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A VERY SPECIAL ORPHAN BROTHER
The daily routine at the Childrenís Home Society Orphanage wasn't very hard to learn, as there was not much to it and it seldom changed. Each morning began with the head house parent (Pop to us) walking up and down the hall hollering and cursing at all of us, stopping occasionally at one of the rooms to shout a few more obscenities. I think he must have felt like he had to start each day by saying "You Little Bastards" at least a couple of dozen times.
Then on downstairs for our morning gathering in the TV room, a time that was mostly used to tell us how bad we had all been the day before and what was going to happen if we didn't start walking the line like we were told to do. Some work details were assigned and we were marched to the dining room for breakfast. Then we went back to our building where we began working, until the house parents let us go play. More often then not, this would be after lunch.
We had nothing to play with, but they always let us have our marbles. Looking back, I can still see a bunch of little orphan children scattered about in groups crawling around in the dirt playing marbles. Sometimes, they would get out the two pairs of skates and let us take turns skating on the basketball court, which was full of cracks and holes or they might let us have one basketball to play with. On very rare occasions, they would let us play a game of softball.
On about the third or fourth day that my brother Frank and I were there, Pop decided to let us have a softball game. One day after the evening meal, we were marched through the dozens of pine trees to a large clearing. Pop chose two team captains and they picked their teams. The ones that were not picked were seated on the ground to watch. I was picked, but Frank became a spectator.
On into the game, I was on second base when the boy playing third base for the opposite team threw a pinecone and hit Frank. He was sitting with the other boys that were not in the game. Frank started crying and in defense of my brother, I yelled at the boy: "After this game, I am going to get you."
After the game, I was walking toward the boy who hurt my brother, when I heard "you two get over here!" It was Pop, who was standing in the center of a smaller clearing among the pine trees. Some of the older boys became very excited, but what puzzled me was: why were some of the younger boys starting to cry? The boy and I went up to where Pop was standing and the other boys formed a circle around us.
"You two settle this once and for all, and I don't want any more trouble out of you" Pop said. "Do you understand that?" "Yes, sir," we both answered.
Pop backed away a few feet, and this boy and I stood there looking into each otherís eyes. A strange feeling came over me. He had a really strange look in his eyes like I had never seen before and even at 7 years old it had a very deep and strange effect on me. I no longer was mad at this boy. I no longer wanted to fight him. We just stood there looking deep into each otherís eyes. "Come on; fight, fight," yelled several of the older boys. Suddenly, he pushed me in the chest with both his hands.
"Hit me!" he yelled.
I stumbled back, regained my balance and pushed him.
"You hit me first," I said.
After a couple of more times of the pushing and the "you hit me first" routine, some of the older boys were getting impatient. They were shouting all kinds of obscenities. A couple of them even threw pinecones at us. Suddenly, POW! He punched me square in the mouth and down I went.
I sat up there in the dirt, bleeding rather badly. The punch had busted my upper lip.
"Hit him again, kick him, help him up and knock him back down again" were just a few of the remarks coming from some of the others. The boy bent down and grabbed me under the armpits as if to help me up, but when his head was close to mine he whispered to me: "Say you quit. Maybe they won't make us fight any more."
As he pretended to be trying to help me get up I said, "Okay, I quit." I had blood all over the front of me by then. He put his foot on my shoulder and pushed me back over into the dirt, then turned and walked away. The older boys were all congratulating him and making all kinds of remarks to me. Pop came over and literally snatched me to my feet by my hair. "Go get cleaned up," he said as he pushed me so hard that I fell back down into the dirt again.
I was really a mess, with blood and sand all over me. After a few minutes, Pop came into the utility room where I was trying to clean up and attempted to stop the bleeding. He looked at my lip and then took me to the hospital emergency room, where it took eight stitches to sew it up.
Up till then, my brother and I had shared a room. That night after we were herded upstairs, Pop came to our room with the boy that had busted my lip. He put him in the room with me, and took my brother and put him in another room. Perhaps this was a form of punishment or maybe they were hoping we would beat each other to death. Whatever their reason, I don't think it worked out the way it was suppose to.
I still felt no anger at this boy, but somehow I knew that I had to pretend that I did for Pop's benefit. Once Pop was gone and the lights were turned out, we talked (whispered) for hours. I learned that he had been in the orphanage for almost two years. He explained that he never meant to hit my brother with the pinecone. He was throwing it at one of his buddies sitting next to Frank and he missed. He also explained that he meant to hit me in the nose, but I must have moved a little and the punch got me in the mouth. All he wanted was to draw blood, because he knew that was what they wanted. He explained why some of the younger boys were crying right from the beginning. He said they were scared that they would be made to fight and that sometimes, one of the younger boys would be made to fight an older boy and the older boy would be allowed to beat the younger boy unmercifully. He told me we were lucky because sometimes, a simple "I quit" wasn't enough. If there weren't enough blood, they would make you keep fighting, until one was seriously hurt or covered with blood.
I later realized that they actually enjoyed taking us to the hospital to get patched up. It helped maintain their image. We were just a bunch of stupid little bastards that had no better sense than to try to beat each other to death. What a tough job they had trying to keep us under control. This was obvious at the hospital. They seemed to feel more sorry for Pop than they did for me and I was the one doing the bleeding.
We continued to talk in a whisper way well into the night. I think this was the beginning of a lifelong friendship that really started back at the eye contact. If they had known what they created, we became quite a team. We kept the house parents convinced that we didn't have much use for one another. We sure pulled a lot of capers together. If we weren't pulling pranks on each other, we were pulling them on someone else. We also pulled a few mischievous things together and were the ringleaders in others. But that is another stories.
We continued to be roommates for almost four years. He got in some sort of trouble and was sent off to reform school. Shortly after that, I was placed in the first of what was to become many foster homes. For approximately the next 32 years, I would never see or hear from him again.
I was living in one of the two upstairs apartments in basically the slum district of Jacksonville, Florida. One day, I heard footsteps on the stairs and as always if I heard someone coming up, I opened my door to see whom it was. I recognized them immediately, after all those years - my old roommate and another one of the boys (men now) from the orphanage. After the greetings were all said and the tears dried up, we spent the rest of that day together. I learned that my old roommate spent a big portion of his life gathering information about the orphanage and the children that were in it. There was persistence in him that you rarely see in a person.
Since that day about eight years ago, we have kept in close contact. Our views and opinions about the orphanage, and the abuse we and other children were subjected to are basically the same. We both have this burning desire to tell our stories in hopes that they might help someone in some way. He began writing stories about four or five years ago and soon after that, he was introduced to Web TV; something I had always put down, probably because I didn't know how to use it. For the next couple of years, he was constantly after me to buy a Web TV unit. I continued to make up excuses. I just couldn't see me getting into this thing.
Finally, when nothing else would work, he brought me a unit and practically shoved it down my throat. Worse than that, he stayed two days and forced me to learn how to use it. I was afraid to say no; I might get another fat lip.
I have had the unit two months now and I don't know as I have ever got so much enjoyment and satisfaction out of anything. He has been right there helping me learn - sometimes getting me so mad I could choke him, if I could get my hands on him. He has a way of answering everything, but what you are asking. He thinks he is slick. The fact is, he knows me too well. He knows how to aggravate me to the point where I'll learn something, if for no other reason but spite. I imagine he has had several good laughs at my expense.
From the very beginning, right at 45 years ago, my gratitude to him goes way beyond words. He is truly: A Very Special Orphan Brother.
Thank You Roger.
I Love You.
Bobby "Wayne" Evers