Orphan Survival Stories Index |
As we kids left the dining room at the orphanage, my friend David "Freddie" Hutchins came running up to me.
"Roger, I got something I want to show you!"
"What is it?" I asked him.
"Cant' show you until tonight. However, you have to cross your heart that you will never tell anyone. NEVER, ok?"
I waited all the way until bedtime but David never came to see me.
"Roger, wake up." David was shaking me awake.
"What are you doing, David?"
"Come with me. I want to show you something important," he told me.
On my tiptoes, I followed David down the hallway. Down the back stairs we went until we reached the door next to the telephone room. Very carefully he unlocked the door, and outside we went.
We made our way over to a fifteen-foot tree that we boys always called, "The Christmas Tree." David got down on his knees and began to dig. Within a minute or two he retrieved a small tin box that he had buried. He sat down on the ground and pried off the lid. Then he took out the contents of the box.
"Gosh! That's only for girls," I told him.
"I know. But it's something for us to do."
What David said was true. We had no toys and there was nothing for us kids to do, except work all the time. Every day was spent raking the large grounds of the orphanage. That, together with cleaning toilets, and washing pots and pans was all we had to do.
Almost every night David and I would sneak out of the building and dig up the small tin box. We would play with the contents for about an hour. Each time David would remind me we could never tell anyone about what we were doing.
David and I were about thirteen or fourteen when the orphanage sent us off to the Florida School for Boys Reform School, at Marianna.
When we arrived at the school, we were sent to the main office where we sat for almost an hour. David and I were both scared and said not a word to anyone.
"OK, you two follow me over to Mr. Curry's Office," said a large man who only had one arm.
"Who's Mr. Curry?" David asked the man.
"Curry is the school psychologist. He will make the decision on where you boys will be assigned."
We entered a small building, and were instructed to stand with our noses in the corner. About ten minutes later we were taken into Mr. Curry's office.
Sitting at a large wooden desk was a balding, heavy-set man in his fifties. He was one mean looking man. He had big bushy eyebrows and eyes that stuck out from their sockets. David and I just sat there staring at him.
You aren’t ‘sissy boys,’ are you?" asked Mr. Curry.
We sat there looking at one another, wondering what the heck he was talking about. Neither one of us said anything.
"Sissy-boys! Sissy-boys!" he repeated in a gruff voice.
Still, we just sat there staring at him.
He swung around in his big wooden chair and then he sat forward. He picked up a pencil off his desk and pointed it directly at us. "Have either one of you two ever worn girl’s clothing, like panties, bra, anything like that?" he asked, as he raised his eyebrows again.
"I rode a girl's bicycle one time," I told him.
"I won't count that," he responded.
All at once, Mr. Curry got up from his desk and he walked out into the outer office. I looked over at David and said, "What about that tin box?"
"You keep your mouth shut about that box," he said, as he shook his balled up fist at me.
"But that would be telling a lie," I told him.
"You promised. Remember?" He was still shaking his fist at me.
Within an hour our interview was complete. David was assigned to cottage one, Washington Cottage, and I was assigned to cottage twelve. Cottage twelve was for children who were in need of further psychological evaluation.
Ten months later David was released and returned to Jacksonville, Florida. Several months later, I was released.
It was almost forty years before he and I saw one another again. David had gone on to become a police officer, and later a private investigator. As for me, I had made my way to jail and then on to prison. After we finally met again, it was less than a year before David developed cancer. The day before he died, I was standing beside his bed at the hospital.
"Roger, I know that I am not going to make it much longer," he said to me.
I reached down and took his hand. I did not say a word.
"Do you remember that tin box at the orphanage?" he asked.
"I remember Mr. Curry at the reform school," I told him.
David smiled. "I wonder if that tin box was ever found," he said.
"Don't know. But it sure was nice to have something to do once in a while."
The next day David died.
Several days after his funeral I drove to Jacksonville, and once again entered the orphanage grounds. I parked in front of our old dormitory building. I looked around and did not see “The Christmas Tree,” which had once stood at the end of the cement walkway. I walked over to where it had once been, and found the ground was flat and hard. It was hard to tell for sure where it had been. Yes, I will forever remember David and I sneaking out almost every night for nearly two years. We would dig down into the ground about six or eight inches, and retrieve the small tin box. Once the lid had been forced off we would take out the long slender rope, with its two red handles, and we would take turns jumping rope.
As I look back at how our lives turned out, it was probably best that we did not say anything to Mr. Curry about jumping rope together. After all, I cannot think of anything more ridiculous that an ex-cop and an ex-con jumping rope together.