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Gerald Wingard

I was sent to Florida Industrial School April 18, 1957 for skipping school. I had a bad family life and thought F.I.S would be better. It didn’t take long to find it was a nightmare. My first beating was for saying, “damn you” to another boy. I was given 31 licks by Troy Tidwell and as a result my butt was swollen and was black as smut. It took days to heal.

After the first time, it was like every week or so they found another reason to beat me; some of those reasons include: low school grades, shoes not being polished, locker not being neat enough. There is no doubt in my mind that Troy Tidwell, R.W. Hatton, Frank Zych and Emitt Davis were sadistic. I was there ten months and had at least 40 spankings (as they called them).

Today, if a child is beat the people responsible would go to prison for years. Yet we all know that there are many graves our there in Marianna, yet no justice has been made.

I was sent back to the school in June 1958 and was there for a year. When I arrived R.W. Hatton said, “I know you loved the way I beat your ass and I’ll see you real soon.” The next day I was called into his office and told my bed was not made correctly and at that time I was taken to the white house by Hatton, Tidwell, and Davis. When it was ‘my turn,’ Tidwell and Hatton started fighting over who would beat me. Hatton won that argument and I was given 39 licks and told next time “it wouldn’t be so easy”. My butt was split in five or six places and after that they came regularly. I was released June 1959 and was sent to Okeechobee in 1959 for ten months. I was happy not to be going back to Tidwell and Hatton, but that happiness faded quickly. Frank Zych was the sickest human I ever known, he never did the beating himself, he would order the beatings to be done by Davis, while Zych would watch. It was just as bad as Florida School for Boys (F.I.S) in Jackson County; we were beat for things that most children wouldn’t even lose play time for. Dickie Colon and I were beat so badly we had trouble walking. We were beat because we had an extra cup of coffee in the dinning room.

In Sept 1960, I was called to Davis’ office and told by him and Zych I was being beat for calling Zych, Mr. Wood leg, which was a lie. I was fed up with being beat for things I didn’t do and for reasons that were just ridiculous so I told them, they were going to need help for I was going to fight. Then they sent me out of the office, after a while they called me back and told me to go to the cottage pack my clothes and come back. I thought I was going to be sent back to F.S.B in Jackson County or maybe even state prison because a lot of us were sent to prison for a while. When I got back with my bags packed, they drove me to the bus station and then I was sent home. I was no fun anymore, I was old enough to resist.

Today I wonder why we didn’t take pictures; we did have cameras… but we were kids not only that but we were so afraid all the time. Now I have trouble trusting people because of those things. When I do fall asleep, I have nightmares; and other nights I just can’t sleep. I know I could write a book about it all. I would like to take a lie detector test and show Tidwell, we can then see who fails. Now they are talking about Florida State giving us fifty thousand dollars in installments monthly- most likely most of us will die before we see all the money the state prom