Weird Words of Wisdom: Spanking New Edition

“Kissing for fun is like playing with a beautiful candle in a room full of dynamite!”

‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty by Pat Boone, 1958

Would you let your teenage daughter take advice from this man?

About the Author: If you’re like me, and you know little about Pat Boone besides the fact that he’s Debby’s father, you may be surprised to learn just how popular he was in the 1950s. With 38 Top 40 hits, he was second only to Elvis in chart dominance. He also had his own TV show, The Pat Boone-Chevy Showroom, and starred in 15 feature films.

Boone has put his conservative Christian beliefs into practice throughout his career, avoiding sponsors and material that he considered offensive. His most controversial career move came in 1997, with his tongue-in-cheek foray into heavy metal.

Considering his conservative background, one shouldn’t find it surprising that Boone is a Republican political activist today—but it is disappointing to see he is a birther.

When ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty was published, Boone and his wife Shirley had been married for five years and were raising four daughters.  

About the Book: If it seems strange today that teens would turn to a young married celebrity for advice on surviving adolescence, the phenomenon was common in the 1950s. ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty was one of the most popular books of its kind—in fact, according to the Washington Post, it was 1958’s second-highest selling nonfiction book.

While a ghostwriter probably contributed to this book, it displays a convincingly folksy Booneishness. Words and phrases like “chillun,” “’taint true,” and “lil ol’ teenager” appear frequently. Boone’s evangelical Christian beliefs pervade the book, which according to Time, he promoted at Church of Christ congregations nationwide. Parents who share his beliefs would probably find much to like in this book, even today.

While he avoids details on sex, Boone urges teens to stick to innocent “April love,” until they are truly ready for “May” (a serious, steady relationship) and “June” (marriage). He doesn’t go the full Duggar by condemning teen dating and kissing entirely.

Basically, Boone recommends being yourself, developing good habits, practicing the Golden Rule, and resisting the urge to grow up too fast—things that even a secular-minded, liberal parent like myself can get behind.

The Boone Family Spanking Situation: The book hits its one really weird note on the issue of corporal punishment:

“And of course there are spankings—and spankings. There is the delayed spanking that sets in when you’re too old to go across Mama’s knee and have to wait until you get home and lean over the bathtub. There is the angry spanking and the loving spanking. My mother never gave ‘loving’ spankings. I wouldn’t know what they were. But hers weren’t angry either; they were intelligent and they were just.”

Boone informs readers that his mother delivered these spankings with a sewing machine belt, and didn’t stop her “lean over the bathtub” spankings until he was seventeen (and only then, apparently, because her inability to make him cry frustrated her).

Now, I don’t believe in spanking at all, but surely even most spanking advocates would find that a bit excessive. Even more shocking is the way this carried over into the next generation, as the Washington Post described in a 1978 Debby Boone profile:

Perhaps the man she is still closest to is her father. Both say that their stormy battles during Debby’s teens have made them even closer now. For Debby the turning point was in Japan; for Pat it was in Columbus, Ohio, two years ago when the family appeared at the state fair. They all thought it was going to be their last show together.

“We all were in an emotional state,” he recalls. “Debby (who was 19 then) had left the room to go and get candy; and was gone for a half-hour. I was worried about her and went to find her. She was in the lobby talking to some musicians, but was upset that I embarrassed her in front of them. It was a trivial matter really, but when we got back to the room I thought she was pretty sassy. One thing led to another and suddenly I threw her over on the bed and spanked her in front of her mother and her sisters.”

Afterwards, feeling chagrined and guilty, the father apologized to his family and led them all in prayer. “But there were no hugs and kisses that night,” he remembers. The next day on the plane, he heard Debby laughingly tell the girls about the black and blue marks on her bottom. “I found there were tears in my eyes,” he says, “for I realize Debby had let me off the hook. Overnight, she had forgiven me for being out of line.”

Spanking your 19-year-old daughter? At the risk of Pat Boone considering me unladylike: WTF?

Original Owner: My copy belonged to a girl named Carol Sue, whose parents inscribed it to her and gave it to her as a 12th birthday gift.

Final Fun Fact: Twixt Twelve and Twenty is also the name of a 1959 Pat Boone hit.

Other Quotes from ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty:

“Popularity—‘manifest approval of the people in general’—can be a good, sound thing, but it can also be a personality freak or a snow job. Adolf Hitler was the most popular man in Germany for quite a spell.”

“It doesn’t make sense to me that girls who want to be as pretty as possible, who intend to be feeding and caring for a whole family day after tomorrow, don’t know how to feed and care for themselves today. Yet magazine articles, dietitians, beauticians, high school principals, all sigh over the high percentage of poor physical care and poor nutrition among teenagers, even in top economic areas.”

 “Take my first steady…She was a very pretty girl, a wonderful singer, much in demand. But she put too much strain on young love. She let me see her in her curlers.”

“(Shirley) has the kind of beauty I admire. A neatness, a freshness and cleanness, as well as pretty features. Her physical attractiveness is the quiet, decent kind that a man looks for in a wife.”

“Sometimes, girls, if you let your husband boss the project a little, he’ll wind up doing the work quite efficiently. Because, you see, it’s his corporation.”

“Bad language is a dead giveaway that the user is covering up ignorance (he doesn’t know what he’s talking about) or is pretty lazy (he knows, but he won’t take the trouble to say it). Or, worst of all, that he thinks it’s smart!”

Also on swearing—“We’ll assume ladies never develop the above mentioned habit—I hope—I hope!!”

Previous Entries in this Series

 Weird Words of Wisdom: Prettily Bewildered Edition



3 thoughts on “Weird Words of Wisdom: Spanking New Edition

  1. […] Extreme Weirdness Alert: Bottel’s book includes a bizarre letter from a girl who befriended a male TV star’s daughter. When the girls returned home 15 minutes past curfew due to a flat tire, the TV star was angry and got into an argument with the letter-writer, who ended up throwing a hairbrush at him. He, then, took the hairbrush and gave her “a real hard spanking.” This letter doesn’t entirely ring true, unless the TV star was Pat Boone. […]

  2. […] book does not disappoint. Boone establishes his folksy cred by liberally sprinkling the book with phrases like “chillun” and “taint true.”  The book is in large part a jeremiad on the terrible dangers […]

  3. Paul Duca says:

    You may have heard about Boone’s recent urging of President Obama to have a little kindness to Dylan Roof–for those reading this in the future, the young man who shot nine people to death in a Charleston, SC church and stated it was because of all the bad things black people (such as all his victims) were doing to America.

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