Most people of my generation were brought up in the old fashioned way, bad behaviour earned corporal punishment, usually in the form of a smack on the behind.
Not for my grandma was the theory of talking to the child and explaining how my misdeed had caused her to be disappointed in my behaviour, etc..etc..etc. For grandma the reaction was quick and fairly painless, a swat to the behind was soon over and done with and life went back to normal. However, if she happened to be doing any cleaning when the misdeed occurred, it would earn me a wet dishcloth round the back of my knees as I ran past.
The wet dishcloth was something to be feared as it stung and left a red welt across the back of my legs for ages. This was quite often administered after grandma had heard about my crime from a neighbour. Her reaction to bad news would be to clean and Heaven help me if I came home during one of her cleaning moods. How well I remember grandma standing at the back door, with me out in the yard, pleading for my life. Grandma would wave her dishcloth and say in a very calm voice, get inside! My reply was always, promise not to hit me. This little performance did nothing for gran’s temper and when I finally got the courage to run past her she would land her wet rag behind my knees as I bolted for safety.
The punishment was administered, the pain was short lived and life would go on. What I truly hated was to be sent to bed early to “think about my actions”. I hated that. I remember lying there, sobbing and imagining how sorry she would be when I died of my misery. Yes I was a bit of a drama queen, but the thought of grandma weeping over my sorry corps brought it’s own special pleasure.
In those days, all children were used to getting a smack, a neighbour was just as likely to give you one if she saw you doing something out of order or heard you swearing. I would never have dared tell grandma that someone had hit me or she would have interrogated me until she found out what I had done to cause offence, and then administer her own smack for me annoying a neighbour.
School teachers were always handy with punishment. We had an English teacher who would make the boys bend over his desk while he paddled their backsides with an old gym shoe, which he kept for just that purpose. Being an old fashioned kind of gentleman, he never hit the girls, he just made us stand in the corner with our back to the class. I would much rather have had the shoe treatment than this. Shifting from foot to foot while the lesson went on was both embarrassing and boring, and then I had to catch up on the lesson at home.
Our school had rather strict and sometimes rather archaic rules. We wore hats as part of our uniform, girls an ugly beret and boys a cricket hat. These were similar to baseball caps but very small so they just perched on the head. To be seen without your hat, even when miles away from school was an offence. If you wore the uniform, you wore the hat, All our hats and blazers had the badge of the school stitched on, so you could be identified anywhere. Misbehaviour on the local bus, whilst going to school, was often reported to the school so all the pupils who rode that particular bus would be lined up and interrogated until the sinner was found.
Punishments came in several forms. Detention after school wasn’t too bad as some of the teachers would let you do your homework during this wasted hour. Caning, was quickly applied over the forefingers, it stung but was soon over with. The worst punishment was the dreaded “lines”. What a totally soul destroying, waste of time this was. We had to write out trite saying like: Bad behaviour in public brings disgrace to myself and my school. Writing this same sentence out for a hundred times, or more, if the teacher felt sadistic, really did nothing to teach pupils to behave. Quite often two or three of your friends would help out and do a page each.
One of our teachers didn’t give lines but would ask for a three page essay. This was something I didn’t mind as I always enjoyed writing, in fact, the teacher once gave me the essay back and told me to enter it into a school competition. I won the prize of ten shillings, which was almost a fortune to an eleven year old, but the teacher made me put it in the “save the children” box. That really hurt.
Corporal punishment, applied sparingly, did not seem to damage our ego, put us on the path of crime or psychologically damage us in any way, so was it really so bad? No child should be beaten or hurt, but a quick smack applied to a four year old bottom is much more effective than a lecture. Try talking to a preschooler and within seconds the eyes start to wander and the child hears nothing. I admit to using the hand to bottom formula in my child raising and my girls all seem to have come through life unscathed.