School Secretary

All schools have a school secretary, usually female, and sometimes rather attractive. At my school which happened to be a large comprehensive in London , the secretaries office was adjacent to the headmasters. Now I attended the school in the late sixties, when caning and slippering was the norm. For a senior boy as myself this was rather embarrassing if sent to the headmaster for discipline. Firstly having to report to a young lady only a few years older than me, who would then press an intercom to inform the headmaster of my presence. When inside she could quite clearly hear the swish thwack of a cane arriving at speed across a trousered bottom, and of course the accompanying yelp.
On leaving his office red faced and desperately trying to avoid any eye contact, I would hurry past her, as she sat comfortably on her chair, with her nice round bottom that didn’t have six burning stripes across it.
Did anyone else have similar experiences?

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I am unable to assist from personal experience.  As far as I am aware my Primary School did not have a secretary.  Someone must presumably have done the secretarial work though.  Possibly it was the Headmaster’s wife.  The front door of his house was about 10 yards across the Junior School playground from the door of his office so she could easily have slipped over in the evening to do so.

At Secondary School the Headmaster was indeed guarded in his office by the school secretary, a very efficient and attractive lady.  When he wasn’t out teaching Mathematics to an A-level set or patrolling the corridors terrifying pupils and staff alike that is.

Happily, although I visited the Headmaster several times, only one visit was unwelcome to me and could conceivably have involved the cane.  Fortunately, it didn’t, so although I was somewhat chastened and more than a little sorry for myself on exit from his office there was no question of having to make light of the physical after-effects of six of the best.   The secretary did smile sympathetically though.

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The school secretary’s office was adjacent to the headmaster’s. Fortunately, the door to his office was directly from the corridor. Nevertheless, the secretary, a lady in her 30s, would see boys waiting knowing full well that the reason they were there was to have their backsides beaten with a cane. She would hear the strokes land and as her door was open would see boys leave the head’s study clutching their bottoms. Sometimes you would get a sympathetic smile but it didn’t alleviate the unbearable sting.

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Many school secretaries in past must have been very aware that the headmaster or headmistress used the cane. At some schools, the secretary kept a school cane and punishment book in her office. The cane was used by various teachers. Often the boy who was going to be punished was sent to collect the cane himself and sometimes return it afterward. At my grammar school, 1958 – 1966, most teachers who were permitted to use CP had a cane or plimsoll in their classroom. Sometimes a teacher might borrow one from another teacher in a nearby classroom. New or younger teachers occasionally might be sent miscreants to another teacher to be punished. It was only for serious reasons that a boy might be sent to the headmaster or if they had broken a school rule like missing a detention or worse. I’m sure that the two secretaries in my school sometimes heard the cane being used although there was a  small cloakroom between their office and that of the headmaster. One of the secretaries had a son in the school. I did wonder if he’d ever been sent to the headmaster for a caning.

I did wonder back then if those spanked at home accepted school punishments differently to those who never felt spankings at home. Of course, all the youngsters in the same school risked getting the same punishment. Whereas family discipline varied greatly from absolutely nothing to a proper bare bottom slippering or even, in a few cases, the cane.

I remember one lad bending over the desk at the front of the classroom for two firm strokes of the cane. He walked to the front without any protest or apparent fear and bent into place. Our form master swished his cane down firmly but the lad never even flinched. This was in the first form at grammar school when most had yet to experience the cane. The lad then stood up and went back to his desk as if nothing had happened. I remember thinking that he must have been used to getting his bottom whacked hard at home. I’d not felt the cane then myself and had only been over my mum’s knee at home a few times for a slapped bottom.

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The school secretary’s office was next to the head’s study at my school and there was a connecting door. The connecting door was often open and it was when I was caned so she must have heard everything. I have a feeling that she kept the punishment register so she must have been aware of all the whackings.

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I note the case of the boy who, when you were still in the first form at Grammar School, acquitted himself very well when caned.  It was perhaps natural to assume that he had had prior experience of severe SCP at home.  But I wonder, did you know of his past school experience?  As a Grammar School would normally draw pupils from a variety of primary schools it is possible that you didn’t.

I am certainly reminded of a circumstance I’ve related here previously.  In my first year at secondary school our Form Master, a very large and powerful young man built like the oft-cited Victorian brick outhouse, wielded a size 12 leather-soled sandal as a punitive implement.  Although we were all age 12 or over, due to having had to wait an extra year at junior school to take the 11+ exam or other complicating factors, that sandal brought at least a tear to the eyes, and frequently elicited more overt signs of distress, from all who fell victim to it.

From all that is except one boy.  He betrayed absolutely no signs of distress at all despite the Master’s best efforts with the sandal.  Naturally, he was pressed as to the secret of his success by those less able to cope.  His response was to the effect that if you’d been used to six of the best on the bare with the cane fairly frequently the sandal didn’t hurt much at all.  He’d been a boarder at a small local prep school notorious for ferocious flagellation while his parents were working abroad (this was 1954 and such places were by no means uncommon).

You mention that in the 1950s there was a great deal of domestic CP of children, and indeed there was.  I was fortunate, but then I was a very well-behaved lad. My younger sibling however wasn’t, either at school or at home.  At one stage, more I think for effect than with any intention of using it, my Mother purchased a cane, which for a period hung unused on the back of the kitchen door.

I can’t recall what happened to the cane but I can guess.  We lived in an area where deep pits caused by mining subsidence were common and I’ll bet a younger sibling consigned it to the bottom of one of them.  I can though recall where it came from.  A shop on the way to junior school which sold pushchairs, prams, and other appurtenances of child-raising, including canes.

Many years later the shop was still there, looking pretty much as it had done in the 1950s (this was definitely NOT an up-market shopping area), and passing by one day I popped in and asked if they still sold canes.  I can’t recall the precise date but it would have been the early 1970s.  They didn’t and seemed quite surprised that anyone was asking.

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Student handbooks are quite specific regarding professional employees acting as witnesses. Principals are likely to be male on the high school level and secretaries females. Who knows how quickly this will change in time?

A paddling occurring in an office where a professional secretary would be commonplace as in this reenactment of female pupils from an adult shoot from Denver.

Smoking would merit the ultimate sanction. Five would be the maximum in public schools and ten have been known to have been given in Christian schools. This gives new meaning to turning the other cheek.

Ten at once would be considered by most as excessive. Maybe the young lady should be given the broken paddled and spared the last swat as the ultimate gesture of maximality.

“The entire process takes place with a female secretary present; to assure that school policy was followed during their paddling. The swats the girls receive are hard enough to indeed teach a lesson, but are not administered at a level in which someone could claim abuse.”

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Where I grew up the cane in junior school was fairly rare and usually only confined to a stroke or two across the palm. True some junior schools did slipper or ruler across boys’ bottoms, usually a single whack. The girls escaped most CP there but the few worst offenders could be sent to the senior mistress who slapped the backs of their thighs. Although I’m not certain but believe that most junior schools where I grew up used Similiar punitive measures.

I do remember in the same year at grammar school we were required to rule up some large sheets of paper and were told that we should have a one-foot ruler for the task. The next day one lad came to school with an 18-inch ruler with a narrow brass strip set in one edge. A quality ruler designed proper ruling rather than measuring! Our form master commented on it asking if it belonged to the boy’s father. The boy said it did. Then our teacher said it would be useful for another purpose! I seem to remember the boy looking a bit embarrassed almost confirming that it may have been used for that purpose in his home.

As A_L says “in the 1950s there was a great deal of domestic CP of children”, this was undoubtedly true. As I said previously it varied immensely from nothing to even, for a few, the cane. That said I never knew of any who were whacked to the level of child cruelty but quite how one defines that level I don’t know. One of my friends, an only child, had the strap at home. He didn’t seem too scared of it though saying that both of his parents used it. Two brothers, also friends, admitted to being caned at home by their father, a pillar of the local Methodist church. From what the younger brother said it was used on their hands or bottoms which seemed unusual to me. I personally never let on that I was occasionally spanked over my mother’s knee!

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With so few mentions of actual actively witnessing every swat in the Dr Patten cache, so theoretically an  open door and with a push of the foot she could be there without even getting out of the chair.

The out of sight and ear isn’t written in every student handbook.  You can see why three swats is often described as the worse experience in their 18-year-old life.

He once had a lot more hair and paddled the secretary while she was playing the part of an an eighteen year old girl when she needed sample of southern school Justice.  That paddle wasn’t too sturdy to avoid injuries but wasn’t pink like another principal whose name is corroborated in the cache but not in the actual account as A_L has astutely noted.

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Our school secretary was in her late 50s, very stern with a sour face and she would be the first contact if you were sent to see the Headmaster or his Deputy.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she enjoyed listening to the cane landing on a boys bottom.

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I tried to avoid any eye contact with any one at the office, secretary, i always hoped that in my mind anyways that it was a secret between me and the vice principal.  If i knew they could hear anything from the conversation/lecture or any scp i would have been so embarrassed.


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I suppose that most boys school secretaries in the 1950s/60s and before that were aware that SCP was used by many headmasters. Even before they worked in schools they must have been aware of its use. Same, I suppose goes for many mixed schools and some girls schools. In the 1950s corporal punishment at home was fairly commonplace so SCP was merely an extension  of that. However spankings at home for most youngsters tended to be in the pre teen years whereas SCP could continue into mid teens.

School secretaries would just have to accepted that SCP was a consequence that youngsters in that school risked if they really misbehaved. The secretary in my grammar school back then had a son who was at the same school when she worked there. I did wonder if he was ever caned by the headmaster with his mother in her office nearby. Another thing that intrigued me back then was if school teachers used the same sort of punishment at home on their own sons (and daughters!).

I write of British schools. I had very little knowledge of the American education system back then other than the occasional mention of it in films and on TV.


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We had a female co-head responsible for girls who had a son at the school, she was just below the head and above our deputy head so she would know if her son was ever caned.


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I had business dealings with a lady who worked as a bursar in a Catholic Church school here in Johannesburg where back in the days when it legal, the ‘brothers’ frequently used corporal punishment to keep order. Her office was right next to the Headmaster’s study and she must have often heard or even seen the cane being administered. I recall one occasion when she had made an overpayment to our company and asked me to refund the money as soon as possible or she would find herself across the Headmaster’s desk for six of the best. I’m sure she was joking but it was one of several references she made to corporal punishment and I always suspected that she was a closet spankophile.  I even believe that it’s possible that one of the reasons she took the job was to be able to witness (or at least overhear) the punishments that were given and watch with interest as the miscreants passed by her office rubbing their sore backsides.