Collins instituted a new system of administering punishment. Whereas Farmer had dealt with boys as they presented their “notes”, Collins told boys to meet him outside his office after supper. The idea was to beat them all in one go.
His office was small, so he made boys kneel outside, in a row, with their heads touching the floor and backsides in the air. The line would frequently include a dozen or more boys and would extend into the well of a playroom so that others, sitting on lockers and supposedly engaged in silent reading, had a clear view of the ritual.
I was sometimes one of the kneeling boys, looking left under the tunnel of arched bodies, listening as the thwacks and the whimpering drew ever closer. Being beaten was unenviable, but it was short and sharp. Watching the performance, however, left a long-lasting impression.
Collins’ “rules” could be whimsical. I copped it once for jumping down a couple of steps instead of walking down them. A friend was beaten for coming in from the rain with wet shoes.
Collins would sometimes be so enraged he would hit us on the spot. A favoured method was to grab a boy by the leg of his short pants with one hand, lift it, and strike his exposed thigh with the other.