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BROKEN SPIRITS



"Sit down there and keep your damn mouths shut," said Mrs. Winters, the head matron of the Children's Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida.

I stood watching from the grass circle located in the center of the orphanage as the two new, young arrivals were about to be orientated.

"Is my mommy ever coming back to get me?" cried Frankie Evers.

"I said... SHUT UP!" yelled the matron as she hit him on the top of his head with the polo paddle.

"He don't have to shut up," yelled Wayne, Frankie's older brother as he sat there with his fists balled up.

I shook my head back and forth, and bit my lip as I stood there behind the large oak tree watching the three of them. I had seen this type of thing happen many, many times before. It was always the same - the cursing, the slapping and the yelling.

"Please. Just be quiet and don't say noth'in, and she'll stop," I thought.

I watched as Mrs. Winters grabbed Wayne by his shirt and lifted him off the metal chair. I watched as his arms swung wildly in the air.

"You little bastard!" yelled the matron as she slapped Wayne across the face.

Then she started beating him in the head with the large wooden, sandpaper-covered paddle. With his head down, Wayne fought like a bull charging directly at her. No matter what he did, he could not seem to over-take her height or reach. All at once all was quiet, except for Frankie who was still crying. Wayne lied there on the cement floor fighting for his breath.

"The sooner you two little bastards learn the rules, the better off you will be. Do you understand me?" she asked.

I stood there hoping that neither of the two boys would say a word.

"YOU BASTARD!" yelled the 10-year-old boy, who was still lying on the cement floor.

"You gotta learn the right way," I thought.

Mrs. Winters kicked the boy in his side as hard as she could. I watched as he sat upright. He was crying and he held his hand in front of his face, as if protecting himself. His arm shivered, back and forth, as he held it upward. There was not another word spoken.

I had stood on the grass circle many times watching as new arrivals came to the orphanage to live. At that young age, I really did not understand what was happening. All I knew was that no one was allowed to talk back to ‘Mother Winters.’ Even the ones who kept their mouths shut were slapped and knocked around when they first arrived. I guess this was so they would know without a doubt that she was the boss.

I watched as child after child came to the home. What amazed me the most is that it took very little time - sometimes just a matter of hours, for the orphanage to break the spirits of many of these new children - if the term ‘kicking a dog while he is down’ ever had a true meaning, this was the time and this was the place. The good news is that there were a few who survived the breaking of their spirits. Most of them became very hard people and finally made their way to prison or out on the streets. I kept in contact with many of them, until their deaths or suicide over the last 10 years.

Though most of them were very hard and coarse individuals, I found them to have very kind hearts. They were the type of people who would never hurt a child or harm an animal. Yet on the other hand, I never saw any one of them ever hug another human being.

Wayne Evers now lives alone in Gainesville, Georgia. His brother Frank(ie) lives less than 15 miles from him. They have not spoken to one another in almost 10 years. Frankie will not speak to me, because of the book I write exposing what happened to us in that Jacksonville, Florida orphanage.



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