Nfld. & Labrador

Former Bishop Feild student returns strap 55 years later

A 72-year old is recounting his experiences of being punished at Bishop Feild College after deciding to return a strap he took from the school in 1957.
David Earl stole a strap, pictured above, from the principal's desk at Bishop Feild in 1957. (CBC)

When David Earl was a student at Bishop Feild College in St. John's in the 1950s, he was disciplined by his teachers with the strike of a strap.

Today, using a strap to punish students is no longer tolerated. But in those days it was common for teachers to keep straps in the classroom and use them to discipline their pupils regularly.

David Earl was a student at Bishop Feild College from 1947 to 1957. (David Earl)

"More than once I received the strap," Earl said by phone from his home in Regina, Sask. He spent 10 years at the Anglican institution.

The 72-year-old is recounting his experiences of being punished after deciding to return the strap he stole from the school as a prank in 1957. Earl brought the strap with him on a visit to Newfoundland this summer.

"For instance, the lateness. I remember going to the principal's office, and he said if you come to me again for being late, I'm going to bend you over the desk, and I'm going to strap you on your rear."

"So sure enough later on, I was late three times, sent down there expecting the strap and I got it," he told St. John's Morning Show host Anthony Germain.

"Only thing is, I was wearing three or four pairs of shorts at the time so I didn't feel it."

Earl, who has a sense of humour about the harsh realities of going to school back in the day, said most students at the school were not struck on the rear, but rather on the palms of their hands. He said sometimes the teachers would miss and wrists would get hit instead.

"I wasn't what they call a bad ass," he said. "I listened and I didn't."

He said sometimes the strap was used as a preventative method to get students to behave, and on students who didn't pay attention in class. He said he remembers one teacher who would call on him, and give him two straps on each hand.

"And I'd say, 'what was that for?' He said, 'that's so you don't fool around in my class.' "

Earl said the straps were made out of a conveyor belt and were about seven centimetres wide. He said all of the male teachers had them, as did female teachers with students above Grade 7. He added most of the teachers at that time came from England.

From stealing to revealing

Earl is recounting his scholastic experiences with the strap because of an unusual set of circumstances that began in 1957. On the day of his graduation from Bishop Feild, he decided to take one of the straps off the prinicple's desk.

"I remember it clearly. I was leaving for the summer and I saw the strap on the end of the desk, and I said I'm going to take it because I may never come back here."

He said he also still remembers the names of the teachers, and who could strap the hardest.

While Earl said he got the strap many times over the years, he said he never cried while being punished and would look into the eye of the teacher handing out the punishment.

Giving back the strap

This summer Earl came back to Newfoundland for a visit and decided to return the strap to the school after 55 years of holding on to it.

He said he handed it to a teacher and wrote a note about the history. It will be sent to the school's archive.