Alfred D. Guion at the Lincoln Avenue House
In the top drawer of my father’s dresser, where among other things he kept a pomade stick for his hair, brilliantine for his mustache, Orris root, etc., he had a small 22-cal. Chased pearl-handled revolver as well as a Harrington and Richards five shooter for safety sake because our house was on the outskirts of town and was occasionally visited by tramps looking for a handout. The fancy little firearm intrigued my boyish fancy and while I had been repeatedly told never to touch either of those revolvers, one day, when my idle hands found nothing else to do, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take it apart to see how it worked.
So down to the coal cellar, where I wouldn’t be observed, I went, with it and a screwdriver. I got the faceplate off without much trouble when suddenly something snapped and the insides sort of erupted. I had planned to take each part out carefully observing the order, so there would be no trouble in assembling them again, but this scattering of parts all over the place was a tragedy. What a hopeless feeling! I tried frantically to fit parts in again but it couldn’t even get the side plate back. Now, what to do?
I knew I was in for a good spanking. Disobedience did not set very well with “Papa”. I thought of not putting it back and hiding it somewhere but knew it would be missed and lying would only make matters worse. With shame and trembling I sought out my mother and told her the whole sad story. She decided the only thing to do was to wait until my father came home from the office that night and make a clean breast of things. What a long, fearsome afternoon that was! We children, Elsie and I, always rushed to the door with mother for the homecoming kiss as soon as we heard his key in the lock, but my greeting that night somehow lacked enthusiasm. Perhaps because my mother interceded I escaped a spanking that time, or perhaps they decided I had learned my lesson, which I had.
My parents did not believe in frequent or promiscuous spankings but we knew we would get one when we deserved it, and then not a slap or two, but pants taken down in my case, and the back of a hair brush vigorously applied enough times to create a healthy respect for the punishment. I recall one time I deserved it and so reported to my father some months later. I had done or said some minor thing which was wrong, in a fit of ill nature, and was warned if I did it again I’d get a spanking. Feeling ugly and defiant I deliberately did it again. Down came my britches, whack when the hairbrush, and I can remember the strange feeling of all the ugliness and ill-nature completely evaporating during the process. I knew I had deserved it and felt it had done me good. I often thought of this episode in bringing up my own children, and never since have agreed with those who think it is wrong to spank children under any circumstances. The old Bible admonition, “spare the rod and spoil the child” is still true.
Tomorrow, the next segment in the Voyage to California by John Jackson Lewis about his trip from New York City to San Jose in 1851.
On Sunday, more of the story of Rev. Elijah and Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion and their family.
Next week, I’ll begin posting a week of letters written in 1943. Life is getting more interesting for Lad and Marian in California.