ROGER DEAN KISER, author
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LOOKING FOR AMERICA
I am not sure how long I was in the Rose Keller Home Orphanage in Lakeland, Florida.
Several police officers came to my granny and grandpa's house, and took me away to the orphanage. I overheard them telling the matron that I had been taken away, because my granny had been beating me almost on a daily basis. The schoolteachers across the street at the Dixieland school had told the police that they were afraid that my grandma might beat me to death.
The next day, one of the matrons at the orphanage took me to see a "special doctor," because I had not been able to speak for almost a month. No matter how hard I tried, no words would come out of my mouth. I couldn't even make any sounds.
When we returned to the orphanage after the trip to the doctor's office, one of the women who worked at the home started yelling at me for no reason. I was sitting on the top step of the stairs, just like I did every day, all day long, just minding my own business. She told me that I was going on a trip to see America. Still I refused to move. All at once, she grabbed me by the legs and started pulling me down the stairs. My head bounced on every step, as she dragged me to the floor below. I was taken outside, placed into the passenger seat of a waiting car and off we drove.
We rode for what seemed to be forever. She smiled at me, nodded and told me that, "We are going to see America together."
We drove for a long, long time. Suddenly, she looked over at me and asked if I liked to eat fruit. All of a sudden, she pulled off the road and turned into a small fruit stand. When she got out of the car, she instructed me to wait and not touch anything. I looked over at the wooden stand and saw little American flags all lined up in a bucket. I climbed out of the car and picked up one of the pretty flags, waving it around from side to side and over the top of my head.
"I'm going to see America," I told everyone who would happen to walk by.
This old man took the flag from my hand and placed it back into the bucket. Then he picked up a large American flag, almost as big as I was and asked the woman how much it cost. She smiled and told him the price. He reached into his pocket, took out his wallet and paid for it. Then he handed me the flag.
"Welcome to America little boy, this is a wonderful, wonderful country," he told me.
The woman and I returned to the car and continued our drive to see America. Again, we drove for hours. Finally, she slowed down and we turned into a set of big white, wooden gates. There were many great big, high, metal fences around the entire place. All at once, she stopped in front of a big, white, brick building.
This strange looking man and a heavyset woman came walking up to the car. The man yelled at me, "Don't just sit there. Get your little ass out of that car!"
As I got out, the man immediately snatched the American flag from my hand and threw it onto the ground. I ran over as fast as I could and picked it up, and then began shaking the dirt off my flag.
I told him, in a very stern voice, "The American flag was never supposed to touch the ground and now I will have to burn it like the rule says."
Once again, he snatched the flag from my hand, broke the staff in half and threw it back onto the ground. I stood there staring at that man with the mean old face. I guess I had finally found "wonderful, wonderful America" -- the America the man at the fruit stand had told me about. I guess our journey to find America was finally at its end.
Little did I know that even a great country like the United States of America had its own form of terrible concentration camps - places like the Children's Home Society in Jacksonville, Florida - special hidden little places that people called orphanages. These were homes especially built for the little boys and girls that nobody else in the world wanted.