Orphan Survival Stories
THE DRAGON LADY
At 12 years old, I was living on my own in a rooming house on Forsythe Street in Jacksonville. I was there, because I would not return to the abusive orphanage where I had been raised and the juvenile court did not want to send me back to reform school. Therefore, the juvenile judge allowed me, under supervision, to get a job at a sheet metal shop and I lived at a rooming house about a block from the juvenile court.
I acquired the name ‘Hershall Hutto’ from someone who had something to do with an air force military magazine subscription and it was supposed to have something to do with my natural mother. One day after work, I decided to sit down at the rooming house telephone and call every city in the United States to see if there was a Hershall Hutto listed. I made a long list of every major city in the U. S. and then called directory assistance information, starting with the states having the fewest number of major cities.
Within several hours, I reached an operator who found the name ‘Hershall Hutto,’ who resided at 127 President Drive in Dover, Delaware. I asked the woman at the rooming house if I could call the number. She agreed, as long as I paid her for the telephone call when I got my paycheck. I dialed the number very nervously and heard a woman's voice answer: “Hello.”
"Is this Mrs. Hutto?” I asked.
"Yes it is and who is this?”
"This is Roger. Are you my mother?”
"Who?” she asked again.
"Roger Dean Kiser,” I said.
"How did you get my number?"
"I got it from the operator.”
"I cannot talk right now. Can I telephone you back later? Give me your number," she said.
I gave her the number of the rooming house and hung up. I was so excited; I had heard my mother's voice for the first time in my life. That was a wonderful feeling and I told everyone I knew about it. However, I waited for days, but she never called back. I waited by that black telephone every hour I was not working.
I worked very hard for about a month, eating only one 10 cent Krystal hamburger each day. I managed to save enough money to buy a Greyhound bus ticket. I was going to go and live with my mother where I belonged. So off I headed from Jacksonville to Dover at the age of 12. I arrived in Dover around 9 a.m. and was shocked to see snow all over the ground. I had never seen snow before and did not realize how cold it was. I was shaking all over, as I had no winter clothing. However, that was okay, as I would soon be in the arms of my mother for the first time in my life. She would make me warm and take care of me, and I would never have to be afraid, ever again. I walked up to the post office where I saw a pay phone and pulled out that wonderful number I had been given by the information operator. I dialed the number and once again, heard the beautiful voice of my mother.
"Hello," she said.
"Mom, this is Roger,” I said softly into the phone.
"Where are you?” she asked.
"I am at the post office.”
"What post office are you at?”
"The post office here in Dover, Delaware.”
Things were perfectly quiet for about 30 seconds.
"What are you doing here?” she asked.
"I've come home to live with you, mom.”
There was another long silence and then she said, "You wait there and I will be there in a few minutes.”
Then she hung up the phone. I stood there cold and shaking in the light wind, trying to stand behind the great big, white pillars of the post office building. I watched and looked at every woman who walked by or came near me wondering if she was the one who was my mother. I was very excited, but something deep inside of me kept telling me that something was not right. Nevertheless, I really did not care. My mother was coming to take me home and everything was going to be all right.
"You'll see," I thought.
I guess I waited about half and hour and all of a sudden, I heard a car horn honking. I looked all around, but did not see anything. Finally, I noticed a woman parked out on the street in a station wagon; she was waving at me. I picked up my very large, brown suitcase and walked toward the vehicle. I opened the front door and she told me to put my suitcase in the back seat. I did and then got in the front seat and sat there being really still.
"How are you?" she asked.
"I am fine, mom,” I said.
Nothing more was said, until we reached her house. We never even looked one another in the eye the entire drive. As we entered the house, I noticed beer cans sitting everywhere. There had to be hundreds of them all over the place. I sat down in a chair in the living room and noticed a woman sitting at the kitchen table. There were also three or four young children running around the house. The woman got up, walked into the living room and introduced herself as Barbara Dragon.
"Hi,” I said.
I shook her hand and then sat very quietly, not saying one word to anyone. About an hour later, the front door opened and in walked this very tall man in an air force uniform. My mother jumped up rather quickly, grabbed him by the arm and hurried him down the hallway toward the back of the house. I noticed that Barbara Dragon kept looking at me smiling rather kindly, as though she knew something that I did not. However, I just could not figure out what it was. The tall man finally walked back down the hallway and into the living room.
He walked over to where I was sitting, stood in front of me, held out his hand and said, "Hi, my name is Hershall and I am very glad to meet you, Roger".
I shook his hand, but was afraid to do anything except say, “Thank you, sir.”
Hershall was very kind and considerate toward me over the next week or so. We even discussed me working for him one day at his gas station/garage in Dover. It was also decided that I would have to return to school to get an education. I had only completed the Grade 6, before dropping out of school and being sent to the reform school in Marianna, Florida.
My first day of school in Dover Delaware ended up being my last day too, because I got into a fight with another boy in the gym for calling me "Big ears.” When I returned to my mother's home, she was furious at me and started yelling at the top of her voice. Then she walked over to the counter and threw a letter at me. It was one I had written and mailed in her mailbox several days before. The letter was to a friend of mine in Jacksonville.
"What is this f---'n shit,” she screamed pointing to the letter.
I was very embarrassed when I saw that letter lying on the floor. I knew what I had written and that I should not have. In the letter to a teenage male friend of mine in Florida, I wrote the following message: "I love it here and I am very happy for the first time in my life. There are lots of girls all over the place and I am getting lots of p---y, Roger.”
Well, I was so ashamed of myself and so embarrassed that I did not know how to react. I wrote the letter partly because of my age, wanting to be looked upon as a man, and partly because of what I had seen happening around my mother's house. Sex between her and Hershall was an every day occurrence. I passed their bedroom many times, with their door ajar and knew what was happening, because of the sounds coming from the room; the younger children in the household knew as well.
My mother just kept yelling and screaming, and it went on and on and on for more than an hour. Finally, I got up, walked into my bedroom, took my suitcase out of the closet and started packing it with what few clothes I had.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"I am going back to the orphanage where I belong.”
"Just as well,” she said as she turned around, slammed the door and walked away.
I finished packing my suitcase and walked out her front door without saying a word and never looked back. I walked for miles and miles in the snow, crying my eyes out and shivering from the cold. I have never in my entire life, ever known a more lonely moment than that very instant. Again, I had no mother and not even an orphanage to look after me. I was without a doubt, completely alone in the world. That was the most horrible, deep, sinking feeling that I have ever known in my entire life. I will never get over that feeling. That “feeling” is who I have become, even today as a grown man.
Several hours after I was on the road, the police stopped and asked me where I was going with such a big, heavy suitcase. I told them I was heading to Florida to see if the orphanage would take me back. The police officer just smiled, rubbed me on the head, told me to get into the back of his police car and took me to the police station. I was placed in a small cell and told to wait. I opened my big brown suitcase, took all my clothes out and laid them against the iron wall in a neat row. Then I folded my pants and laid them on the iron bed, as there was no mattress, and they made a soft bed. I climbed on top and immediately fell asleep. When I was awaken by a policeman, I noticed the lady I had seen the first day at my mother's house; she was outside the bars smiling at me.
"Would you like to come and live with me?” she asked.
"I guess so. I ain’t got anywhere else to go,” I told her.
"You can baby-sit for me and my husband, and I will see that you get a bus ticket back to Florida," she told me.
I stayed with them and baby-sat for about a month. Early one morning, they gave me a few dollars and a bus ticket back to Florida. While staying at the Dragon Lady's house, she was always very kind, gentle and sweet to me. I will never forget her helping and being kind to me.
While I was living with her, my mother came to her house five or six times to have coffee. However, she never did speak to me, ever again. I think I remember her coming to the bus station when I left. However, I do not remember if she said anything or what even happened. I was just too sad to think anymore.
I guess I had finally accepted the fact that I really was an orphan.