Robert St Clair, who wrote today’s play, was a prolific author of comedies for American high schools. His real name was Ray Hodges, and it was under that name that, in 1932, he wrote Sweet Sixteen, in which this happens:
(Joe Sparks spanks Lois Herendeen at Rochester High School, Indiana, on October 30, 1942.)
(Charlotte Smith ‘receives a much deserved spanking’, according to the yearbook caption, from George Henderson at Paris High School, Texas, on March 25, 1949.)
Eight years later in 1940, now as Robert St Clair, he wrote All American Family, the play I’m going to talk more about in a moment. So you’ll have guessed that in the course of the play, inevitably, this happens:
(George Frederick spanks Marjorie Miller at Walnut Community High School, Illinois, on November 16, 1945.)
He then temporarily changed his name to Robert Ray, and in 1941 he wrote Sadie of the USA, in which this happens:
(Shirley Eldred administers a good spanking to Joan Harry at Colestock High School, Titusville, Pennsylvania, in the school year 1944-45.)
(Audrey Aulwurm is soundly spanked by Agnes Specht at Orland Park High School, Illinois, on March 30, 1951.)
After that he reverted to Robert St Clair, and in 1948 he brought out Let Me Talk, in which this happens:
(Lynn Stork is spanked by John Eversman in the 1955-56 junior play at New Knoxville High School, Ohio.)
1955 saw him write Man of Seventeen, in which (you guessed it), this happens:
(Dotty Want gets a spanking from Al Tucker at a rehearsal for the spring 1956 senior play at Austin High School, Texas.)
(Larry Wilson spanks Bonita Wertenberger at Toppenish High School, Washington, on March 22, 1956.)
(Leonard Humphreys spanks Joyce Bennett at Centreville High School, Maryland, on March 29, 1956.)
And three years after that, in 1958, he rewrote Sadie of the USA, keeping the same characters and the same basic plot, but updating the political background and with a new title, Susie and the FBI. Luckily this still happens in the new version:
(Donna Greenwood spanks Marguerite Lemieux at Mansfield High School, Massachusetts, on November 17, 1961.)
(Canice Ondich is spanked by Cindy Eicher at East Huntingdon High School, Alverton, Pennsylvania, in the school year 1963-4.)
(Margery Lodwick spanks Teresa Baird at Fort Madison High School, Iowa, during the school year 1965-66.)
All of which tends to indicate that, under whatever alias, Robert St Clair had a profound interest in ensuring that many an American high school girl didn’t graduate without first having been soundly spanked!
St Clair’s All American Family has two sons, Bill and Bobby Butler, who are both trying to make money to help the family’s straitened finances, Bobby by selling newspapers and Bill by inventing the wind farm several generations before alternative energy became topical. But the key character is the eldest child and only daughter, Caroline, who is both ‘extremely pretty’ and extremely spoilt. Near the start of the play she is found out as the person who borrowed a dollar from Bobby’s piggy bank without his permission, so that she could have her hair done. She was going to replace it, she insists … just as soon as she could get her father, Roger, to give her the cash. Then she has a row with her fiancé, Bruce Ford, over whether or not they will have a big, expensive church wedding that her family really can’t afford – she, naturally, is the one who wants to spend the money, and when she finds she can’t have her own way, she breaks off the engagement. 14-year-old Bobby can’t be restrained from expressing his opinion:
BOBBY: What that gal needs is a darn good lickin’.
CAROLINE: And I suppose you think you should be chosen as the one to do it?
BOBBY (nods, vehemently): You said it. Right over the said lap.
The plot really gets started when rich Aunt Lucy Middleford comes to stay, accompanied by her daughter Avis. This will be a good chance for Roger to solve the family’s serious financial problems by getting an interest-free loan, if Lucy is well-disposed to them. But there is a complication. By snooping, Caroline has discovered that Avis is adopted, something Avis herself doesn’t know. She is sternly admonished not to tell anyone about it. Avis turns out to be a sweet-natured girl who quickly has a couple of accidental encounters with Bruce. His kindness to Avis makes Caroline jealous… so at a welcoming party for the guests she lets it slip that Avis isn’t really her cousin. Avis overhears it, and is upset, not least because she no longer knows where she comes from, and fears that her father might have been a criminal, or that she might have bad blood. Lucy is outraged that the Butlers have broken a confidence, and threatens to cut short her visit. No loan for Roger, then; but he has something to give Caroline…
ROGER: Caroline, come here.
CAROLINE (giving him a quick look and taking a step toward him): Yes, Daddy.
ROGER (steps in front of the chair on the right of the table): Come closer.
CAROLINE: What for?
(Alana Heischman about to be spanked by Mike Bolin at Arcadia High School, Ohio, on December 6, 1967.)
ROGER (grimly): I’m going to give you something you haven’t had since you were a little girl.
CAROLINE: What is it?
ROGER (almost shouting): A darn good licking!
He grabs her wrist and sits suddenly in the chair.
CAROLINE (screams): Daddy!
BRUCE: Oh, he’s just joking, Caroline.
ROGER: Yes, and it’ll be the hardest joke this young lady ever had to take! Come down here!
He suddenly hauls her over his lap.
CAROLINE: Stop it! Bruce!
BRUCE (taking a quick step toward them): Mr Butler! Have you gone crazy?
ROGER: No. I’m just coming to my senses. I’m sorry to be compelled to do this in front of you, Bruce, because it’s going to hurt! It’s going to hurt – bad!
On the last word, Roger gives Caroline a terrific spank.
CAROLINE (screams): Ouch! Let me up!
ROGER: Not until I give you something to remember me by!
He gives her another open-handed spank.
CAROLINE (screams again): Ohh! You’re hurting me! Stop it! I’ll never speak to you again! Ohh!
She kicks, wildly. Bruce looks thunderstruck, then turns away so he cannot see the punishment.
(Donald Koester spanks Barbara Berglund at Comstock High School, Minnesota, on November 26, 1947.)
Bobby and Bill appear in the archway and stop short, exchanging amazed glances.
(Larry Stuckey spanks Sharon Coy in the spring 1953 junior play at Stryker High School, Ohio.)
ROGER: Better watch this, Bruce. It’s lesson number one in how to handle her when she becomes your wife!
He gives her another spank and continues, laying it on hard. Caroline continues to scream and kick.
(Marilyn Hollar being spanked by Stephen Crites at Elida High School, Ohio, November 21, 1947.)
BOBBY (slaps Bill heartily on the back): Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Oh, boy! That’s the prettiest sight I ever saw! Go to it , Pa, an’ if you need any help – call me.
BILL: That goes for me too, Pa – and how!
He and Bobby roar as
THE CURTAIN FALLS QUICKLY
That’s the end of the second act. When the curtain rises again for the third, it’s four days later, and Caroline has run away from home. When she returns, it emerges that Bruce paid for her train fare:
BRUCE: You see, she asked me for it the night of the party – right after she had been – er – spanked by Mr Butler.
CAROLINE (ruefully, with a pained expression): Must you remind me of that?
ROGER (grins): Well, you deserved it, didn’t you?
CAROLINE: I did. I was a little beast, and it took strong measures like that to make me realize what a terrible thing I had done. It was then that I decided to disappear.
But not out of self-pity. She went to the orphanage, pretended to be Avis, and demanded to know the identity of her real parents – so now Avis knows the true story of her origins, and has nothing to fear from her genetic heritage. So thanks to the effects of a good, sound spanking, everything ends happily!
The play was advertised by the Iowa agency that handled the rights, the Art Craft Play Company, as ‘clean and wholesome’ and ‘a guaranteed success’. The earliest traceable production was at Poling High School, Bryant, Indiana, on March 25, 1941, with Frank Bricker as Roger and Dorothy Leavell as Caroline. (There was another production at Borger High School, Texas, also in the 1940-1 school year, but I don’t have its exact date; James Vernon was Roger, and he spanked Norma Harrelson as Caroline.) The latest I know of was at St Croix High School, West St Paul, Minnesota, in June 1968 – unfortunately without any photographic record of the spanking scene. So though the play wasn’t a spectacular hit like Act Your Age or Men are Like Streetcars, it did solid business, sometimes under the title Family Affair, through the best part of three decades. In fact, a guaranteed success!