So Mike was the first in our home to get a dose of the new razor strop dad introduced into our home late one summer. Mike and I had spent a couple of weeks with our cousins at Uncle Ted’s house, in the country, just outside of town where we lived. We returned home and there it was.
It was the beginning of a new school year. We attended Saint Mary’s Parish School, with Mike now in the 3rd grade, and me in the 4th. It was a tightly run ship by a group of Roman Catholic Sisters.
A new school year always brought with it the new faces of kids just transferring in from other parish schools…new faces…new buddies…and of course new opportunities for mischief.
Among the 3rd grade newbies were twins, Andy and Jim Pelkey, and Robby Decato. Their families had moved in within a few blocks of our home the prior July. Andy and Jim’s dad was newly hired by a local trucking company and Robby’s dad worked for the City of Claremont.
We had just barely gotten to know them by the time the school year came around but we’d become fast friends and took to walking to Saint Mary’s school with them every day. The walk to and from school every day took us near a run-down mill building, in a small hollow by the Sugar River. Mike and I had never been curious enough to explore any of this.
I seem to recall that it was in late October that our new buddies hatched a plan to gain access to the mill grounds and to actually get into the mill to explore it all up close. Andy, Jim and Robby managed to coax Mike to follow one Thursday afternoon, after school let out for the day. I wanted no part of it and went on home by myself. And so after the four explorers scaled the two fences surrounding the mill property, they found their way to a back entrance to the mill and with little effort actually managed to get a door open, and they began prowling the interior of the mill. It was a red brick and granite building of 5 stories, perhaps built in the 1890s.
The mill, it turns out was essentially empty, not much to get into, but…there were many heavy wooden bobbins strewn about, so the boys hatched a plan, believing the mill was under sufficient cover from view by the local woods in the hollow.
Why not take the bobbins and pitch them, from the inside of the mill, through those windows on every floor which were not already broken? Who would care?
Though darkness was setting in, their plan was put into motion. They scurried through the creeping darkness, up to the fifth floor and began hurling bobbins through windows. It wasn’t long before spotlights began flashing onto the outside of the building, spotlights, that is, accompanied by red and blue flashing lights! Their game, short-lived, was up! An amplified voice from the outside, making it clear that it was the local police and demanding that they stop what they were doing and come down to the ground floor immediately.
The boys complied. Four police officers confronted them at the door the boys had come in from. The saga was over, but not quite…
The boys were loaded into 2 police cars and taken to the police station…terror in at least one boy’s heart…my brother Mike. It turned out that his 3 new buddies would also come to know “terror”.
At the police station, with a late afternoon darkness having set in, three phone call were placed by the Sargent at the desk to the Pelkey boys’ father, the Decato boy’s father and our dad. The Sargent explained to all the dads what the boys had done and that according to city ordinance, the boys could receive corporal punishment at the police’s hands before being released to their parents. The corporal punishment (for boys only) consisted of 6 licks maximum with the police strap (essentially a heavy leather school strap or so called “tawse”) administered to a boy’s clothed bottom.
The boys’ fathers all appeared to bring the boys home. Before releasing the boys to their fathers, and given the choice to not administer the police strap to their offspring, providing the fathers would all deliver a serious dose of leather to their boys at home, all fathers chose to allow and witness the corporal punishment by the police with the police strap. And so, four boys, including my younger brother Mike, received the maximum dose of 8 licks with the police strap. A burley officer Deshane did the honors as each father watched. Each father also guaranteed that a generous number more of licks would be administered shortly later at home with his razor strop. Police and fathers were all OK with this deal. The four boys not so much.
And so, there were 4 still very sore fannies squirming in their seats in Sister Agatha’s 3rd grade class the following Friday morning at Saint Mary’s parish school in Claremont, NH…Mike among them…following his first and second licking the day before. Lucky Mike?