As far as I remember, the boys were about as law-abiding as you can expect boys to be, and I can't remember any particularly interesting crimes; perhaps you can?
The borderline between normal, harmless behaviour and misbehaviour is uncertain and fuzzy, it depends on the whim of the master. Even if the master is absolutely consistent and has a clear, sharp borderline in his own mind, boys are not telepathic and can't see exactly where it is. So we boys had to be a bit wary of masters in general, because we could never be quite sure what would set them off.
The common punishment for any non-trivial offence was the cane, administered by the headmaster (only). Boys were sent to the headmaster's study and would queue outside if necessary.
The cane was a punishment, not an assault. At least in my experience, he didn't put his full strength into it and didn't draw blood. The common sentence was one or two strokes, perhaps more for major offences.
I wasn't a troublesome boy and was caned rarely, about once a year as far as I remember. Some other boys were caned much more often.
Offences I remember being caned for:
- Going to the lake by myself without permission (I didn't realize permission was required) and falling in (I was looking for tadpoles). Mr Cromie found me in my underwear beside the lake: I'd stretched out my clothes to dry.
- Jabbing Gogs Wilson in the bottom with a fork, in the squarish dining room beside the kitchen; I was taking a minor revenge for something he'd done to me. I think it was Mr Cromie again who noticed.
There must have been lesser punishments used in the school but I find it difficult to remember them. In the earlier years, boys were sometimes required to stand in front of the class performing uncomfortable exercises, e.g. standing with arms outstretched for a long time. Some masters also had a knack of grasping the hair near the ear and twisting it painfully.
In retrospect, I think that caning children is probably neither necessary nor desirable, but I wouldn't claim to have suffered any serious harm from my small experience of it. There is a danger these days of giving children no discipline at all; but I don't claim to know the best way of bringing up children.
Jonathan Marler remembers...
... climbing down the fire escape with another boy, stealing weed killer from the shed and sugar from the kitchen, mixing them on a board and setting fire to them on the lake. I do not remember being caned for that, but I am sure I was. Being caned was a pretty regular occurrence for me. Another night, we stole sausages from the kitchen and cooked them on a scouting stove.