School Corporal Punishment

May 07, 2019
I recently received a phone call from one of my daughters who is married and raising her family in the USA. My Grandson had hit a fellow student at school resulting in a bloody lip, from the sound of it my Grandson was more than likely the guilty party. He received a three-day suspension, OK fair enough, I guess that is how schools handle things these days. Then we were told the incident was going to court as the parents of the “victim” were pressing charges. Bloody ridiculous I thought, what a waste of valuable resources and I thought back to my school days.

I went to a co-ed (Boys and Girls) private boarding school in the UK. I was a mediocre student at best. I was not really a star on the sports field but as I was built like a prize racing snake I could run, no one could beat me in the track events. I was not really a popular kid in class, I was seen as a weedy runt and always picked on by the older boys. This degenerated into bullying, to the extent that I felt my life was sheer hell. I wasn’t strong enough to fight back and all this was made worse by the girls in class looking down their noses at this little runt. 

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Finally, I snapped! No I did not go on a rampage and shoot up the school! The last straw came in singing classes. I can’t sing to save my life, I hated the lady who tried to teach us and I am sure the feeling was mutual. The main bully, Martin sat behind me. We had two rows of benches in the Music Salon, girls on the left and boys on the right. I had been set up as the only place left for me was on the second to last bench from the back - I was normally elbowed into the front row but not today. Martin sat behind me, he took a steel tape measure out of his pocket, removed a sewing pin from the label on his blaser, caught it under the clip on the tape and he could feed out the tape and prick me in the butt. The singing started, I got jabbed again and again, all the boys sitting near me thought it was very funny. Finally I just lost it.

I jumped up over my bench stood in front of Martin and hammered into him left right, left right I never gave him a chance to do anything. He sat cowered, his arms over his head as I weighed in. I have no idea where my strength was coming from but I knew I was hurting him. Left right, left right, nonstop, my left fist hitting the right side of his head, my right fist hitting his left side.

I remember I never swore or said a word, all my focus was on hurting this bully, tears of rage flowed down my cheeks, my fists were turning numb but I just kept going and going. I was dimly aware that the boys had all stopped singing, the girls opposite us slowly stopped, apart from Heather and Anne, the two “goody two shoes” of the class sitting in the front row and eventually they finally stopped too. The whole class was silent. Now as I was still pummelling away, I became aware of the grand piano tinkling on in the background, I carried on with renewed vigour, something was going to stop soon. Miss Moore, the old music teacher stood up, shaking with rage she pointed her arm to the door and yelled at David (The class prefect) TAKE HIM OUT! TAKE THAT ANIMAL OUT OF HERE. TAKE HIM TO MR BENNETT. You could have heard a pin drop in that room, now my life was about to change in ways I never understood at the time.

I stopped hitting Martin and David took hold of my arm, and with a huge grin on his face he said come on, let’s go. Mr Bennet was the senior House Master, he taught history and sports, was also the Cadet Officer and was responsible for maintaining discipline  with the boys. Mr Bennet carried a cane with him almost every day, it varied from day to day, and it ranged from a leather covered army swagger stick, thin hazel walking stick, heavy blackthorn walking stick to an evil split piece of bamboo. (This last stick was found in the wood work shop a year later when we all took turns sawing a piece off until it was destroyed.) David stopped in the hall, we consulted the school time table to find where Mr Bennet was teaching and off we headed. David delighted in telling me how much trouble I was really in, I would probably get expelled for sure, I wondered how I would ever tell my parents. My Mum would go crazy, I could always run away but Dad had my Passport hidden. Mr Bennett was teaching history to the senior girls class, Oh the embarrassment.

David knocked on the door to the classroom Mr Bennett was teaching in. “Come in, what the hell do you two want? Can’t you see you are disturbing my class? David explained that I had attacked the school bully in the middle of singing class. The class broke into hysterical laughter, it was chaos. QUIET! Mr Bennett roared, did I detect a faint smile? No not possible. Mr Bennett turned to me  “Is this true?” What did I have to lose now?! I told my story from start to finish. Mr Bennett instructed David to fetch Martin and his cane that was on the hall table.

After hearing Martin’s side to the story Mr Bennett announced that I would get the cane for fighting in class, six on each hand. Martin you will also get six on each hand and six on your bum for starting it. I was delighted - a score of 12 to 18 was good I thought. I was motioned to step forward and stretch out my arm, I held my hand out knuckles up, Mr Bennett raised the cane straight up, the class gasped as he brought the cane down stopping inches from my hand. I never flinched. He gently tapped my hand with the cane “Turn your hand over”. (Up to this point I had only received the “Ruler” in class, administered for minor infractions and always across the knuckles from a 12 inch wooden ruler.) I turned my hand over, rock solid and never flinched at all.

The caning started, my hand felt like it was on fire, simply too numb to feel any pain! My eyes gazed out of the bay windows at the rooks that were wheeling over their nest, these were in the tall elm trees across the river at the bottom of the gardens. The small panes of glass were very old, and some were distorted so as the rooks passed across them their wings changed, their single wing changed into a “biplane” wing, sometimes they had one head sometimes two. Those images are burnt into my memory for ever.

Mr Bennett telling me to change hands brought me back to realty and the process started again, I followed the rooks with my eyes. The caning complete I stepped back; I was really going to enjoy watching Martin getting his. I was pleased to see he flinched at every stroke and the class started to snicker.
 
Suddenly a voice called “What are you waiting for Hipwell? Want some more? Get out” I turned to the door, I reached for the small round brass door knob, to my horror I found I had no grip with either hand, even with both hands I couldn’t turn the knob, now what to do?
 
Sitting next to the door was Deborah, she was a gorgeous blue-eyed buxom blonde. Deborah got up and as she stepped forward to open the door for me, she discreetly wiped a tear off each of her cheeks and then flashed me the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. I was elated, girls like Deborah never even spoke to me, I knew life was going to change. 

Looking back now at that eventful day in school I see it just as part of growing up, certainly in that day my treatment was normal. The bullying and teacher favorites etc. were unfortunate but I think it better prepared kids for the real world. I believe the system I was raised in was easier than the system kids are in today. Today a parent threatens legal action if their child was hit at school, in my day I took my “licks” and never even told my parents.

Keep your powder dry.

Mr Wolverine

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