I noticed a meme going around social media the other day, and the message was clear: If kids these days got what was coming to them like we did back in our day, all would be right with the world!
"We," in this case, is a first-person plural pronoun referring to old people, otherwise known as "baby boomers." The word "boomer" is now used as an epithet. For a while, I thought it meant Okies, or OU fans, as in "Boomer Sooner." Only recently did I come to understand it was a derogatory term aimed at a baby boomer when a younger person deemed the oldster had said something stupid.
The meme depicting items that, if used, would cause "kids these days" to be more respectful included several tools: a belt, an extension cord, a broom, a coat hanger, a flip-flop, and a switch. Another item I took for half a set of nunchaku or a cop's night stick, but I was informed it was a yardstick. Prominently missing were a hair brush, and a paddle - the dreaded "board of education." Whoever created the meme had obviously taken more than one trip to the woodshed in her day.
I grew up in Fort Gibson, in an era where corporal punishment was held up as a model of how to raise a child. My use of the "woodshed" image was a trope; by the time belt and board were introduced to my backside, parents no longer had woodsheds, and discretion wasn't a priority. The intended victim merely had to bend over the back of a couch or a parental knee, or grab the edge of the bathtub or his own quaking ankles, and brace for impact. It was a universally accepted maxim that you didn't reflexively try to protect your offended backside with your hands. My father's preferred threat was, "I'm gonna give you a whuppin' when we get home," usually from church. Perhaps the scriptural admonition of "spare the rod, spoil the child" ingrained into the Southern Baptist mind was to blame, but it was a foregone conclusion that any questionable behavior in the sanctuary would have you cutting a switch from a rosebush.
Actually, the switch was more metaphor than method in our family; my father's torture device of choice was a thick cowboy belt, although he also made a handsome varnished paddle that doubled as a cutting board for my mom in the kitchen. I've mentioned before that my dad is frugal, so I'm sure he didn't mind the smell of onions when he started swinging. My mother preferred the hand - which was fine with us, because it didn't hurt that much. Once in a while, she got out the fly swatter and chased us; we could hear it cutting through the air behind us. We had no air conditioning, but a lot of open windows in summer, and thus a lot of flies. I wound up with fly gook on my legs more than once.
My paternal grandmother did lean toward switches. I don't remember a switch being used on me or my siblings, but there was always one prominently displayed atop the refrigerator. The only person I recall getting the switch was my cousin Scott, usually as a result of his having tried to flush something down the toilet: toothbrushes, hair brushes, $5 bills, gloves, and once, my sister's doll, "Timmy," which my grandmother hung upside-down by its feet on the clothesline while she went to get the switch. Another time, it was my Aunt Pauletta's cat, which evidently survived, and Scott did, too, but just barely. He got a "delayed whuppin'" a few days later when his parents came to retrieve him.
Most after-church butt-bustings were prompted by whispering and giggling, although we were low-key compared to the mini-monsters wreaking havoc in sanctuaries these days. But sometimes we got carried away, usually when we were allowed to sit with our friends. We'd get to passing notes, and suddenly remember that somewhere in that cavernous room, my father lurked. Then we'd peer over fearfully, and sure enough, he was glaring at us, that "you're-gonna-get-a-whuppin'-when-we-get-home" threat hanging palpably in the air.
When we became teenagers, we were "too big to whup," so spankings morphed into groundings. I typically fell into the cross-hairs by writing or drawing something that made my friends snicker. At some point, a decision church authorities made about "training union" sealed our doom. "Training union" is like "Sunday school," except it was before the evening service, whereas Sunday school preceded morning worship. The powers-that-be, concerned about a lack of attendance for training union, moved it to the morning. That meant Sunday school at 8:30 a.m., training union at 9:30 or so, and church starting at 11 a.m. How long that service lasted depended on how worked up the pastor got during his sermon, and how many "sinners" might venture forward during the altar call. If several well-known "sinners" were in the congregation, we knew the service would be long; our pastor was a patient man.
Four hours is a bit too much churching for most teens, so we sometimes skipped part of it. Our church was just a few blocks from Mac's Drive-In, so we might hoof it over for a Frito-chili pie. That practice was halted when my mother's training union class went to the nursing home one day to minister to the "shut-ins," as Baptists called them. Lamentably, the nursing home was across the street from Mac's, and my mother spied me at the walk-up window with a Baptist friend. By the time we had our driver's licenses, the Sonic had opened at a safe distance from the nursing home. Another Baptist girl had fortuitously moved to town, and she had a fondness for chili-cheese coneys. But Fort Gibson was, and still is, a small town, and someone was always spotting us and ratting us out to my dad.
Once, upon our arrival home, my father delivered a lecture, accompanied by a grounding, when I was caught skipping training union again. He ended his sermon by saying, "Too bad you're too old for a whuppin'." I'm not sure what age one must reach for being "too old," but apparently, that no longer matters. "Kids these days" evidently don't get too many butt-bustings, though I did hear someone comment the other day that he had once been "beaten" with a phone receiver. "Kids these days" wouldn't know anything about those, either.