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This is probably nothing that you havenít heard before but just another story of a young boy being brutally beaten at Florida school for boys at Marianna.
My story began in 1961, living in Tampa and my parents had left to move to California. I had all my friends here and said I didnít want to go, so they left me. I worked odd jobs mostly in car and truck junk yards since it was something i was really interested in. I had just turned 14 years old and was alone in the world. I continued to go to school and work afterwards. managed to pay my way and even buy my own car.
So much for that, I am not attempting to make someone feel sorry for the way I was raised because I knew many boys in there that had it as bad or maybe worse than me. My goal here is to tell of the horrors a child can and did go through in that time period. I went to a show of the Harlem Globe Trotters at Curtis Hixon in Tampa, Fl. with some friends and somehow one of them went in the wrong door and all the money for the admission was sitting on a table. He came running out with the money and said we got to go and of course we were in my car. Needless to say we got caught and all the money was returned, everyone got a slap on the wrist and released to their parents except me. I had no parents to be released to so I was sent to Marianna as a runaway.
Upon arrival I was told many things about the place and how I should watch how I talked and acted or it could be big trouble for me. I wasn't much on listening at the time and pretty much had to be shown. In the first week of being there I was given 25 licks for disrespect. This didn't set real well with me so I ran away. I stayed gone for three days and was turned in by some nice old lady that gave me a ride to Chipley. I thought I was home free but, unfortunately I was taken back to the school and this time it was much worse for me than I had anticipated. I was given 100 licks and as in previous stories you have read it was with the same leather strap. Bear in mind that this was only three days after I had gotten 25 licks for disrespect and I was still quite tender on the rear and I knew I was going to get much worse.
Although they took turns beating me, the most outstanding memory I have is how Troy Tidwell would scrape his foot and telegraph the next blow was coming. I would like to tell you that all you do is hold a rail, bite a pillow and wait for it to be over but that is far from the truth. You canít help but count every blow and wonder if you might bleed to death before itís over. I remember screaming and yelling and praying to God for them to stop but to no avail. I recall how one would get tired and another would take over. When I stopped screaming they knew that I had become numb in those spots and moved to my legs and back to finish the beating. After I was beaten they had to help me off the bed and wrapped me in a towel to hide the blood and sent me to the infirmary to be cleaned up and returned to my dorm. The next day I had to go to work on yard detail.
I will say that the experience did break my spirit for the next several months. And believe me I was real easy to get along with. I made a lot of friends there and for some stupid reason they looked at me like some kind of hero or something because I was still alive after that beating I guess, I wasn't anyone's hero but it felt good when your 14 and been through the worst and still there to let the others know how it was. Things got worse for me, because in a year I was scheduled to leave and go home but my parents couldn't be found and I had to stay. I had a friend that had been talking about running and this latest news about having to stay really hurt so we ran. I will leave it up to my friend to tell his story and divulge his name if he chooses. Anyway, we had devised the perfect plan. He ran one way and I ran the other. This time I made it all the way to Chattahoochee, Fl. and got caught trying to get a change of clothes off a clothes line. I was taken back and since we had split up my friend had not been caught yet. After 2 hours of trying to get me to tell them where my friend went, a black eye and busted lip were in addition to what I was about to get.
I was taken to the white house again and given the 100 licks I had just earned for running only this time I really had them mad at me because it was the second time I had run and I wouldn't tell them anything about my friend. I could hear the foot scrapes on the floor and this time the strap was not aimed at my butt, I was hit in the legs, back and even the shoulders, the pain was so excruciating that I could only remember getting to 79 before I passed out (I remember this because I talked about it a lot to some people later that never believed me and all but called me a liar) I woke up in the infirmary and nurse Womack said she thought I was dead. I was kept in the infirmary for an extra day and then sent back to my dorm. I was sent back to infirmary a day later because my coccyx bone was broken and I couldn't sit down anywhere. It took nearly 3 months before I could sit in cafeteria and eat. (Had to stand and eat in kitchen)
I stayed on the yard crew mowing and weeding most of my time and after the second time I ran I was called many times to the white house and had to sweep and mop the floors as a remind for running and while there cleaning I was given the occasional slap on the head or the kick in the ass or shins. I was really glad when another grub took my place.
Although you would think that someone , even someone as headstrong as myself would learn but I did end up going to the White House again for fighting trying to help someone else out, boy go figure. I was taken to the White House with along with 2 others. We were sitting on the waiting cot listening to the others get beat. I remember thinking it was funny because the boy I got in a fight with was crying already and I am trying to calm him down. Anyway we could hear one of the boys screaming and then the screaming stopped and I thought the beating was over and we were about to go, but I could still hear the licks. I remember thinking he was pretty tough not to yell or cry out. After a few minutes Troy Tidwell came out breathing hard and sweating and I thought one of us was about to go in but he made us leave an return to dorm and said he would come get us later. It wasn't 'til the next day when they came to get us, I thought something was up but I was glad for the day reprieve. I never saw the boy that was in front of me again but I really never looked for him either. It was just a strange turn of events and I don't recall it happening before.
I will say that I kept this bottled up inside for 50 years and even though I am letting someone know what happened to me as a child it does not ease the pain of it happening. I know that I would like to have that same strap and be able to use it on the ones that did it to me and I don't think there is a man that experienced it that wouldn't. An eye for an eye? Some have said that the men that did this are dead or they are old and frail, but then I think of a 14 year old boy and two grown men nearly beating him to death. I would have no problem. I listened to the news and I hear how inhumane it is to electrocute a murderer, how it is inhumane to hurt an animal, it is even inhumane to extract information from an enemy that would kill you if given the chance. Yet the people of Florida and Marianna want to let the torture of young boys go away with no investigation. I heard someone say that the statute of limitations has run out on this type of abuse, to you I say that it will never run out of the mind of the children that experienced it firsthand. These men have taken different paths in their lives, but not one did so without the memories. I am a grown and aging man now but the memory has followed me through relationships and all of my adult life. how can I trust when the ones I was supposed to be able to trust beat me unmercifully. How can I love when I was never taught how, and how can I be just when I see no justice.
WAKE UP FLORIDA, WAKE UP AMERICA, WE ARE STILL HURTING HERE
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