Best Of Grizzard - Fetch Me A Switch

  • Friday, September 23, 2022
  • Jerry Summers

The lack of discipline and corporeal punishment both at school and parents homes in today’s world is a far cry from the days when Lewis Grizzard was raised in a house with love but parental authority.

Of course, there were cases of abuse, but the overwhelming enforcement of a corrective nature were followed by an expression of love and a hug.

Any misconduct at school that resulted in a paddling by the principal or designated faculty member authorized to use the wooden instrument entitled “Board of Education” would often be followed by a second round of corrective action at home.

When the menacing words “fetch me a switch” (FMAS) or a similar term welcomed an erring student when they arrived home from school and the future pattern of punishment was understood.

Lewis Grizzard at a young age heard his father, a World War II and Korea decorated Army soldier Lewis Grizzard, Sr., use the synonym for male bovine feces (BS).

 Unfortunately, on one occasion when the youngster used the prohibited term, it was overheard by his straight-laced mother, Christine Word Grizzard.

In his novel, “If Love Were Oil, I’d Be About a Quart Low,” (1983 – Warner Books/Peachtree Publishers), young Lewis indiscreetly used the banned term when the Army chaplain at Fort Benning came to their home for a visit:

“Hi there, young man,” said the chaplain as he entered our living room.

“BS,” said I.

After they had revived my mother and the chaplain had left, she instructed my father to take me into my bedroom and, to quote her, “teach this child never to say words like that again,” which even I understood clearly meant, “beat this child senseless.”

My father obviously felt a party to my indiscretion, so he devised a plan.  He would strike the closet door with his belt, and I would scream out in pain with each lick.

“Wham!” went the belt against the door.

“Waaaaaa!” I cried out.

Three or four “whams” and “waaaaas” later, we both got tickled and began to laugh.  My mother opened the door.  She tried to get the belt away from my father so she could render the punishment herself-to both of us.  My parents wrestled playfully, and then they fell on my bed, and I jumped in between them, and we all laughed ourselves silly.  I think, in retrospect, that at that moment, I felt as much love as I have ever felt.  On future occasions of spiritual revelry, it remained a comfort to think that perhaps some knowing, seeing power knew of the scarcity of our time left together and saw to it that we had such moments.  If that is, indeed, the case, then blessed be He who provided them.”

Sometimes the discipline would be administered by a surviving and widowed grandparent – who would be living in the back bedroom of their offspring home prior to the $40,000 - $100,000 a yearly (or more) cost at retirement centers.

If word had been sent home about a school offense and a whipping was anticipated with the announcement of the use of the dreaded previously mentioned term, a creative delaying action by the offender would be attempted.

Upon arrival from school aa excuse to use the bathroom would often be followed by a rapid change of clothing with the preferred choice of garments being heavy duty denim overalls that could absorb any blows by an elderly family member.

Exaggerated shouts of pain and tears sometimes were effective.

A few “grandma/pa you’re killing me would often be convincing enough to shorten the length of the perceived torture.

The grand finale would be the hug and traditional expression of admiration that simply stated, “you know I wouldn’t do this unless I loved you.”

(No police or child abuse specialist would be called but a valuable lesson would be learned by all!)

* * *

You can reach Jerry Summers at
Jerry Summers
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