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THE "PHILCO"



"WHO TURNED ON THE DAMN PHILCO?" screamed the matron.

The ‘Philco’ was a large, four-foot high radio. It sat in the corner of the sitting room in our dormitory building at the Children's Home Orphanage. No one was ever allowed to touch it. Evidently, one of the boys had snuck downstairs during the night and turned the knob. As the unit had tubes, it took anywhere from one to two minutes for it to warm up and come on. That way, whoever turned it on had time to run back upstairs and climb into bed.

"We will stand out in this hallway all night long, if need be," said the large woman.

No one said a word. I looked up and down the hallway to see if I could tell who might have a smile on his face. Every face was looking forward and each had the look of fear on it. Once in a while, I would hear a snicker from the far end of the hallway.

"Who did it?" I whispered to Wayne as the matron traveled back down to the other end of the hall.

"I don't know. I think it was Robert or Emmett," he whispered back.

"Okay then," said the matron. "I would guess that it is about 40 degrees outside. Let's drop our pajamas right where we stand. Then file down the stairs and line up by the door of the telephone room.

One at a time, our pajamas fell to the floor. Each and every boy stood at attention, each boy now in nothing except his underwear. Slowly, we moved into a single line and down the stairs we traveled. The Matron opened the large door, which lead outside to the back yard.

"You little bastards will stand outside in the cold, until one of you admits to turning on the Philco. OUTSIDE NOW!" she screamed.

The line began to move forward. Within a minute, we were all lined up on the sidewalk outside the white brick dormitory. Many of the boys were already crying before we even left the building. Every one of us shivered.

"You'll go to jail, if one of us dies," said one of the boys.

"What did you say?" she asked.

"You'll go to jail, if one of us dies," he repeated.

”NO! The one who turned on the Philco will go to jail. It is his fault that you boys are out here," she said.

No one said a word. We just stood shivering and running in place. Some boys were hopping up and down trying to stay warm.

"I'll be back in 15 minutes," said the matron as she closed the large wooden door.

I had never been so cold in all my life. I really thought we would all die before she came back. I was so happy when I saw the large door reopen.

"Do we have an answer for me?” she asked.

"It was me," said little Billy Smith.

"Get in here, right now. Up the stairs and line up in a straight line," she told us.

We ran as fast as we could up the stairs and put on our pajamas.

"Here's what we are going to do. Billy Smith, you come up here and stand by me. You boys are to walk to this end of the hallway. As you pass, you are to slap Billy in the face. Then you go back to your respective bedrooms. Let's get moving," she said.

The first boy in line walked up to Billy and gave him a little tap on the side of his face.

"NOT LIKE THAT!" screamed the matron. "Like this," she explained as she hit Billy across the face with her open hand.

As Billy fell backwards from the blow, his head hit the wall.

"I can't hit nobody like that," said Wayne Evers.

“Come over here, young man,” said the matron.

She grabbed Wayne by the neck and pulled him toward her.

”YOU SLAP HIS DAMN FACE. DO YOU HEAR ME?" she screamed. Do you hear me?" she said again as she shook Wayne back and forth.

I thought Wayne's neck was going to break she shook him so hard. By then, we boys were so scared we could hardly move. We did not know what to do. All at once, Wayne slapped the matron across her face. Then he slapped her again and again. As she ducked down, he began to slap her across her head. The matron fell against the wall and down onto the floor. She was screaming and yelling for someone to help her. We just stood, still afraid to move.

The matron got up from the floor and walked into her room. We heard her pick up the telephone and call Mrs. Winters, the head matron of the orphanage. The police took Wayne away. Not one boy said a word about having to stand outside in the cold or having to slap little Billy across the face. It never even entered our heads that what they were doing to us was wrong. It happened so much and so many times that we kids thought it was ‘normal.’



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