The strap in my school was an accepted teaching aid. When you got strapped by a teacher, we called this ‘the cuts‘ as I guess that was an element of how it felt. It is a sharp stinging pain. I never heard of anyone actually being cut or blood or other damage other than to the ego and a little pain.
All Teachers Had A Strap
In grade five my teacher was Charlie and he was a regular user of the strap. He was renowned for it. We called teachers like this ‘strap happy’ as they tended to use it a lot.
The female teacher next door would send her students into our grade when they were naughty. Charlie would line them up then crack his strap over their palms one at a time. Think about that; she would send her students into another grade for corporal punishment, to get the cuts from our teacher. And that was normal.
For the reluctant visitors to our grade it would have been a difficult and trying experience I am sure. When you were in school, you never knew what another teacher was like and standing at the front of a different grade and having to put your hand out for the strap would have been horrid. Charlie also had a reputation as being a hard strapper so that would not have helped one little bit. Yet it happened.
Anyway, Charlie got sick of this and one day sent his strap back to the teacher so she could keep it and use it. For some reason, being a woman or being new to teaching, she didn’t have a strap till then. I don’t remember Charlie ever being without a strap so be must have replaced it quickly or had a spare.
Back to the story – Our Grade Six Teacher
In grade 6 we had a new teacher to the school, a Mr P who had moved from another school. Unlike all the other male and probably all the female teachers, he didn’t have a strap.
I remember him as being an OK kind of teacher. Not overly strict, not slack, not a ‘screamer’ or inclined to anything. He was a fairly typical teacher. My previous year teacher ‘Charlie’ was very strict and was dead keen with his strap which I got twice from him.
One thing Mr P did was to seat all the boys with girls. In those days we sat at 2-person desks with wooden lift up lids, a flat board to sit on and a flat board behind to lean against. There was no padding or softness to it. By today’s standards they were pretty Spartan.
I was seated next to Erin G, the daughter of the bar owner across the road. Mr P would have his lunch there on Friday which amused us.
As mentioned, the strap was in common use in my era and the technique was always the same. A good hard crack across the palm. Usually the miscreant was called out the front of the class and one stroke was given. I remember it as hurting but not all that much. The embarrassment of every other eye on the class watching was worse. I’ve never liked being the focus of attention.
In his first few weeks, as I remember, he said he’d lost his strap and that it had a name, ‘Curem Quick‘ which made us nervous.
‘Cure Them Quickly’ was the obvious implication as a dose of his strap would turn unruly children into little angels.
He said he called it ‘Mr Quick’ usually. I remember he said Mr Quick the teaching aid had once been mentioned in a school pamphlet as producing excellent results. The corporal punishment humour of the period was a little odd I suppose but it shows the acceptance of it.
Since he didn’t have a strap, we were quite pleased with that. The point of this anecdote is that one of the other kids in the grade told his mother that Mr P didn’t have a strap.
No Strap? Mrs T to the Rescue
One day Mr P made an announcement, he had a new strap and it had been given to him by Mrs T, mother of one of the boys in the grade. This was not particularly good news and I remember we were very quiet at that news.
With that he flourished it. I remember it as being a light tan in color and about a foot and a half long, maybe an inch and a half wide. I don’t remember if it was made from a belt or a piece of saddle leather. I never got up close and personal with it.
Common folk lore among us kids was that the teachers ‘starched’ their straps to make them stiffer and hurt more. Thinking about it, it was ridiculous. It was likely the stiffer straps were just dry and needed oil or were cut from stiff saddlery.
Also, I never heard of or saw a split strap, also known as a tawse. These were unheard of with us. I was later to learn that split straps have a very much increased sting to them. But that’s another story.
Anyway, Mr P’s strap was not stiff. I remember it as being much like normal belt leather and perhaps it was. Then to show his prowess he offered a stroke of his strap to the palm of anyone who wanted to try it. A taster I suppose.
In my day all the desks were lined up in rows from the front of the room to the back. I think there were 3 rows(?) of about 5 desks(?) making 30 students. More? Probably, as class sizes were quite large in those days.
“Who Wants To Try It,” which is not exactly what he said but you get the idea.
Trying Out The New Strap
Anyway, Mr P walked up each row and looked at each student. Some put their hands out and got the strap. Others didn’t.
I remember quite a few girls did, maybe because they didn’t normally get the cuts (as we called it) usually. Karen D the local doctors daughter did as did Erin G who sat next to me.
To my unending shame I did not put my hand out. I just couldn’t.
I remember Mr P looked at me. I remember him offering to give me a stroke of the strap and I think I remember his surprise that Erin who sat next to me got the cuts and I didn’t. I wimped it.
Why didn’t I? I remember the cuts didn’t hurt all that much. I think now, after all these years, it was the secret feeling that it meant something more to me than a simple slap on the hand with a leather strap. It wasn’t something I could pass off and forget. It wasn’t that I thought was damaging or abusive or evil (pick any and all similar options). Getting the strap was special to me.
Anyway, this was the first workout of the new strap. I never did get the cuts off Mr P and only one other boy did. I remember him crying. We didn’t see the event, just saw him crying and looking upset later. Mr P must have given it to him hard. Thinking back, it was pretty awful, barbaric in fact.
All of this raised questions. Firstly that Mrs T had a strap, so a mother strapped her son at home? I remember being surprised at that. Then the next question, what did she replace it with, something worse or bigger? I don’t remember the woman but her son was a live wire. I remember him as short and often in trouble.
So, getting the cuts in school was normal. In those days the parents would have received the same and it wasn’t commented on. “Oh, so you got the strap at school dear, that will teach you,” was the attitude.
I remember staying at a friends house one night. His mother and sister were talking and he mentioned he’d got the cuts at school. Both his mother and sister had been amused by it. His ability to talk about something like that defeated me. I just couldn’t talk about it.