Thursday, March 6, 2008

Willy's Story


As a young boy I grew up in Tampa Florida in what was known as six mile creek area. Six Mile creek was known a pretty rough part of town and a young boy was either picked on by the older kids or he learned to fight and defend himself, so I learned to defend myself at an early age. I was also a rebellious young man from a poor family. Kids at school could be very cruel to the less fortunate kids like myself and it seemed to me that in many cases to fight was your only recourse.

One must remember that for me to sit down and try to resurrect old memories that I have buried deep in the back of my mind for over fifty years is very painful, so some of my recollections of exact times and places may not be as accurate as I would like however many of my recollections will always be embedded in my mind because they come back from time to time in the form of horrible nightmares.

In 1958 I was sent to The Florida School for Boys at Marianna Florida. As I said earlier I was a rebellious young man and I was one of those boys who had the "Elvis look" with the long greasy hair, turned up shirt collar, smoking cigarettes and was quite popular with the girls etc, but when I went to Marianna I was like a little fish in a big pond and was scared to death.

My first few days at Marianna I was scared and confused and I trusted no one. I was assigned to Tyler cottage #9 and we had several boys who would try to bully me. The first time the bully's tried to give me a blanket party (they would wait until you were asleep and several boys would throw a blanket over your head and beat you with soap in a sock) one of the boys told me which night it was supposed to happen so I sat upright in my bed all night and was scared to death and the party never took place.

If you told anyone about getting a blanket party you would be called a snitch or rat and no one would have anything to do with you. A few days later several of the boys caught me in the corridor between the dormitory and the bath room and shoved me against the wall. There were four boys who said they were told to beat my ass by the cottage bully, but I fought back and three of them abandon the plan and only one continued to fight me. At some point in the fight I had him in a front head lock and I kept holding him and lifting him until he started to choke and passed out. I was too scared to release him. When the other boys saw what was happening they all ran in and pulled me away from him. All this commotion caused the cottage father to come downstairs from his living quarters and made us all return to the dorm.

The next morning I was taken to (known official to be named at a later date)office where I was questioned and told that I would be "going down" for fighting and I was told to sit on a bench in the front office until it was time. That had to be one of the longest wait in my lifetime, minutes seemed like hours. I had been told of the White House by the other boys and I was scared to death. I didn't tell (known official to be named at a later date) who I was fighting with because it was evident that I was going down anyway so telling (known official to be named at a later date) who I was fighting with would only make me a snitch.

Sometime around noon (known official to be named at a later date) and
(known official to be named at a later date) said to me, come on boy and
(known official to be named at a later date) and Mr. (known official to be named at a later date) was on each side of me and Mr. (known official to be named at a later date) held me by my arm. (known official to be named at a later date) was a big man and he had a grip in his remaining arm that could only be matched by a pair of vice-grip pliers or a pipe wrench. Once he had you ,you were not likely to get away from that grip.

As we walked toward the White House I could see some of the boys in the dinning hall looking out the windows at us. The walk from (known official to be named at a later date) office to the White House was like a death walk it was slow and methodical.

When we arrived at the White House (known official to be named at a later date) unlocked the door at one end of the building and said get your ass in there boy and shoved me. It was about a 6 inch step up and I stumbled as he shoved me in the door and we were in a hall way with rooms on each side. The stench of that building was so bad I began to gag and vomit from being scared and the smell of the place. I was shoved into a room I think on the left and the shoved onto a bed where I was told to get face down on the bed. I was the told to hold onto the rail at the head of the bed and face the wall. I was told that if I tried to get up or if I looked at them they would stop and stat all over again. At this time one of them turned on what sounded like a big blower apparently to muffle the sounds of the beating and crying.

No matter how many stories you hear about this place I don't think anything in the world could prepare you for what was about to happen next. As I lay there waiting I heard the sound of a shoe turning on the concrete floor and then it happened. The worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. I received 45 licks on my buttocks and just before each lick I could hear that shoe pivot on the concrete floor from the sand on the floor. When (known official to be named at a later date) finally quit beating me I was told to get my ass up and lets go. When we got to the door to go out of the White House I could not make the 6 inch step down to the ground because my buttocks was so numb and I could not tell how much damage was done to them, I could feel blood running down my legs but I was too afraid to say anything. I was taken back to the cottage where I was allowed to take a shower and I could not believe what I saw when I tied to look at my back side. My buttocks was as black as a crow and bloody. I had pieces of my under shorts embedded in my skin and I tried to pull as much as I could out but it hurt to bad to touch. By the next day my buttocks felt like a big black crust and I could only take steps about 6 inches long. This was one miserable feeling. The hard part was also trying to walk and act like it wasn't all that bad in front of the other boys but I guess they all knew better. The bully's in the dorm said I was pretty cool because I didn't snitch on the other boys I was fighting with. That was my first time to go to the White House but surely not my last.

Several months later I had received some bad grades and I was taken to the White House again and received 50 licks. This time Mr. (known official to be named at a later date) used the paddle. He appeared to be a rather large man and was what I would describe as a portly man. He wore a white shirt and dark trousers and neck tie. Mr. (known official to be named at a later date) was there also but Mr. (known official to be named at a later date) was not there that time. About 3 or 4 nights later I was awaken in my bed by (known official to be named at a later date) and I was told I was going down if I didn't tell them who had some cigarettes in our dorm. I told him I didn't know who had the cigarettes and he took me by the arm and led me out of the dorm and we were headed in the direction of the school house when we got to a room on the side of the school there was a room that led down stairs to the door of the room. I had never been there before but I had been told that was where they would take you and rape you or kill you. This place looked like it was a cellar or something. When we got to the top steps there were two other men there and I didn't recognize the other men. As we approached the top step to go down I started to fight and try to get out of that mighty grip of (known official to be named at a later date) and the two other men tried to help subdue me but I was fighting and screaming for all I was worth, I was kicking at their groin and knee area and swinging my fists at anything I could hit. At one moment I was free from Mr. (known official to be named at a later date) grip and I started running for all I was worth. I ran for what seemed like forever and my buttocks was beginning to bleed from the beating I had received a few days earlier I continued to run into some woods until I could not hear them and I thought they had given up on me. I made my way to what I think was the town of Marianna and I was hiding behind a colored juke joint when all of a sudden a flash light shined in my face and I heard a black man say "yonder one is Duce" as I jumped up to run I ran into another black man who threw me to the ground and held me until Mr. (known official to be named at a later date) and Mr.
(known official to be named at a later date) came and picked me up and took me back to the White House where I received 100 licks for running Mr.
(known official to be named at a later date) did the beating that night and I was told that every time I ran I would receive more licks than the time before.

I was at Marianna for a total of 19 months and went down 8 times, 5 times for running and 3 times for bad reports. They had a rank system and the lowest rank was Grub, if you was a Grub and you did anything wrong you had no rank to take away so you went down.

When I first arrived at Marianna I was assigned to work in the kitchen scrubbing floors and swill cans. Mr. Edenfield was the supervisor over the kitchen and was always yelling at us to do this or do that, He was never unfair to any of us but I guess he had to constantly yell to get things done time after all we were on a time schedule for feeding etc. As a matter of fact Mr. Edenfield was the only member of the staff that I liked. We were never allowed to talk to the black boys when they came over to pick up the swill cans to take to the hogs. On one occasion while we were loading the swill cans I shoved one of the cans and some of the swill spilled over the top and got on one of the black boys shoe and I said I'm sorry man I didn't mean for that to happen, the black boy said it's OK don't worry about it and I said thanks. One of the other boys told Mr. Edenfield I was talking to the black boys and Mr. Edenfield ask me about it and I told him what was said between the black boy and I. Mr. Edenfield told me he was going to tell (known official to be named at a later date) but he never did. I will always thank him for not telling (known official to be named at a later date). I worked my ass off for Mr. Edenfield and apparently he saw something in me because it wasn't long I worked my way up to cook, then staff cook which was one of the best jobs in the kitchen.

After having been in F.S.B. for approximately 16 or 17 months (known official to be named at a later date) called me to the office and told me that my father had been in contact with the school and wanted to know if I wanted to go live with my Father and his wife? I told (known official to be named at a later date)that I didn't know my father but I would try anything to get out of that place. My father was station in Korea at the time and would be coming back to the States in about two months and that I would have to walk the strait and narrow for two months so I did.

Things didn't work out with my dad and his wife so after a while I returned to Tampa where I found a job working for a plumber. I worked for the plumber for about 8 or 9 months until the plumber died and I went into the Military. I was not a good solder so one hitch was enough for me.

After the Military I held several jobs that usually ended up with me loosing my temper and quitting or being fired it seemed that I could not get along with anyone and I didn't trust anyone and always had a chip on my shoulder, I don't know how I kept from going to prison or someone shooting me.

In 1974 I met a wonderful lady and ask her to marry me. When she said yes I made up my mind I would do everything I could to make her happy and I am still working on that. I told my wife about my experience at Marianna and I don't think she really believed how it was until I ask her to read Roger's story about the White House.

I feel in my heart that God must have a special seat in Hell for people like Mr
(known official to be named at a later date) , Mr. (known official to be named at a later date) and Mr. (known official to be named at a later date) and others like them.

I can remember on a few occasions boys would go to the White House and never return to their cottage. We were told that they went to Raiford Prison we didn't know that one had to be convicted of a felony crime at trial to go to Raiford but we were afraid to ask. So what happened to them? Where are their bones buried? How many of them had no family at home to question the authorities. If the juvenile justice system was this bad in the 1950's how bad was it in the 30's and 40's.

What was it like on the Black side. Working in the kitchen we saw a lot of black boys go to the White House, did they get as many licks as we did? We could not tell because of the big blower making noise but they sure stayed in there as long as we did. What about the girls at the girls school? I think it was in Ocala Fl. Did they get beat like the boys did? Were there any records of the beatings? Boys or girls, black or white. When I was in Marianna they were building another boys school in Okeechobee did they have their version of the White House? There is a lot of questions that should be answered and the State of Florida should be held accountable. I just cannot understand why children should be treated in such a brutal manner. I suddenly find myself sitting here crying like a 65 year old child, like I said I am resurrecting old memories that I have had suppressed for over 50 years and its getting to me so I will end for now and try to replace these old memories back in their place in the back of my memory bank. Maybe one day we can have a F.S.B. at Marianna reunion for the 1959-1960's and all have a good cry and then celebrate our survival together.

So long for now, Willy