Give us the strap: Museum wants punishment devices

Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery curator Bruce Mahalski holds a "willywhacker" — a piece from a...
Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery curator Bruce Mahalski holds a "willywhacker" — a piece from a conveyer belt used to discipline a family of six children in the 1960s and ’70s. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Gone is the era of corporal punishment, but one Dunedin museum will soon let you reminisce about the good ol’ days of getting the strap from your parents.

Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery curator Bruce Mahalski received a kind donation to his museum from one Dunedin man in the form of the "willywhacker", a piece of thick fabric from a conveyer belt.

The belt had a hole drilled into the top to allow it to hang from the wall and provide a warning to the family’s six children.

"Their father worked as a digger driver at Signal Hill Mine and one day he brought [the belt] home.

"Six kids were beaten with this in the ’60s and ’70s."

The children fondly called the strap the willywhacker, which they wrote on the side of the belt along with some drawings, but the pen has long since faded.

Mr Mahalski is now on the hunt for more objects used to beat Otago residents in their childhoods.

"I would love some more, so I can do a whole display. The thing about this museum is a lot of things in here are about telling stories with one object."

He said the idea of a display about objects used for corporal punishment was because the act was a part of a bygone era and the objects may not look too interesting, but the stories were.

"People don’t hold it against their parents - that’s just what parents did back in those days. They were just a family tool."

When Mr Mahalski took to social media to make the call for more objects, he was told stories about of all kinds of objects parents used to beat their children back in the day.

They included wooden spoons, jug cords, the back of the hairbrush, canes, leather razor strops and fish slicers.

One person said "a wooden spoon breaking against my backside while I was being disciplined is one of my happy memories".

"I would love a cane or a strap that had been used. It can’t be a random one. It has to have been used - the story is what makes it valuable," Mr Mahalski said.