A Good Spanking in Oven Summer
The summer of 1976 was hot. My memories of that summer are filled with sweat, hot sun, and most of all, the confusion. Teens smoked pot, college kids joined cults, we all turned up our Led Zeplin Albums up loud, our parents watched late night TV, and we all tried to hide from the world around us.
But, the confusion chased us, like a monster. We weren’t sure of anything anymore. Did God Exist? According to Time Magazine he was dead. Was America really ‘number one’? Vietnam didn’t seem to think so, and had convinced a lot of the world to agree. Could we trust the government? The Watergate scandal didn’t led one to that conclusion.
The ‘iron discipline’ of the schools was rotting, where drugs were becoming part of everyday life, and you could skip six classes in a row for a joint. Sure, some of the traditional ‘American’ firm hand remained, with the still mandatory showers in Gym class and a swat with the paddle for not having a tucked in shirt except on ‘casual Friday.’
Should schools still be the rough 1950s discipline centers, or should they become the centers of ‘New Left’ tolerance found in textbooks like Summerhill and the work of Dr. Spock? No one knew. Definitely not us, in our small, lonely Midwest town.
The churches were in the same state of confusion. Some were morphing themselves into crazed ‘holy roller’, tongue speaking, revival houses, the kind not seen since Billy Sunday was a household name. Other churches were calming themselves into liberal theological discussion centers where right and wrong was a matter best left between God and yourself, and the goal of ‘inner peace’ became a tenant of Christianity.
Catholics could even eat meat on Fridays. Abortion was legal. But despite it all the American Flag still flew, and despite our depression, the country that coined ‘love it or leave it’ remained.
It was an uncomfortable place to be.
We all had to cling to something, but there was nothing to cling too. The teens hung out in the parks in the evenings and smoked pot. The adults had ‘cocktail’ parties where they got smashed on the ‘good drug’ called Alcohol, in a manner their puritanical protestant parents would never have done.
That summer was not the previous decade’s ‘summer of love’. It was not America settling down after the second world war. It was a hot summer, an oven summer. It was a summer where all American minds burned with the pain of not knowing who we were, where we were going, what was around the corner, or what rules to follow.
Some of the monsters of the past were dead, yes, but they left nothing in their wake.
I think it was this confusion and the ability to escape from it that brought my dad I together in an odd, unlikely male, and uniquely American way, that summer.
My Dad and I had fought a lot. Dad had wanted me to be go into vocational school and be an auto-mechanic. Dad worked on the line at a jelly cannery and hated it. When he heard about the new ‘trade schools’ they had, he began talking non-stop about it to me.
“Go to the vocational school!” he said, nearly every evening in the prior spring and on into that summer. “You know how much better off I’d be I were a mechanic. I’d have had this house paid off ten years ago! We’d have a nice car in the garage and I could fix it myself.”
The conversation, that turned into a fight, always began the same way. He would tell me that the following year, instead of going to ‘college prep’ in High School, I should transfer to the vocational program, as if this were a new idea each time.
When I talked about how I didn’t want to do this, he would at first grow indignant. He would bemoan how there had been no vocational school for him, graduating in the class of 1955. When I refused to recognize this as a legitimate reason to change career, goals, he would get angry and yell.
As I look back now, he was yelling at himself. He was disappointed with our small house, his only one child, and his depressing job at the jelly factory. What did he have to look forward too? Only me, doing better than him, and letting him somehow live through me. That was it, he refused not to make it happen.
Our fights would get heated, and he wouldn’t listen when I talked of going to college. But, he saw a ‘better’ life for me as an auto-mechanic, and to talk of any other things he was stone deaf.
He would begin to scream, and I would yell back. His fists would thump the kitchen table, and the dinner dishes would rattle. My mother would try and calm him.
He’d start swearing, and go into the other room and punch the wall.
I was the only way he had left of making a ‘better’ life out of his own, and he was smoking full of rage that I wouldn’t do it for him.
We had these fights all spring, and into the summer.
When it came time to start my junior year, not as a student studying auto-mechanics at the vocational center, but as a college prep student, he just became sad. Instead of eating dinner and engaging in these fights, he would just be sad and resign himself to his bedroom.
He would drink more than usual, as if he was mourning a serious loss.
The fights of the summer were over with the new school year. Now, my depressed father could only show me his utter disappointment.
The first week of school, I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t focus. My father, who had fished with me since I was 8, and put all his hopes into me, his only son, was ignoring me. The man was simply disgusted with me.
I couldn’t think of focusing in school with this going on.
I barely got a single homework assignment turned in that first week.
Finally, on Friday, the older woman who taught Junior English sent me the principals office, after I failed to turn in my notes about the first seven chapters of the The Great Gatsby.
“Maybe Mr. Phillips can convince you start doing homework,” she said, with a sad, kind of resigned look. She had always liked me, and I could tell she was very worried.
So, I went in to see the principal. I walked down the hall, and sat on the bench outside the office.
I knew that repeated failure to do homework meant two licks with the paddle, if a teacher decided to send you down for it. When I walked into that office, I was not scared. I recall the numerous times I had been whacked as a Freshman and Sophomore, but this time I was not scared. I was in a depressed daze and could not bring myself to be upset.
I was not afraid of the pain. I was just sad, tired, and ready to forget the world.
I went over to the desk, and the principal with his handle bar mustache and bald head had me lean over the desk as usual. I stuck my rear out for him, and he pulled back and gave me two of his legendary, hard whacks.
As usual, he pulled the board back as if he were swinging a baseball bat. He pulled back and slammed into me with all the power he could pack.
And then, another, BAM!
As much as I hadn’t gotten excited or scared, it still hurt like hell. The burning pain from the whooshing thump of hard wood made me leap.
After the paddling, I had to sit down on one of the hard wooden chairs and ‘talk’ about the previous punishment.
When Mr. Phillips and talked with you after a spanking, it wasn’t an intense conversation. It never was.
However, he was a wise educator. He knew something was not right with me.
“Chris,” He said. “You are one of the smartest kids in this whole darn school. You had a 4.0 last year. Why am I having to paddle you for not doing what you do best?”
Though somewhat shaken by the pain, I still sat and numbly shrugged.
“Something is not right, Chris.” He said. “All your teachers have noticed it, everyone has. Fix it. You’ve got to fix it. You’ve only got another year after this one, and then your in the real world. Fix your problems here, and go out and succeed. Don’t throw your life away. Do your homework, for goodness sakes. You’re good at it!”
The bald man finished lecturing me, and I left his office. Yes, there were problems. The problem was the same that gripped the entire world, and the entire late summer sky. We were confused. We didn’t know where to turn.
As the Chinese mourning the death of Mao Zedong, felt the ground tremble in earthquakes, we Americans mourned the death of our post-war Utopian illusions.
All were mourning.
Just like everyone, I wanted my future to make sense. I wanted the world around me be solid, structured, and not foggy, but clear as day.
It was this fact, not the pain in my rear end, that had me tearing up as I left the office that day.
When I got home from school, I did what my dad had done when coming home from work that week. I went to my room and lay down. What next? I didn’t know. I tried to hide from this by sleeping.
But I was awakened by a sharp knock around 5:30.
My dad was strangely chipper, when I opened the door. I opened the door to see a happy man, for the first time in nearly three quarters of a year.
“How are your classes going?” My dad said with a grin. I knew he wasn’t being sarcastic.
“Ummm…” I said, stalling, not wanting to ruin his first good mood in ages. He went on talking, so I didn’t have to give him the bad news.
“I was talking to Rich down at the plant. He told me about the kind of money his son makes working as an accountant. My God, it makes Auto-Mechanics look like starving Ethiopians!”
I smiled a bit.
“I started thinking about you. I started thinking about how your always reading those books, and going to the library. I figured you shouldn’t be an auto-mechanic. You’d go nuts. You need to do something where you can use your real skills, son. You knew it, I didn’t. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
That was the first time my own father had ever apologized to me. I was touched. There was a moment of pause and silence.
Then he asked the question again.
“How are your classes going? Straight As I’m sure, you’re a smart kid.”
I gulped as I gave him the bad news. It came out of my mouth, tasting horribly.
But my Dad didn’t look angry, just disappointed.
He then looked at me, and saw his eyes twitch when he knew what to do.
“Well son, I’m not going to let you blow your future,” he said, sternly, but not angrily. “You’ve got the entire rest of the semester to get your grades up, but I’m going to have to give you a little reminder. I’m not going to let you disappoint yourself like this. It’s not good. Your good at school and learning, and I’m not going to let you fail in something you can do really well.”
He frowned, and then said, “I’ll be back in a minute.”
When he returned, I wasn’t surprised by what he had in his hand, and unlike at school, I actually was scared. He had in his hand what I had only seen in the basement before. It was my grandpa’s paddle. It was big, frat sized. It had holes drilled in it.
My dad had gotten spanked with it until the day he left home.
I hadn’t been spanked since I was 12 years old, but now at 16, I was to feel the legendary, family paddle.
My mom and dad had only spanked me with their hands and occasionally a hairbrush when mom was especially mad. But now, four years since my last spanking, I knew what I was about to get.
“I want you to bend over the bed,” my dad said, reverently and slowly.
I trembled as I bent over. I knew I deserved this. I knew this was my dad loving me. But I knew it would not be like two whacks from the principal. This would be my father beating me senseless, to show how much he supported my going to college and being something someday.
He didn’t say a word, but he pulled back, and then began. I looked over my shoulder and saw him summon anger from within him. He wanted to make this hurt as much as could. He wanted to make me cry like a two year old. I deserved it.
I turned and looked forward.
I knew that more than anything I needed this pain. I didn’t try to focus, or ‘tough it out’. I wanted it to hurt as much as possible.
I thought about how much I was disappointing my dad, and I how much I deserved what I was about to get.
I was short of breath, until finally, POW!
There was no pause between licks.
He spanked, and spanked, and spanked. The board came down over and over again. I felt bruises burn into me, only to be smattered again. I screamed and yelled in pain as it came down again and again. This was what dads had done to their boys for centuries to help them learn to behave.
One step out of line, had been the tradition of ages past, and you learned to obey your father and satisfy him.
He continued to spank with a manufactured fatherly rage. I wished he would stop with my body, as the nerves in my butt burned hot like coals. But in my mind I hope this would hurt more than anything I had ever felt before.
There need be no more confusion. Bad boys get spanked by their dads. Rules and order should return.
“Drop your pants!” he yelled at one point after delivering at least twenty seven hard ones to my jeans. “I want you to really feel this.”
Before I had chance to even reach down, he had already ripped them down, belt and all, with a powerful whoosh.
The board started up again, and the pain was new and fresh. I was his son, and I had misbehaved. Now I was experiencing justice.
I screamed out in the intense, unstopping pain. He rained it down harder and harder.
This was my father’s love, being burned into my buttocks with intense force.
When he stopped my behind was black and blue. The bruises would probably be considered grounds for child abuse prosecution in modern times. They stayed for days, but I was proud to have them.
But I wasn’t angry or resentful about the spanking. It had made the world right.
When he finished, he did not even need to say anything. I hugged him. He hugged back. These were strong, firm, hugs between a father and son who cared for one-another.
“I love you dad,” I said.
“I love you, son,” he said.
He shut the door, and my room was dark. I slept.
For the next week, I sat on my fully bruised butt as I turned in every scrap of homework, got the highest grades in every class, and made my now approving father proud.
I was not confused any longer. The world finally made sense.
Two weeks later I forgot my homework out of pure accident. Immediately, without a thought of trying to avoid punishment, I went to my dad. This time I learned the taste of a leather belt, on my behind that just nearly healed.
The world was right. I was a son who obeyed. He was a father who loved me.