I was 5 years old, and the men at Man King’s (pronounced Main Kang’s) car repair shop had grown weary of me begging them for beer.
The shop was two doors down from my house. The men were listening to a baseball game on a transistor radio while they worked on cars under a shed and drank beer. Occasionally, they would put a sip of beer in a glass for me.
But on this day, Main Kang wanted to teach me a lesson. So he handed me a full bottle of Jax beer.
I drank the beer pretty fast. In just a few minutes, my little body and brain took different paths, and I could barely walk. One of the men helped me wobble to my back porch.
Lickety split, my rail-thin grandmother stormed over to the men to say things I knew she never said on the way to 6 a.m. church service.
Minutes later, she was spanking me with a belt, and yes, it hurt. Obviously, since I remember it.
Looking back, I wonder if she would have gone to jail if that happened today? And what about the men?
I write this because of the attention brought on corporal punishment by the recent arrest of football star Adrian Peterson. He is accused of abusing his 4-year-old son.
The debate rages about corporal punishment, whether it is effective and whether it should stop altogether.
I heard an interview on public radio recently where child development experts were saying parents would be better off taking away cellphones and computers from the children or putting a bad child in time-out.
During my early years with my grandmother, I lived in a three-room house. We had no TV, and I had no toy that meant a lot to me. So, what could you do to me that would get my attention?
About eight years after that spanking (of course, I had a lot more in between), I was with friends standing in the parking lot when several of them decided that we should swim in a nearby apartment pool. Just when I thought about going, the pain that I knew my grandmother could inflict on me — or have my dad put on me — made me reluctant. A friend and I begged off. An hour later, the city police were hauling off our friends.
I know corporal punishment is dangerous and has all sorts of problems. Grandmother and my dad probably used corporal punishment on me because it’s what was used on them.
In high school, we had an assistant principal who dealt with many of the boys by giving us a choice of his fists or a paddle for punishment. I never chose the fists — nor did anyone else.
But there was something else that guys talk about to this day. If this assistant principal was on one end of a hallway and noticed you were cutting class or slow getting to class, he would yell, “Hey boy, stay right there till I get there.”
With the threat of his two choices looming, no one ever moved. He could have gone home and returned, and none of us guys would have moved. He would talk to a teacher or two before he came over. But no one moved.
We not only feared him, but we also respect him to this day. He kept us in school. We were tough kids in a tough environment.
If he had given us time-out or sent us home for a day, forget it; that would have done nothing for us.
Did I spank my children? Yes, I did. My wife did, too. I am not happy or proud about it. It’s what I knew. However, I believe corporal punishment has its place but also believe that place is getting smaller and smaller. And that’s probably for the best.
The best part, though, about this column is that I am not writing from a jail cell or some other forsaken place. I still think that corporal punishment kept me on the straight and narrow.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.