Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Old Woman Who Whipped in the Shoe

Mother Goose makes me nervous. Despite my love of fairy tales and children's literature, I think of Mother Goose as a Victorian schoomarm, yielding a birch in one hand and a book of terrifying and surreal rhymes in the other. She gleefully reads to trembling schoolchildren of cradles falling out of trees, mice having their tales cut off with carving knives, and the ring around the rosy that we all now know to be a metaphor for plague.

As my particular predilection is for that birch, or other academic implement, to be in the hand of the Headmaster, I can't blame my fetish for this Mistress Goose invention. I think the trouble lies in my childhood, at a place called
Benson's Wild Animal Farm (aka The Strangest Farm on Earth). Benson's was a zoo, circus, amusement park, and storybook-land that seems in retrospect as if it should have only existed in dreams. Open from 1924 to 1987, it featured, among other oddities, elephant and camel rides, a 500-pound silverback gorilla, performing tigers, a Santa's Village complete with singing elves, a rickety-rackety roller coaster, and, most relevent here, a giant shoe.In searching online for a picture of this giant shoe, I learned an unsettling thing. The park has been closed for twenty years. The shoe still stands. In the 80's, when I would have been visiting the park as a very little girl, it had a wooden staircase leading up to that small window, wherein you could view the animatronic actitivies of, naturally, the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. Most times she'd be doing the laundry, her arm in a steady up and down rhythm against a washboard. A few times, however, she'd been repositioned onto a chair, an animatronic child kicking its legs across her lap as she spanked the poor little robot all day long. I was always disappointed if she was only doing the wash.

The first time I would have seen this, I would have only been three or four years old. It was probably one of my first encounters with spanking. Perhaps I'm embellishing, but I can almost remember blushing. I do remember always wanting to go up those stairs alone after that, in hopes of seeing a spanking but knowing that if I did, I wanted it to be private, that I didn't want my mom or dad to know I was excited to see that animatronic arm rise and fall upon that shiny, plastic, and yes, bare, bottom.

This must be how I came to confuse Mother Goose with that mean old woman in the shoe. It was a Mother Goose rhyme that enabled this little girl to see her first spanking. Lest we forget, the original certainly has a CP flare at the end:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe;
She had so many children she didn't know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread;
She whipped them all well and put them to bed.
(Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Tales of England, 1853)

As illustrations life-size and otherwise of spanking disappear (or become graffitied and overgrown), as it becomes uncouth to reference in mainstream literature, even as it appears in our pop-culture only in a horrible, tasteless, and unrealistic Girls Gone Wild sort of way, how will the wee spanking enthusiasts of the world come to know their kink? How might I have turned out if it hadn't been for the Old Woman Who Whipped in a Shoe?
Rhyme text and Old Woman illustrations: ECLIPSE
Book cover illustration: Children's Books Online
Benson's Old Woman's shoe: IUSSA.Org


  1. What a unique, creative and fascinating post. Myself, I have never really thought much of the Mother Goose rhymes and stories.

    You are a very talented writer with a lot of intriguing insights.

    Blog on,
    "The Cherry Red Report"

  2. That's the thing with living in a shoe...the kids gotta toe the line. Or else!

    I wonder if old boot felt like a heel after spanking all those kids?

    I doubt it, she was too tightly laced. more shoe puns.

    Bless my sole. I must pull myself up by my boot straps.

    Help me! Help me!

    I can't seem to stop. How much longer can I LAST if I go on like this.


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