The dorm master and his ‘pets’

This is what happened to me in 1954-1955. The teacher must be long dead by now. It used to snow there most winters. It was austere in its control of boys and harsh in its punishments. Many teachers were authoritarian, almost militaristic, and early morning cold showers were de rigueur except on Sundays. Many boys saw rape or a ‘bum rush’ by certain teachers almost as a normal fact of life at school. It must also be said that there were kind teachers who us boys knew were not that way inclined.

I moved on from it a long time ago. I see little point in raking over old coals to stir up a fire. I am telling this merely so that people know it used to go on and what it was like. Of course, I survived and was not ruined for life. I was never a perpetual victim mainly because in those days a child just had to be resilient. There was no alternative.

As a nine-year-old, I was sent by train some 110km away from the city to a fee-paying ‘Preparatory School’, a British-style boarding school. That’s where I learned about sexual abuse. Boarding school life was harsh but us boys regarded it as part of the process of making boys into men. Some teachers were kind and pleasant, but some were spiteful and violent by today’s standards. I was once punched on the side of my face so hard by a teacher that I was completely deaf in that ear for two weeks. I had been cheeky. But you never complained. You had to take it. If a kid ran away, the other boys would see him as a soft mummy’s boy who just couldn’t handle things and perhaps teased. When captured by police and brought back to school and given six of the best by the authoritarian headmaster, an ex-army colonel, and the other boys would then send him to Coventry, not speaking to him for days.

The boarding master, well into in his forties with lots of Brylcreem in his silver hair, was respected as a senior staff member. He was the deputy principal and in charge of boarding. When parents came to visit the school he would go out of his way to ingratiate himself with them, especially the mothers.

He had an appartment attached one of the main dormitories. He used to take pride in showing parents how he had decorated it with fashionable colour schemes and rather kitsch prints of paintings by Tretchikoff like the Chinese Girl and the Lady from the Orient. Fathers tended not to be so taken with him and his tastes. Maybe some had a sixth sense about him.

Most mornings at the 6am bell, there were cold showers, even when sometimes there was sleet and snow outside. Often, but not always, the boarding master used to supervise. As we would come shivering out of the showers, he liked to grab little boys with his fat immaculately manicured hands to check each boy closely, making sure they were wet all over even in the most intimate of places. A boy had to lift up one leg as he looked to see that he was properly wet all over. Often, a boy would be deemed insufficiently showered. He had to run through the cold showers again before he was allowed to dry himself. On Saturday evenings, he used to invite small groups of us boys into his apartment to listen to the latest songs on records. They were old bakelite 78-RPM records. They used to spin really fast and they were fragile, breaking easily. Popular singers of the time were Johnny Ray, The Platters, Buddy Holly and Harry Belafonte. Two of my favourite songs were The Yellow Rose of Texas by Mitch Miller and Tammy by Debbie Reynolds.

These sessions were seen as a special privilege to be invited to listen to hits and eat chocolate. Usually it was the boarding master’s ‘pets’ who were invited. And, we all knew his pets were pretty boys. But I don’t know why he invited me. I didn’t think I was a pet of his. I was bit scruffy and some boys used to tease me. They used to call me ‘Fly Spots’ and ‘Spotty’ because of my freckles. Maybe, I just seemed vulnerable. I suppose, because of that, he probably felt I was a soft target. Maybe that vulnerability turned him on.

We had to be already in our pyjamas, dressing gowns, and slippers when we went to his place. And we knew why. We knew that, in return, you just might have to let him do things and loose-fitting pyjamas gave him easy access. If you were lucky, you just had to put up with his fat fingers caressing your thighs. But, when I look back, I think we were too young to notice the big bulge in his pants.

At 9pm, it was a special Saturday night late bedtime and off to bed. If you were unlucky, he picked you to stay behind while the rest of the boys were sent off to bed. This meant that at first you would be fondled through your open pyjama fly. He think he liked to wind himself up. One night, he took my pyjama pants off and fondled me more. He also sucked. I hated that. It revolted me. As an adult, I now know that he wanted me to get an erection but it just didn’t happen. He would say things like: “Don’t you like that?” and “It’s nice my tongue licking the tip of it, isn’t it?” I never replied. I suppose I was scared and he was the respected senior teacher.

I’m sure that happens a lot. The kid respects or looks up to the perpetrator. Like the Catholic priest and the choir boy; there’s the respected man of the cloth and the little boy who looks up to him as God’s special worker and a holy man. The kid co-operates.

He made me kneel at the end of his bed and lie with my chest on the bed. He gave me a pillow to kneel on. I think he set it up for anal rape of a little boy. I think he was well-practiced. Looking back, I was like a lamb being led to the slaughter. I was scared but sort of calm. He then stroked and kissed my bum cheeks. I felt a shiver go through my body. I think he thought I liked what he was doing and that my shiver was sort of pleasure. It certainly wasn’t! Next, I saw him put Vaseline on his penis. I was just waiting for the inevitable. He pushed my bum cheeks apart slightly and started pushing it in. It hurt. I tensed up and went all tight. I didn’t know what to expect. I was really scared. I cried out. From behind, he put his hand over my mouth. That’s when I felt him up against my bum. He must have been right up me. He was heavy. I couldn’t feel it inside me but I felt my bum hole hurting. And then, he did a big sigh. I now reckon that’s when he ejaculated. I didn’t know about ‘cumming’ then. As a little boy, I wasn’t developed enough to ejaculate. I didn’t ejaculate until I was about fourteen during my high school years and that took me by surprise. Well, that’s how I was ‘bum rushed’. It hurt like hell even though he used Vaseline.

But with that teacher, in theory, I consented. He got me to stay behind while the other boys went off to bed. I knew and all the other boys knew what was going to happen. It was well known among us boys what he used to do. And, I didn’t resist. I just let him do it. I had to. I was scared. God! But times were different then and I was just a little boy. There was a different culture in society during the 1950s. Those were trusted men, the teachers, the priests, the scout leaders. Of course, nuns were regarded the same way, too. They were all admired as self-sacrificing people. And, the religious ones – the priests and nuns – well, they also had God on their side. So, you didn’t complain. You didn’t rock the boat. You didn’t want to be seen as a ‘bloody liar’, a ‘whinger’ or even a ‘poof’ or ‘homo’ as we called it in those days.

But I think there’s a difference between what the boarding master did at first, you know – fondling and fiddling – and what he did after the other boys were sent to bed. Fondling and fiddling are rotten but not nearly as bad as full penetration. Those kinds of abuses are just not the same. Penetration injures little boys, fondling doesn’t. And, consent didn’t really come into it. A child can’t consent. Us boys were conned. Yet, some people make a big fuss when there’s only fondling or sucking. I’m sure it’s the same with girls, only worse. Penetration of a little child is much worse than fondling.

I also had no help afterwards. Us kids had to be resilient in those days. There was no alternative. You just had to be stoic. Nevertheless, I felt that ‘bum rush’ was disgusting. And, when he came out he asked if I liked it. I didn’t answer. I hated it. I felt sore. I felt like chucking. And, I bled a little during the night and had to stuff a handkerchief in my pyjama pants.

Worried and with my Mum walking to the station to catch the train back to boarding school for the start of a new term. She never knew what used to happen there. She is now 98 and still doesn’t know. I won’t tell her.

I have written this because I believe it is typical of what happened to boys in schools and institutions where they were away from the protection of family and home at a place which attracted predators because of the availability of vulnerable children. I know it still happens today, but because of public awareness it doesn’t happen so much and ‘respected’ teachers can’t necessarily get away with it like they used to.