Orphan Survival Stories Index |
WE ARE GENTLEMEN'S
All five of us boys, ranging in ages from eight to eleven, sat on the hard wooden bench at the city police station. Once again we boys had run away from the Children's Home Society Orphanage located in Jacksonville, Florida. Someone had called the police because we were rummaging through a large dumpster to see if we could find something to eat.
It seemed to be hours that we had to sit there waiting to see what was going to happen to us. I overheard one police officer tell another that the juvenile hall was full to capacity. That we would have to sit out in the hallway until someone could reach the orphanage or until a vacant cell became available in order to keep us away from the other adult prisoners.
It was about eleven p.m. and there was a never ending stream of police officers coming and going. There were people drunk and falling down. There were some who were arguing and fighting with one another. It was common to see the police punch, kick and degrade their prisoners, both male and female.
The benches were now full of handcuffed prisoners, as was the hallway floor where prisoners were now being made to sit along the wall until they could be processed.
I sat watching as two police officers brought several women into the station house.
"You whores sit down where ever you can find a spot," said one of the officers, as he made his way up to the small window to process his paperwork.
I stood up and I looked at the two women as they searched for a place to sit down.
"You can have my seat," I told one of the women.
"Well, you are a real gentleman," she replied.
"You can have my seat too," said Wayne, one of the boys who slept in my room at the orphanage.
"Why, we have two real gentlemen here," the woman repeated again.
Wayne and I smiled real big like. I was not sure exactly what a "gentleman" was. But I had guessed that it was someone who was kind and considerate.
"YOU BOYS SIT DOWN OUT THERE," hollered out one of the policemen from behind the glass case.
"We ain't got no place to sit," Wayne told him.
"I SAID SIT DOWN," he hollered again.
"How we supposed to sit when there ain't no place to sit?" I asked Wayne.
He just shrugged his shoulders and stood there.
"Damn little b*%$#%*s," said the policeman, as he came running out of the glass and wire covered area.
He grabbed Wayne and pushed him to the floor. Then he grabbed me by my shirt collar and pulled me over onto the tile floor. Then he dragged me to the end of the line of prisoners and pushed me against the wall.
"You ain't supposed to do that. Me and Wayne are gentlemenís and you ain't supposed to do that to gentlemenís," I told him.
"SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP," The policeman screamed.
"Ain't policemen supposed to be good to people all the time?" asked Wayne.
The officer turned around and stared directly at Wayne. He stood there staring for about a minute.
"Youíre right young man," said the policeman. "You gentlemen come with me," he continued, as he motioned for us to follow him down the long hallway.
The five of us were made to take off all our clothing, except our underwear. Then we were placed into a large room which was completely covered with tile. There was no sink and there was no toilet, just a tile bench which ran around most of the room. In the middle of the floor there was a large steel drain pipe.
"You gentlemen enjoy yourselves," said the guard, as he closed and locked the steel door.
Within minutes the temperature in the room was almost freezing. It got colder and colder. Several of the boys were so cold that they started to cry. I was shaking so badly that I had to lay on the tile bench in the fetal position. We remained in that room until about eight o'clock the next morning. Over the next year or two several of us boys were once again placed in the "drunk tank" at the Duval County Jail. On those occasions we knew exactly what to expect.
I guess the lesson that I learned, at that young age, was that even the law itself had no respect for certain human beings, especially gentlemen.