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My story is so much like all of the rest of the White House Boys. It all starts out with, as in most cases, a broken home.
We lived, for a short time, in Montana with my mom and birth father. One day early in the afternoon my mom put me, my brother and sister, ages 4, 2 1/2 and 1 1/2, out in the yard to play and went next door to the neighbor’s house (E. Kindsvogel) to go do whatever. I vaguely remember hearing kids playing down the street so I opened the gate to go play with them. My brother, Johnny, age 2 1/2, followed me. My baby sister, Mary Anna, age 1 1/2, came out of the gate but didn’t follow us. She crossed the street and went to where there was a large drainage ditch. She fell in and drowned. Some 4 hours passed before mom noticed us all missing and the search began. By then Mary Anna was washed several miles down the river.
My mother kept the battered, bloody clothes they cut off of my sister and for years, when she was drinking, would drag them out and cry and tell me “It’s all your fault. You murdered your baby sister.” I had constant reminders. I sat and heard her tell the story “Frankie opened the gate and let his sister fall in the water and drown”. I remember the looks from my aunts, uncles and family friends, accusing looks. How many times did I wish it were me, wished I could trade places with the blonde, blue eyed little sister I murdered.
At the funeral I was made to stand in front of the casket and stare at her. I remember being told “You better not move boy.” It wasn’t until, with the help of my wife, I put that to rest.
My parents divorced and we moved back to Sarasota, Florida without my birth father. I now had a new mean, alcoholic stepfather (Kindsvogel). Emil was a hard working man who worked me like a man at ages 6 - 10. He made me help him every spare moment with the work he did as a maintenance man for a mobile home park. He put blocks on the gas and brake petals so I could drive the truck to pick up the trash and lawn cuttings. If you hurt yourself, there was no doctor. If you needed stitches, he put you up on the kitchen table, took the whiskey flask out of his back pocket, poured some in the wound and on a needle and thread and sewed you up. “You better not move boy.” I have heard that statement all of my life.
After several years of abuse at his hands, the drinking by both him and my mom and the terrible fights, they divorced. We lived alone for a few years. At age 12, we moved to Ft. Myers. My brother, Johnny, and I hated it. We left all of our friends and school behind to move to a new town at 14 1/2.
One weekend I had gone to Sarasota for the weekend on an old motorcycle to see my best friend, Punkin. He had been my best friend since 1st grade and remained so until his passing from liver cancer. I was involved in a head on crash. A man in a V.W. van had a heart attack and hit me head on and knocked me back 150 feet and ran over me again. I suffered a broken leg, broken arm, broken collar bone, broke 3 places in my back, had pins put in my knee and left elbow. I also had a metal plate put in on the left side of my face and head and my left arm would only open 70%. I spent 16 months in the hospital. My mother came 1 time to see me after about 7 months. One of my aunts took me home with her and charged my accident attorney $100.00 per week to care for me, which was legal rape in 1957.
After my recovery, I was sent back to Ft. Myers to live with my mom and 2nd stepfather. They had already started their own family. I had 1 younger brother at that time. My stepfather was a gentle man but mom’s fondness of alcohol and flirting was a constant problem, along with trying to make him reform 2 teenage boys who already had a chip on their shoulder.
At 16, I fell in with a crowd of misfits. We had bad grades in school, couldn’t read (I am dyslexic with ADHD) and teachers would pass you to get rid of you and made fun of you in class. My mother never asked or helped with homework, didn’t care about my grades and didn’t care that I couldn’t read. Her new family was more important, so with the misfits I went. We were having S. Ft. Myers versus N. Ft. Myers gang wars. Gangs in those days had BB guns, unlike gangs today. We were on top of a shopping center shooting BB’s at each other when the cops came. We hurriedly made up a story which I stuck to while the rest blamed it all on me and I’m the only one who ended up on court.
In court my mother told the judge I was an unruly child who was constantly in trouble and she could not handle me. I had never been in trouble. End result, I was sent to Marianna for 8 1/2 months during which time I was taken down to the White House 3 times. Each time I was beat into unconscious. On one occasion, Tidewell grabbed my left arm and twisted it so hard the pins popped out of the skin and I was taken to the infirmary and the “witch doctor” pulled it out with pliers. They had my medical records on file so they were aware of my injuries.
My first trip to the White House I was told to grab the rails and “You better not move boy”. I got 118 licks before I passed out and do not know the total. All because a young boy who had trouble walking almost fell in the lunch march and I grabbed his arm to steady him. I broke the rules. 18 stitches later I woke up in the boy’s hospital.
My second trip to the White House. I was assigned to the mechanic and body shop. A state car came in and in the front seat was a pack of cigarettes. I did not touch them. I went to tell the man over the shop, his name I can’t recall, so he would come and get them. When we went back to the car, they were gone. I was accused of stealing them and the end result was the White House and the words “You better not move boy”. I got over 100 licks before I passed out.
My third trip to the White House. It was visitation day and people were all over the place and someone stole a camera out of a visitor’s car. I, to this day, don’t know why I was blamed but to the White House I was sent again. “You better not move boy.” Over 100 licks again because I wouldn’t cry. The men had bets to see how many lashes to draw blood, how many to make him cry out, how many until he moves, how many until he passes out and so the game begins. They later found out who stole the camera.
I know of 1 young boy out of our cottage, we called him Mackey, that was taken in the middle of the night and never returned. We were told that his parents came and got him. We knew that was a lie because he was an orphan. There was another boy who was in the body shop with me that was caught smoking. He also was taken to the White House and we never saw him again.
So many, so sad, so forgotten. Thank you White House Boys Organization for all you are trying to do for those of us gone, murdered, lost and forgotten.
Frank (Kindsvogel) Marx