Corporal Punishment

Change of scene. Dad worked on the mines, as I’ve previously said, and we all moved to Kambalda for a year, at least I think it was a year. I have memories of sitting in a white painted, wooden tower, with many miners wives, peeling, and shelling, vegetables for the miners dinners.

Today those places are called Donga’s and I don’t think the women and children are permitted to live in them. Now, miners are flown in and out.

My clearest memory is the school. It was a time when corporal punishment was still a viable, and frequently used, option to discipline children. My walk from the miners camp to school was with the other kids, and we’d follow the pipeline to get there.

‘Follow the pipeline, and you’ll find it,’ were the general instructions for the children of all ages.

What do you think happens when you put a group of kids next to a pipeline? They climb on it, that’s what.

On the way to and from school, we’d help each other up, on the nearly new pipeline, from Kalgoorlie to Perth. We must’ve been late for school quite a bit because the pipe was really big, and as you’d expect not an easy climb, but a fun one.

There wasn’t a problem if we were late back to the miners camp. Except if I wasn’t there to do something my father’s wife had to help with. She really didn’t like domestic work.

On this day, about ten of us arrived at school late… again, and the teacher marched us into the room. He made us line up in front of the all ready seated class.

‘Hands out,’ he said.

I was blissfully unaware of why, ‘were we all about to get a lolly?’

I was in grade two still and had never seen, nor heard about, the cane. He started at the end closest to his desk, I was in the middle.

That first small sonic boom, as the cane whipped through the air, in the seconds prior to contact, rang through the entire room. The seated class members, some smiled, obviously glad it was someone else that day, but most winced as the cane connected.

I was standing at a middle point. I couldn’t see what was happening, but it was getting closer. Guess what I did? I cried. The closer it got, the more I cried and then he reached me.

I looked up with my tear soaked eyes, quivering lips and hot red face, but there was no mercy. He was so adept at giving the cane, I didn’t see its path as it neared my hand, but felt it sting as it connected. I was never late again.

I began to toughen up around that age, after that, and all the other ‘belting’ incidents. We all had to, belting’s, hidings, whippings, the stick, were just a few words kids understood meant pain, their’s. It was around that point, I began to hide my emotions. I’d become defiant and nothing pissed an adult off more than a defiant child.

What was the point in giving adults the satisfaction of seeing the results of the pain they’d inflicted? It did lead to more belting’s than my siblings, but as I grew, it was I who took satisfaction from the confused look on my father’ wife’s face as she continued hitting, trying to get some sign of emotion from me. But that shit was locked away in the deep dark recesses of my mind, a place she had no permission to enter, and no access to.

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