Both my husband and I recognized the strap in the display case immediately as a standard fixture in schools when we were children .
My husband remembered the exact same strap as in the display that was used on Aboriginal children in Residential Schools . It was doled out to the naked body for all manner of offences . He received it when he was seven years old for running away from school and the horrible abuse he was suffering there . When he was returned by the police having made it the 20 miles home to his Mother , he was stripped naked and beaten until blood was drawn using the same type of strap as in the photo.
The strap ,or should I say straps , that I remember were of two types . The one on the teacher's desk was a narrow one made of some sort of material similar to conveyor belt for quick use . The one in the Principal's office was a mini version of the one in the picture. I received the experience of both in elementary school .
Incident #1: Age eight . Grade 4. Teacher - my cousin.
Two girls sitting behind me were giggling over a piece of paper. I felt a nudge on my back and turned to look. The paper was thrown onto my desk. As I turned back to my work , the teacher grabbed me out of the chair and carry-marched me to the front of the class. Three swats with the strap on each hand . I still don't know what was on the paper . All I recall was her intense anger and very red face and the words "Don't you ever do that again?"
I went back to my desk in tears with stinging hands , totally humiliated . I looked to the girls for an explanation but their heads were buried innocently in their books...scarlet to the ears . The teacher went to them and had a quiet word. The incident was over for them . I went home and said nothing. I felt that I must have done something horrible and was embarassed for my parents .
Lessons Learned At The Time:
You never know when it's coming.
You might not know what it's for.
You might get it on someone else's behalf as an example to the rest.
Some people get it and some don't .
Innocence is not the issue.
Incident # 2 Age 11 Grade 7 Principal
At lunch recess , I heard a lot of laughing and yelling going on in the school yard. I decided to do something totally out of character to that point...try to join in the social interaction .
When I got close , I could hear some boys laughing and teasing a girl in my class. She was responding with some colourful language and a huge smile on her face. I had never heard anyone ever say such language except for my Dad and other section men when they were 'discussing' things that annoyed them .
I certainly knew it was unacceptable for kids to say it . But here it was in a situation with kids my age . They were having fun and all were laughing. How bad could it be ? So when the next series of taunts came , I responded with a choice phrase I had heard but had never used . Plosive sounds in swear words are so expressive . The words sailed forward into the air and the playground grew silent. The principal was out on the play ground on a rare walk . He heard every word I said . Nothing else.
I spent the afternoon in his office looking at the strap. Of course ,this was after he had researched the event. First the boys had come back with smirks on their faces , taking the time to do a quick flash of red palms as badges of honor. The girl came back in tears shortly after and sat at her desk in tears. I was asked upstairs and put to sit for a very long time while the principal decided what to do . He asked if Mum was home and I said that she was at work , that he could find her there when he called . Then I started to cry.
In the inner office , I could hear a muted phone conversation . Then he opened the door and asked me in . I supposed Mum had given permission for the go ahead because I received the three swats on each palm and returned to the classroom in tears. I did not receive any further punishment or even a mention when I got home . I was guilty . I deserved it . It was over and done with with. I would not do it again .
Several months later , the girl was bragging about how she got away with it having received no punishment , whereas I had, much to her amusement. Apparently , the principal had called her mother to ask what he should do in this case . She was the head of the PTA ...and besides he was living Room and Board at their home . Her punishment was handled at the dinner table . I ,on the other hand, needed the strap . And it was duely given . Mum did not know anything of it until much later.
Lessons Learned At the Time:
Sometimes you earn punishment.
Some people will always get the strap as punishment.
I knew zilch about social interaction and the unwritten rules of play.
Learning the rules was going to hurt at this rate.