“OOOHHHH, you are in big trouble.
You are going to get it now!”
“You just wait ‘till your father gets home!”
“Well, mister, you have done it now. You bring this note
home to your parents and tell them I want to see them here in school!”
C’mon you remember these situations don’t you; and
you know what it meant…..usually a couple of whacks or some
discipline applied to that part of your anatomy where the sun don’t
“That’s why God put that padding back there, so bad
little people like you could get straightened out before it’s
Bringing home a note from the teacher! That was next to committing
murder as far as my parents were concerned. Teachers and parents
in my old Newark schools were much closer back then. The PTA meant
something; and education for many immigrant families meant everything.
Kids having trouble in school was a very serious concern. It was
dealt with quickly and firmly, the way it should be.
Having to go to school with your parents, I still shudder to think
of that horrible humiliation. It happened twice with me and I still
get twinges in my bottom, and that was over 45 years ago. Some things
stay with you…..and they are supposed to!
With today's political correctness and a major de-emphasis on
a good ol' smack in the butt for a misbehaving child, I shudder
to think what today's kids are missing. It really did hurt our parents
as much as it hurt us, but they cared enough to risk that personal
pain to teach us a valuable lesson.
I think it made all the difference in us. Of course your modern
pop psychologists and children's rights groups would be quick to
make a big stink about it. But ain't it funny how most of those
folks never seem to have children; and they are experts in raising
Probably everyone reading these words remembers getting a well-deserved
smack, or side of the foot, if not by your parents then maybe by
a teacher. Remember messing around with your gym teacher, or coach?
Where did that land you?
Ever sit in the corner, or wear a dunce cap for fooling around?
God forbid you do that today. You could end up in jail. All this
when kids are more violent than ever. I don't remember drive by
shootings, or wildings, or some of the other stuff I read about
today in the newspapers. (About the worst thing I remember being
dispensed in my direction from a passing car back in the 50s was
a “moon”; and I might enjoy having that happen again
While our generation certainly did get whacked and physically
punished when warranted, it did not seem to produce an inordinate
number of ax murderers. Now why do you suppose that is so?
I think the problem lies at the heart of the family. Our generation
had a more nuclear family. Kids did not have to join gangs to make
up a family, or run in packs to make up for what they did not have
at home. Dad and Mom were there and they were unified in their outlook.
And your extended family, neighbors, and teachers were in on the
growing process. You were cared about. Today, everyone moves around
every 7 years or so. Who can you get to know and grow with?
Newark was a big tight community back then—not that everyone
knew everyone else because that was impossible. The city had a large
population, probably at least double what it is today. What it had
was a unity of spirit, and that is what transcended all the ethnic
differences. That spirit was embodied in the family unit; and its
recognition of the importance of good behavior, especially in school.
This, I believe, was common throughout the city.
Remember the threat of “reform school”. I’ll
bet that phrase still sends chills up your spine if you grew up
in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s. Do they even have such a thing
In our family, Dad was the disciplinarian, but Mom had her own
brand of getting to you if the need arose. Dad had a short fuse,
but Mom smoldered, and when the lady reached ignition temperature
she didn’t hit you, she threw something. Since Mom was almost
always in the kitchen, that meant you were going to get hit most
likely with some article of food.
She got me good one day. When I saw her ignite over some hot button
I had finally pressed, I started running for the upstairs bedrooms.
She was making tomato gravy from scratch with big fresh juicy tomatoes,
squashing them in the old cone-shaped strainer. She reached for
a tomato about the size of a baseball, whirled and let go with a
pitch I have never been able to duplicate—a combination curve-ball,
screw-ball, knuckle-ball and slider.
That tomato followed me through the dining room, living room,
made two right turns and kept on coming up the stairs. In terror
I thumped up the stairs looking over my shoulder at the gaining
red spheroid. I was doomed and I knew it. If I could only make the
bedroom door! No such luck. I turned to close the door and that
incredible pitch delivered the goods. “Kerpslat!!!”
a tomato sandwich right in the kisser.
“You clean up that mess!” I heard her yell from downstairs.
“And wait ’till your father gets home!”
What humiliation, beaten up by a 4’ 10’’ mother
and now I have to deal with a 200 pound mechanic with hands the
size of a baseball catcher’s mitt and hard as the steel he
works with all day long. Why can’t I keep my big yap shut?
I had to live with the real inventor of the smart bomb. Anything
she threw at me, found me. I could hide for days and that cruise
missile would still be waiting for me when I emerged from my lair.
Imagine the fame I could have achieved on the ball fields if I but
mastered that pitch. No such luck. Mom did not divulge the intricacies
of her secret pitch to me.
Now I wish my Mom was here to throw a whole truckload of ripe
tomatoes at me and I could feel the sting of my Dad’s huge
hands on my backside. I do know the hurt they felt when they spanked
or disciplined me.
When my daughter and I did the father and daughter dance at her
wedding, she whispered how much she loved me for being tough on
her-occasional whacks and all. I cried like a baby out there in
her arms. Yes, I still feel guilty about the times I had to teach
her important lessons; but when I see her a responsible citizen
and a hard working person, I know I did right. And I would do it
all over again, without hesitation.
We survived that discipline because we knew we were loved. Someone
cared enough to apply and enforce proper standards of behavior.
I am eternally grateful for it all.
Kids need to know their limits and our parents were not afraid
to show us. I understand that things can sometimes get out of hand
with a few people terribly hurting their children and losing control.
This deeply saddens me too. But I look out at the many young lives
shattered by drugs and crime and I am appalled. I wonder what a
good measure of discipline applied at the right moment from a caring
but firm adult might have prevented in that kid’s life.
Thanks Mom and Dad.