WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – I got my first beating at boarding school after I threw a rock through a window. It was my third week there.
I knew I was in trouble immediately. But it wasn’t until I got a message from the schoolmaster on duty that I knew I was going to get beaten.
“Mr. Clough will see you in his study before bed,” the schoolmaster told me.
Everyone knew what it meant if you were called to the headmaster’s study. Many had gone there before me. (Clough used a gym shoe, which he kept tucked behind a radiator.)
I passed the next few hours with a sword hanging over me. And the other kids kept their distance…
On the Road
Greetings from West Palm Beach, Florida…
Two years ago, Kate and I sold all our things and hit the road with our three children and a small suitcase.
We hopped from town to town, country to country… living in Airbnbs and cheap hotels… traveling by bus, train, and plane… and “road-schooling” the kids until we’d traveled around the world.
Along the way, we helped build a school in Rwanda for orphans…
… we drifted around Eastern Europe for three months with rail passes…
… we drove across America in a campervan…
… we did a two-month loop around China, barely escaping before the coronavirus erupted…
… I discovered the Dow-to-Gold ratio and started writing these Postcards every day…
… and we restored our relationship and our family bond. (Kate and I got divorced in 2014.)
Living Out of a Suitcase
I’m writing to you today from South Florida.
We’re still traveling and living out of a suitcase. But the eruption of a viral pandemic has forced us to shelter in place temporarily.
(By the way, Bill Bonner wrote an urgent letter about the crisis we’re in and what he sees coming. If you haven’t read it yet, don’t wait. Just go right here.)
Luckily, Kate’s parents invited us to stay with them. They have a big house and they’re showing us incredible hospitality… especially considering I divorced their daughter five years ago.
I spend most of the day writing by hand or doing research on my computer.
Right now, besides these Postcards, I’m writing a series of research reports for the new investment advisory I’m launching next month. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also very exciting. I haven’t had such a clear grasp on the macroeconomic environment in years.
And if I’m right about the Dow-to-Gold ratio falling to low single digits, the portfolio I’m building for the advisory will make a fortune. (More details to come.)
While I work, Kate and the kids do their schoolwork. And in the evenings, we have a big family meal and watch the television together.
When the pandemic is over, we’ll hit the road again. Except we’re not going to travel internationally for a while. I think we’ll stick to traveling around America…
But back to boarding school… and the beating I was about to get from the headmaster…
The Headmaster’s Beating
I took my bath and got ready for bed. When it was time, the old matron who looked after us at night came for me. We called her “Sister.”
“Wait outside his study until you’re called,” Sister said.
Wearing pajamas, a nightgown, and slippers, I went downstairs and stood in the hallway outside the headmaster’s study. It smelled of floor polish. I still recall that smell today.
The headmaster made me wait for about fifteen minutes. Every time I heard a noise from inside the study, I wondered if it was time. The anticipation was awful. Finally, he opened the door.
I don’t remember what – if anything – he said. I just remember him taking the shoe from behind the radiator, grabbing me by the hair, bending me over roughly, and beating me three times. Then, I put my nightgown back on and went back upstairs.
The waiting was much worse than the punishment itself. It didn’t even hurt that much. And once I was back among my friends, everything was fine. And, as was always the case, everyone wanted to inspect the marks on my backside…
Enter the Sadistic Dorm Captains
Many of the schoolmasters beat us. Some used their hands. Some used shoes. One even threatened us with a cane (although I never saw him use it). He gave the cane a name. He called it “Fred.”
But the worst beatings were from the 13-year-old dorm captains.
The dorm captains were the oldest boys in the school, and they’d lash us after lights-out with our nightgown cords.
My dorm captain in that first year was the captain of the cricket and rugby teams. He was so big, some of the other schools refused to play matches against my school if he was on the team.
Being beaten by the headmaster with a gym shoe didn’t really hurt too much. But the vicious lashings the older boys meted out with that thin nightgown cord did.
They also punished us in many other creative, sadistic, ways.
I once had to stand arms outstretched, palm up, with a Bible in each hand. I got flogged every time one of my arms dropped below horizontal.
To be continued…
– Tom Dyson
P.S. In 1989, the British government outlawed boarding schools from using corporal punishments like flogging, beating, and spanking. So all of this stuff stopped happening a few years after I got sent to boarding school. I’m also proud to say, later on, when I was a dormitory captain, I never hit the boys in my dorm.
In today’s mailbag, readers share British boarding school stories…
Reader comment: Thanks again for another fascinating postcard. I, too, went to English boarding schools, from the age of 8 to 17. My prep school uniform was just like yours. I wonder which public school you went to.
Also, thank you again for constantly recommending that we (your devoted readers) buy gold. All of my precious metal stocks are doing really well. Hope you, Kate, and the children are all well.
Tom’s response: I went to Charterhouse.
Reader comment: Boarding school… 11 years. That is a long time. I had to endure four years, though I was older. Dorm life: We used to feel sorry for the “new-dags” when some of their mothers sent them with silk dressing gowns. They suffered so much more from the cane lashings…. for talking after lights out. Boarding school is a tough custom. It equips you and damages you, hmm? But, make friends for life, as all have “been through the trenches.” Good stuff, Tom, don’t change a thing.
Reader comment: I just love your letters. This latest one brings back lots of dreadful memories. I was raised in England starting in 1932, and although I never did go to boarding school, I met, heard about, and knew of far too many boys who suffered the indignity of the British boarding school system. I never did come to a comprehension of why any parent would subject their own child to such injustice, but “those were the days when children dare not object.” You have my total sympathy but also admiration.
Just being a student in the stern British system was bad enough, but to be “boarded out” UGH! However, I survived it and, apparently, so did you… and not only survived but, seemingly, you learned well, since your writing style and composition are a joy to an old fart like me. I am still amazed that so many young boys managed not only to survive through the horrific tales, but appear to have put it all behind them.
Please keep writing in your own style, your own experiences, and ignore all of the sometimes stupid comments you get in your mailbox, some of which you have shared with us. I have no idea about your religious inclinations, but I hope that, in spite of some dreadful times when I’m sure you cried out to a seemingly unresponsive God, that you now understand a bit better why He didn’t respond when and how you needed Him to. He is out there, but not many folks understand what exactly is, or should be, our relationship with Him. As they say in Spanish, “Vaya con Dios.”
Reader comment: Your story about getting left at boarding school at the tender age of seven upsets and saddens me. I am sorry you had to go through that. You have obviously made great strides since then, using that harsh treatment as stepping stones to success in the business world. Kudos to you!
Meanwhile, other readers ask about buying gold… getting back into stocks from gold… and hyperinflation in the U.S.…
Reader question: These Postcards are great. Tracking you and your family through all the different countries is utterly fascinating, likewise is your insight into converting everything to gold. I am definitely on board with owning a percentage in physical gold.
My query is that, in what condition should the gold be presented to you? Say, if you are buying one-ounce coins, should they be new or old, and should they be environmentally sealed or just in a plastic wallet? Or does it matter? Also, will they all be at the same price value when coming to sell them (no matter what condition)? Should I be insisting on any standard of presentation before paying for the gold? Your thoughts and experience would be very welcome.
Tom’s response: Doesn’t matter, as long as it’s gold and as long as you don’t pay more than about 5% over the actual value of the metal you’re buying. I wouldn’t buy retail gold and silver products now, for example, because the coin dealers are charging premiums of 10% or more.
Reader question: What I hear you saying is that you are waiting until the Dow-to-Gold ratio falls below five before buying back into stocks. What is the magic number when one moves out of stocks and back into gold?
Tom’s response: I’ve built a mechanical trading system out of my Dow-to-Gold hypothesis. I’m using 15 as the minimum level, in conjunction with a 200-day moving average signal.
Reader comment: Enjoy your Postcards and appreciate your financial advice. Hoping that you can help me understand why Japan has not experienced the hyperinflation that many are forecasting for the U.S. In the last 30 years, Japan has done everything that the U.S. is doing (or plans to do) and they have not experienced any serious inflation. Plus, with the demand destruction that is occurring, it appears that we will have deflation and not inflation. So why will we experience hyperinflation following Japan’s path, when Japan has not? Are we doing something different?
Tom’s response: The big difference between Japan and America is that Japan is a creditor nation and America is a debtor nation. Anyway, I’m personally not forecasting hyperinflation. I see a global synchronised currency devaluation coming and a hyperinflation of the gold price.
And as always, thank you for your messages! Kate and I read every one, even if we don’t publish a response right away. Please keep writing us at [email protected].