Mr Creswell paced the length of his front room; it wasn’t a big room and it didn’t take him more than five steps to get from one side to the other. Anxiously he looked at his watch: it was nearly time they should arrive any minute now.
Upstairs in his bedroom his eighteen-year-old son waited, even more anxiously. He knew he was in the most serious trouble possible and within minutes he would be paying for it with his backside.
Mr Creswell stood in front of the bay window, he kept himself hidden from his neighbours behind lace curtains, but he still had a clear view of the street.
Right at the appointed hour a small car pulled up outside the house. You didn’t see many cars in this street and Mr Creswell felt sure his neighbours would all know who his visitors were.
It had been in the local newspaper; in fact, it made quite a big story; it was a most unusual case. Two eighteen-year-old youths including Albie his son had been stealing from a local shop: there was no doubt about it, they were caught red-handed. A few days later the boys appeared at the town’s juvenile court. Mr Creswell expected the worst; a fine or even the short, sharp shock of a spell in juvie jail.
The boys were to get a shock all right, but not the one Mr Creswell dreaded. The magistrate, a pompous ass if ever there was one, Mr Creswell thought, delivered a stern sermon, invoked Jesus Christ and the Bible before finishing his oration with a rousing speech on the quality of mercy.
The magistrate’s idea of “quality of mercy” might not be everybody’s notion. He gave the boys’ parents a most unusual choice. Either the fathers should deliver a sound thrashing to their sons – eight cuts of the cane on their backsides – or they could go to juvenile detention for six weeks.
The boys had no say in the matter, and really the parents had no choice. Mr Creswell was shocked: this was 1956 he complained later to his wife he thought things had changed for the better.
And, that’s how Mr Creswell and his son happened to be awaiting the arrival of the sheriff’s officer, a medical doctor and an independent witness. Any moment now, he expected a second car with local newspapermen to arrive.
Unsurprisingly, the court case aroused a lot of interest in the local newspapers. The boys were not named in the reports, because of their age, but the town was so small Mr Creswell was sure all his neighbours knew his son was involved.
Albie’s partner in crime had been dealt with the previous day. Mr Creswell had been reading about it in the local Advertiser. The account of the boy’s thrashing made his blood run cold: and he was expected to dish out the same treatment to his own son.
The newspaper reported, “The instrument of punishment was a stout four-foot cane borrowed from the town’s police barracks, because, according to a police officer, all schools are closed for the holidays.
“Police officer appointed by the magistrate to supervise the whippings, Det.-Sgt. Joe Wise, arrived in a police car at 7.20 pm outside the western suburbs home of the stepfather of one of the youths.
“The youth, who has allegedly refused to live with his stepfather since his mother remarried, had arrived alone in a taxi at 7.10 pm.
“The youth, big shouldered and tall for his age, entered the home unsmiling and spoke briefly to his weeping mother and his stocky stepfather.
“When Sgt. Wise told the youth to bend over a bed, the youth’s mother ran sobbing from the room.
“Closely watched by the detective, the stepfather raised the cane then brought it down with a crack that could be heard in the street.
“The youth winced with pain, but made no sound as the cane lashed across his buttocks eight times with a one second interval between each blow.
“After the thrashing Dr. Anthony Pound examined the youth for injuries.
“After the boy had been caned by his father, who, Sgt. Wise said, ‘knew his job’, he then told the detective: ‘This is the first and last time this will ever happen to me.’
“Sgt. Wise later told The Advertiser: ‘It will hurt the boy to sit down for a time, but I am really confident he will not come before the courts again.”’
The newspaper report said the boy’s father “knew his job”, well, Mr Creswell thought, that’s more than he himself did. What on earth was he supposed to do? He had never raised a finger in anger to any of his children – he had three boys, and Albie was the youngest. It didn’t occur to him that if he had waved his belt about a bit, his son wouldn’t have turned out to be a thief, but Mr Creswell was too wound up in self-pity to think like that.
Upstairs Albie had heard the car draw up outside the house. He knew that any moment now he would be called down by his father and within seconds he would be getting the most public thrashing of his life. At least he knew what to expect: not only had he read the newspaper account, he had spoken to James, his pal, and gotten his first-hand account.
It wasn’t as bad as the canings he had suffered from Mr West, the headmaster at their school. Now, there was a man who genuinely “knew his job” when it came to crashing a whippy cane into a boy’s upturned arse. He could make the stick lash down again and again on the same spot intensifying the pain beyond human endurance. More than once, James had hobbled out of the headmaster’s study with his underpants stuck to his bum by blood seeping from his wounds.
Albie also had his share of visits to the headmaster; mostly for minor misdemeanours: smoking cigarettes, repeatedly arriving late for school, or once for truanting altogether. His father knew about none of this, he assumed his son’s backside was not acquainted with the rod, preferring to believe Albie was close to being an angel.
He even, definitely mistakenly, believed he was an innocent party in the stealing; whereas in fact, his son was a well-known delinquent among the town’s shopkeepers and had they known he was one of the boys under the lash they read about in the newspaper, they would have thoroughly approved, and some of them would regret they were not permitted to witness the caning themselves.
Mr Creswell was appalled to see the detective gather the cane from the back seat of the car and then brandish it before him quite openly. He rushed to open the door to let his visitors into the house. If he thought his speed of action meant his neighbours would not get wind of what was happened, he was to be mistaken. Already doors up and down the street were opening and before long a small crowd would gather: adults and children alike. One or two parents, perhaps, encouraged by the Advertiser’s description that the crack of the cane “could be heard in the street.” What an excellent way to teach their own children of the painful consequences of delinquency.
The detective, doctor and witness introduced themselves to Mr Creswell. He didn’t take much notice; he wanted this over as quickly as Albie probably did.
Sgt. Wise took control. “Shall we go into the lounge room? Do you have a large chair or a couch? Something for the boy to stretch across while you do the necessary?”
Meekly Mr Creswell followed him into the room.
“This will do nicely,” Sgt. Wise said eying a green upholstered armchair. “Just the right height.”
Without seeking permission, he pulled the chair into the centre of the room and swivelled it one-hundred-and-eighty degrees so that its back pointed into the room. He took a couple of practice swishes to ensure there was sufficient room to swing the cane high and lash it down into an imaginary backside. The ceiling’s a bit low, he thought, but there was nothing he could do about that, all the rooms would be the same, he supposed.
He handed the cane to Mr Creswell. “Do you know how to use one of these? No, here, let me demonstrate. Philips, if you would be so kind.”
There must have been a prior agreement made between the two men, because with no further ado, the man Philips, the so-called independent witness, took two paces forward and dived, rather too eagerly perhaps, across the back of the chair. Within two seconds, he was in position, head low, bottom high, legs a yard or so apart.
“Stand about a yard to his left, aim for this spot here on the furthest buttocks, that way you will ensure the cane swipes across both cheeks equally. Once you’ve got your spot, pull the cane back in an arc,” Sgt. Wise demonstrated with some proficiency, “and land it across the seat with force.”
To Mr Creswell’s astonishment, Sgt. Wise did exactly that, delivering an almighty swipe across Philips’ buttocks.
“Oww Jerry! Steady on old man,” he said, but he didn’t seem to be too distressed by the turn of events.
“Then repeat the stroke, rapidly, one stroke per second, until you’ve delivered all eight. Try to land the cane as close to the same spot each time as possible.”
He offered the cane to Mr Creswell, “Now, you try it.” With shaking hands, Mr Creswell took the cane and found his position.
“That’s right, look for your spot. Well, done. Now let fly, with maximum strength.”
The cane flew, but somehow along the way, Mr Creswell had lost his target and the cane thwacked down low on Philips’ buttocks, just where they met the thigh.
“Yowlll!” It was a genuine yelp and the guinea pig stomped his feet up and down. “Jesus H. Christ!” he gasped.
Sgt. Wise could see a potential problem. “The boy should remain in position and take it like a man, but if he doesn’t there are two of us to hold him steady for you.
“All right, that’s enough, let’s get the boy down here,” Sgt. Wise continued and to Phillips’ relief (or perhaps chagrin), the practical demonstration ended there.
Sgt. Wise could tell Mr Creswell was far from happy with this suggestion, but he didn’t want an argument. The boy was going to get eight strokes and the magistrate had ordered the father to deliver them. Why, the stupid old goat hadn’t just permitted himself to lay on the thrashing he didn’t know, but Sgt. Wise kept his criticism to himself.
“Call Albert down, Mr Creswell, let’s get this done.”
Albie, buoyed by the newspaper description of his pal’s thrashing, “The youth winced with pain, but made no sound as the cane lashed across his buttocks eight times”, was determined to take his thrashing stoically. He wouldn’t let himself down. He hoped this evening’s newspapers would report the same about him.
He entered the room and was disappointed that no newspaper reporters were present. Such is the world of news: the first boy’s thrashing gets extensive coverage, but when the news repeats itself, it is stale.
The room lapsed into silence, Mr Creswell suspected he was supposed to take the lead, but he didn’t know how.
So Sgt. Wise took control. “Albert, you know why you are here.” He didn’t wait for a reply. “The magistrate had ordered your father to give you eight strokes of the cane. Bend over that chair,” rather unnecessarily he pointed to the green chair.
Albie was on familiar territory, the headmaster had a rather similar chair and the boy knew the drill from his past painful experiences.
Almost as expertly as Philips had done previously, he presented his bottom for the lash of the cane. When he had spoken to James earlier his pal had confessed he was terrified at first, not knowing whether he was expected to take his whacking on the bare arse, but once it was clear he was to keep his trousers on all fear evaporated: the experience would be rather like a routine headmaster’s caning, and although he was certain his bum would be throbbing like mad at the end, he knew he could endure it.
Forearmed with the information, Albie also was convinced it would be agony but that he could take it. He waited patiently, head low bottom high, clutching the seat cushion: but nothing seemed to be happening. What was the delay?
Mr Creswell was seeing his son from a new angle: stretched across the back of Mr Creswell’s favourite armchair, his trousers stretched so tight across his buttocks the outline of his underpants was easily visible. His son was a brat, he realised, he was a convicted thief (and God knows what else his father didn’t know about); he had brought disgrace on his family (even now his neighbours were gathered outside in the street, impatient for the whipping to begin); Albie deserved what he had coming, a very sound thrashing and he was going to give it to him
“Oh, get on with it man!” Sgt. Wise had misunderstood the situation.
Yes, I shall, Mr Creswell thought to himself as he carefully took his aim, then raised the heavy cane high and brought it with an almighty swish and crack into the seat of Albie’s trousers.
The boy let out a yell every bit as piercing as the one Phillips had yelped earlier. His head rose from the seat cushion and his grasp on the cushion intensified. Already his knuckles were turning white.
There was a long pause, then a further swish followed by a loud firecracker explosion. Intense, blinding pain overwhelmed Albie for a few seconds, and then he became aware of a deep and biting ache across his bottom. The stroke had landed full across both cheeks, high across the top of the bum. The stinging was amazing, but it faded quickly.
Outside the satisfied neighbours could hear the unmistakable sound of the cane in action.
Stroke three: Mr Creswell was getting his aim now. This landed almost exactly on top of stroke number one: Albie had never felt pain like it and immediately he cried out and stamped his feet in a dance, as he crushed the cushion between his fists. Sgt. Wise could not suppress a laugh: just what the brat deserved.
Stroke four slashed down, creating the sorest, reddest line yet: Albie’s bum was scorching like a flamethrower.
Albie was in too much agony to think about it, but if he could he would be pleased there were no newspaper reporters present: he was not taking his beating like James, “making no sound”.
He let out the most unmanly squeal as the next stroke cut into his cheeks.
Now there was no pretence at stoicism as each loud crack of the cane was met by a howl of anguish as Albie gave his vocal cords free rein. He could feel big red weals forming across his twin cheeks and he hollered out as each stroke landed. The caning was worse than anything he had experienced at his school.
He gulped, holding onto the chair, knuckles whitening. And waited… waited…for the sixth… waited… waited… for the seventh, unbearable, as if it had cut straight through him… waited…. waited… and then the final blow and the final crescendo of pain.
His father had sliced the cane down hard again and again until the full sentence of eight strokes had been delivered. The painful payload left Albie slumped exhausted over the chair, tears and snot flowed down his face.
Mr Creswell breathing was hard with the exhilaration he felt in thrashing his youngest son. He had so much power over the boy and he had exerted it. Albie would never forget this day.
“Stand up boy!” It was Sgt. Wise taking control again.
Clearly in agony Albie lifted himself off the chair and unsteadily stood. For a moment he had to hold on to the chair to stop from stumbling. His arse was on fire and he suspected there was blood beneath his pants. The throbbing in his buttocks was intense, unlike anything the headmaster had inflicted on him.
Albie’s tears of pain and humiliation were flowing uncontrollably as he stood unable to look his punisher in the eye.
Now it was time for Mr Creswell to take charge. “Go to your room, stay there for the rest of the day.”
Albie did not need telling twice: in a heartbeat he was out of the room and running up the stairs two at a time to the sanctuary of his bedroom.
Mr Creswell supposed that the doctor would discreetly follow Albie from the room to go examine his injuries, but he did not. The doctor’s job was only to ensure that the victim didn’t actually die under the lash and he was certain that however much in agony he was at the moment, Albie would live.
No more was said as Sgt. Wise and his colleagues left the house. Only as the car was pulling away did Mr Creswell wish he had asked the detective if he would leave the cane behind; he had a mind that he might find occasion to use it again before too long.
Upstairs, Albie couldn’t wait to peel his trousers off and inspect the damage. He was shocked to see his buttocks covered in angry weals, some turning purple and eight fresh red lines, each as thick as his index finger.
Exhausted, he laid face-down on his bed, letting the cool air caress his buttocks. He was too tired to think about whether the magistrate was right or wrong to order his thrashing; he didn’t have the energy to ponder what his friends and neighbours would think of his punishment.
But as he sank into the bed and felt the pain begin to recede, Albie found that he was acutely aware of one thing: he was certain that the punishment had worked. Yes, whatever it would mean, the caning had worked.
A few days later the Advertiser newspaper reported, “Two quiet and restrained youths appeared before the magistrate this morning with their hair well brushed and their ties as straight as the narrow path.
“After he had listened to Sgt. Wise’s report of the thrashing in chambers, the magistrate emerged to tell the youths, one of whom was accompanied by his mother and the other by both parents, that as far as he was concerned he was satisfied with the police officer’s report.
‘“It seems to me you have learned your lesson,” added the magistrate, to which both youths replied in unison: “Yes, sir!”
“The magistrate then dismissed the case against both boys.”
Other caning stories you might like
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second