The 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s were known prevalent years for spanking; when it was growing as a means of discipline and reaching its height at the heart of parental toolboxes. People say so much was accomplished and changed in those decades, that they were the Milestone Years, but so much was also not done.
While acknowledging that many good things did arise from the progress of those times, the amount of spanking that occurred during those decades is one of the reasons I do not like them. And, in that dislike, I often forget that there were stories within the millions. I forget that there were people who stood against the common parenting practices of the day and did not give “little Billy the spanking he deserved”.
Perhaps, being a minority, they are not thought of.
I think of them now, and appreciate the kindness and compassion of the mothers and fathers who, despite the influence of the time, continued to discipline themselves and their households without violence. They were gentle.
The essence of this new perspective for me was birthed, as it often is, by a story. Because it touched me, I should like to share with you the original words of its speaker, Richard Cattermoul. With his permission, I give you his story.
When asked if, as a child, he was spanked more by his father or his mother, he answered,
“Having just read the other 3 answers, I am thinking what a sad reflection on humanity that they write as if it is perfectly ok for one or other of the parents to physically abuse them. I bet they all believed in God as well.
My dad was a warm and affection parent who used to massage my hands and back when I was a kid. I started judo at the age of 13 and a year later at the age of 38, my dad also joined, and which impressed me. During the sessions, he was just another guy.
He introduced me to classical music when I was 4 years old, and he vehemently rejected all religious belief. He served with the RAF during the war and he pointed out the constellations in the sky and made me aware of the awe and mystery that is the universe. He believed wholeheartedly in education.
When I was a kid, my mother worked behind the bar at a dog stadium. One evening the local judo club put on a demonstration and it was she who suggested I might go along. I never looked back.
She was not one for expressing her own personal opinions, but throughout my life, she always surprised me when every now and again, she’d say something that really got me thinking about the direction my life was heading in.
Neither of them ever told me how to run my life and as far as I can recall, I never did anything that upset them, apart from the time I left my umbrella on the bus, and my father was quite put out about that. He had after all paid for it, but from that day onwards I always took care of my things.
As well as amateur photography, he was also a bit of a carpenter. He built our kitchen table which was more a bench than a table, and a little wooden stool. He’d be sitting in his armchair watching TV, and I’d sit on the stool to his side, and stick my hand out so he could massage it. Another time, I remember sitting on his lap while he massaged my back.
When I was about 9, I bought a Bayko building set which consisted of red and white plastic bricks, green doors and windows, red roofs, and which you slid between metal rods that were inserted in a green base, and from which you could build houses, and so I wouldn’t lose any pieces, he built a rigid container for storing them all in little compartments.
He also built bed warmers for all of us – it got mighty cold in those days, metal contraptions that held a light bulb.
Actually, I am beginning to realise just how inventive he was.
But more than that, he introduced me to classical music at the age of 4 I guess, and this is what set him apart from everyone else. He owned a little record player and played all the classics, and I remember the snap, crackle and pop of the old vinyl records, but the sound of the music came through loud and clear.
But being as I was a typical boy, I had very mixed feelings about this, and I remember when I was a lot older saying to him ‘Ok dad, I am now going into the kitchen and listen to some real music, by which I meant Alan Freedman’s Pick of the Pops.
At the age of 13, I decided to turn my life around by focusing on study, judo and classical music, and when I was 15, I discovered that some of my friends also liked classical music, and we attended a Prom at the Royal Albert Hall where we watched Moira Lympany playing Grieg’s piano concerto, the first time I heard a live piano., and from where we were sitting, we could see her hands gliding across the keyboard, simply breathtaking and quite unbelievable.
My dad was also a bit of a musician. He was quite good with the blues on the piano. He could have been a classical pianist with the right training.
He had an eye for detail, so his black white photographs, of which he took thousands, were especially good.
He also loved poetry, and when he tucked me in bed at night, instead of reading fairy tales like normal parents, he’d read poetry like Gray’s Elegy, and the Owl and the pussy cat, and it is this latter poem that I recited when I delivered his eulogy at his funeral.”
As much as I loved this story, so many people do not consider spanking abuse, or leave it absent from their personal narratives, so I asked Richard if he was spanked as a child. He replied,
“I was never spanked or in any way mistreated by my parents, but the deputy headmaster of the junior school I attended whacked the backsides of me and several other pupils (all boys) with a slipper during a lunch hour, but as to why, I have no idea.
Hmm, I am now reminded of a moment in my childhood when my sisters and I were sitting in the back of our dad’s car on the way to the seaside when all of a sudden, out of the blue, and for no apparent reason, he turns round and says ‘for God’s sake, can’t you lot keep the noise down?’
To this day, I have no idea why he said it.
You can see from the photo what a great guy he was. When I was 10, he and I were walking back from the local church after singing Xmas carols. He did not believe in God, and therefore, neither did I, but I liked singing carols, so I dragged him along.
It was a bitterly cold Xmas eve night in 1957, but the sky was crystal clear, and you could see a million twinkling lights. He served with the RAF during the war and he pointed out several of the constellations and gave me my first inkling of the awe and mystery that is the universe. I was quite scared to be honest, but I held his hand tightly which made me feel safe and secure. In that moment, we forged a bond.
And this reminds me when I was much younger, 8 perhaps or before, and we had gone to the shops. Somehow, he managed to let go of my hand, and when I realised he was not in sight, my first impulse was to get scared and cry out, but then I noticed I was standing in front of a shop window full of toys, at which point, I forgot all about him. He soon showed up, but by then, I’d lost my fear. I was free, and never again did I feel the need to be with a parent.”
Spanking was used commonly as means of discipline throughout boarding, public, and private schools. Many grown adults will now claim they deserved the spankings and canings they received. Richard is honest; he did not understand why he was hit by his Headmaster.
I was painted an image of a man who was gentle in a time when many men were not. I was refreshed in my love of humanity. I was given a glimpse into the life of a family.
Deepest thanks to Richard for his willingness to share his story!
Did the aspects of this tale snuggle into your heart? What did you feel? What did you think?
Sharing is a beautiful thing. Richard shared this story with the world, and it snuck into my corner of it and touched me. What do you have to share with the world?
And, if not the world, will you share it with me?