Growing Up In The ’70s

“Butts up!” Dad yelled.

And we knew that this was our cue, for what we had been instructed to do next when these words were shouted at my sisters Dawne and Audra and myself from the entry way at the front door, which is where they always came from. It’s where he was always standing when he said these words. After a long, hard day at the office, Merck, Sharp and Dhome, the big pharmaceutical company that Dad worked for, where he was credit manager for nearly thirty years, this is what he had to come home to. Mother screaming at him. It was a dead-end job with no real chance of upward movement, although he tried his best. His days were spent going over numbers and calling people that owed the firm money, which always made him feel bad, but he did it anyway. And he loved his boss and worked till he was blue in the face to please him, but nothing doing. Dad could never seem to catch a break. Hell, he’d already been passed up twice for promotion. Once even by his best friend, Bill Dickerson, who Dad had helped get the job in the first place. Was he bitter? Who knows.  But we all felt his anger at the end of those long days, when he’d walk through that front door, on Scottsdale Street and Mom would stop him before he even got both feet inside our house.

“Do you have any idea what I’ve had to deal with, with these damn kids of yours today?”

Shouted our dear mother.

We were never “hers” on those days. The bad days.

“No” said Dad, wearily.

“Well, for starters…”

Then she would proceed to give him, in complete detail, the goings on of the day and “what” exactly, my sisters and I had done wrong. It was never good. We were all bad. That’s what she’d tell him. Something got broken, or spilled, shitty marks on a report card, or a little back-talk. Poor guy. She would blast him in the face and he’d get really hot, immediately. We never knew that he was polishing off a fifth of whiskey nearly every morning before heading into work for an 8-hour shift, so that by the time he would arrive home, he was hung-over, exhausted and hungry. But before he could rest, there were punishments to be administered and we’d hear those words come crashing down, like the volcanoes of Mt. Vesuvius.

“I mean it. I wanna see bare asses in the air. Bend over those beds, right now, goddammit!  Butts up!”

Once in a while, he’d pull that belt off, fold it in half and SNAP!  That sound was so loud and frightening.  And one by one, like an assembly-line in a factory, he’d come down the hall, into our bedrooms and spank our tails red. We were so small that it usually only took two or three hits of his leather belt and we were finished.  Little did we know that Dad was getting torn up inside every time he laid a hand on us.  Once he even cried after spanking me and I was totally confused.  I guess he felt like it was the right thing to do at the time, but it nearly killed him whenever he had to do it.  Over the years, we have had many conversations regarding those days and he’s always quick with an apology for ever raising a hand in anger, but I just look at him, smile and tell him that I love him.  I think he did the best job he could do and I don’t have any regrets.  I don’t see parents spanking their kids as much today as ours did back then and maybe that’s a good thing, who’s to say.  I don’t know, but whether we deserved it or not, we knew that we were loved and it was for our own good.

Just look at us now…those were good times and we turned out alright.

Audra, myself and Dawne, circa '78
Dawne, Audra and me at Dawne's house, 2008


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