A few good whacks
helped build
a better boy

Dave Donnelly wrote this tribute for a Father's Day special issue of Mauka Makai, June 17, 2001:

TODAY, the idea of spanking your kids is almost unheard of, and has been, experts tell us, since 1960. My father, about whom I write on this Father's Day, would have pooh-poohed these "experts."

My dad, John Joseph Donnelly, was nicknamed "Hap," short for "Happy," because that's what he aspired to be, even when out of work during the Depression and occasionally after that.

He was a churchgoing man, though largely, I suspect, to keep my mother happy and to raise his kids properly. Perhaps that explains why he was so quick to whip my bottom, even though I recollect I wasn't all that bad, as kids of that era could be. It's in Proverbs, after all, that we find, "He that spareth the rod hateth his son."

Samuel Butler took that thought and expanded it in "Hudibras":

"Love is a boy, by poets styled,
Then spare the rod, and spoil the child."

It may seem odd, by today's standards, to think that by taking a belt or a stick to the backside of a boy, you would be helping to make him a better person. But if you proclaim "spare the rod" today, you might more likely be referring to a youngster's Smith & Wesson, the parent being the victim.

Maybe he spanked the memory out of my mind concerning reasons for whipping, though I do recall throwing a pair of scissors at a sister. I felt at the time that she deserved it, particularly since I missed, but it scared her to death.

My father would occasionally whip off his belt and apply it to my backside, but his favorite technique was somewhat more sadistic. He'd order me to go out to the big tree in the back yard to pick out the stick he would use on me.

You had to be careful not to get one too thick, or it would act as a club. Nor too thin, or it would act like a knife and permeate the skin. I became an expert at selecting a stick that had seen better days and might leave a few red marks or possibly a welt but no further damage.

It was obvious that my father took no relish in administering the whipping, and when he said it was for my own good, he was serious. I didn't understand it at the time, but it appears to have worked.

I'm hardly an advocate of spanking today, and wouldn't have for a moment considered whipping my own son. It seems so out of date. But in its time an occasional whack helped keep one in line.

Mary Caroline and John Joseph Donnelly were married in 1915 in Keokuk, Iowa. They had three girls and three boys, born during a 20-year span, raising all of them in Keokuk.

My father was 57 when I was born, a final surprise in an already set family of five. It wasn't easy for him to talk to me about right and wrong, though we did have some great times, walking 30-plus blocks to Joyce Park on the edge of town and seeing the Keokuk, Iowa, Class "C" League baseball team. We saw the likes of Gus Bell and Roger Maris in their teens, taking their first steps toward becoming major-league talents.

There was no money in the family for my joining a busload of YMCA boys driving 190 miles to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play a double-header with the Brooklyn Dodgers, already set in my mind as my team. Somehow, "Hap" Donnelly managed to borrow the $12.50, I seem to recall, to make the trip. To this day, I still cheer on the Dodgers.

When I graduated from high school, my dad was there to smile proudly at somehow having put six kids through school. With no money for college, I joined the Navy and was sent to Hawaii. He never was able to visit me here, a regret I've had forever. He died a year after my arrival, and I would gladly have suffered through several more whacks with a stick if only he'd had a chance to see the place I chose to make home.

After his death my mother was able to visit me and her grandson here on a number of occasions, and it was rare that I didn't envision him by her side. I'm sorry my son never met him.

My mother's father lived to be 94, and I still have a photo taken of the two of us. It's still staggering to realize he was already 16 years old when Abraham Lincoln was born. But this isn't Mother's Day or Grandfather's Day. It's Father's Day. Don't let it go by without appreciating your own dad and letting him know how much he means to you. Tell him you love him. It may be the last chance you have to do so.


Day 1

On Dec. 16, 1968, Dave Donnelly began writing "Hawaii" in the Star-Bulletin. Here is the very beginning of that very first piece:

"WHY write a column? Aren't there any honest jobs around?" That, I'm sure, would be my father's reaction to my current means of employment were he alive today. But after a checkered career in television and a hyperactive one in radio, I think we can settle down to chronicling all manner of items that might not otherwise find their way into a newspaper. So without further etc., let's begin ...

Our least favorite euphemism of the season: no-host cocktails ... Overheard at holiday party -- He: "Why is my drink blue?" She: "You asked for a cup of Cheer, didn't you?" Say goodnight to the folks, Gracie ... We're just back from a Maui relaxer prior to leaping into this new racket. While there, we discovered 1) a great little place called the Maui Sands, just up the road from Kaanapali with an apartment not 10 steps from the beach, 2) a fine new Lahaina restaurant called Ye Olde MacDonalds (no kin to the hamburger king) and 3) Sam Sanford, lounge-lizarding in the Pioneer Inn and preparing to sail back to Honolulu. Sam mentioned that he's through in Lahaina, where he ran the Chart House restaurant under such monikers as Trader Irving and Bonnie Prince Shapiro. If the deal that is in the works to put KHAI back on the air goes through, Sam may have a new home in radio ...

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