudly enough that my cries weren't going to be heard. He pulled me to the couch and planted me over his knee. Even though I was young and certainly naive, I had the feeling this was something he had wanted to do for a long time. He reached for the hem of my maxi dress (the one I felt so grown up in) and pulled it up, exposing my panties. This was what I objected to more than the spanking, the indignity of having my panties exposed. He spanked me twelve times (really hard) and then gave me a hard pinch and then stood me up. I slapped his face and told him I would tell my father what he did. He threatened to spank me again and not gently as he had just done. I knew he meant it. Like I said, that guy HAS to be a spanko. I would love to meet up with him now.

Anyway, I'm sure the Blog Police will have something to say to me for this entry. Or maybe they have suddenly gotten a life and have better things to do.

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