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When I was 13 years old I had just came from a place of hell, but that is just another story. But for those of you that would love to hear it, I would love to tell it. But for now we are going to talk about the White House. For 50 years this has haunted me inside, and I have never told a soul. Was I scared, was I am embarrassed; I was just a child of 13 years.
The day that I got to Marianna I noticed how pretty it was. The pecan trees were tall and beautiful and the grass was cut so fine and nice. I was soon to find out that there was hell hiding beyond the image that was put in front of me.
I was there and they had put me in Roosevelt Cottage, and I had to go to work in the kitchen. My day started at 4 am. I had to have breakfast started for the other boys, and I happened to notice that I could look out my window and see that I was right across from the building called the White House also know as the "TOTURE CHAMBER." I noticed that they would bring the black boys down in the cattle trucks, and heard them into this building and then I would hear the screams coming out of the door way even though it was locked and those screams still haunt me till this day, but I knew that I would never go down because I knew that I was going to be a good boy.
Then a week had gone by and I was called up to Mr. Currie's office and I had heard that he was weird and that he would ask you funny questions, and then before I knew it his office boy came with a note for me to come to his office. Mr. Curry said that he was our physiatrist. I remember standing in his office and he was sitting in his big swiveled chair and he was smoking a bad smelling pipe with big horn rim glasses and big bushy black eye brows, he never said a word to me, and then he swung around and stood up and walked over to me and said "you are a bad bastard and that you are no good and you will find out for the next several months we are gonna straighten you out and don't think that you will get away with anything." And then he looked at me and asked if I had ever fucked my mother and I said no sir and he said don't lie to me you little bastard, and then he asked have you ever fucked your sister and I said no sir, and he says don't you lie to me you little bastard and then I had started to cry because I didn't understand what this man wanted me to say because I was scared to death and I didn't know what he wanted at the time, I thought that this man was here to help me and not to hurt. So then he asked do you jack off and I said no sir, and he reaches over and grabs my shirt and said don't lie to me you little bastard, then he reaches over and jerks my pants down and started to playing with me as I stood there and continuously cried he says that you know how to jack off and I keep telling him no and he said that I am going to show you how and then he drops his pants and then he jacks off on me and then when he is done he takes out his handkerchief and says wipe your filthy face and the next time that I see you , you better know how to jack off. And as I stood there crying with tears falling down my face this haunts me to this day and I think that I would have been a much better person in life if this would have never happened to me.
I saw him 2 more times one time is when I went done to the White House when he beat me over and over and over again, the reason that I went to the White House I was carrying milk bottles up the steps and I tripped and they took me down to the White House for accidentally breaking the bottles. They had called Mr. Curry down and I remember him walking in and looking at me smoking that nasty pipe and saying Stratton, did you ever learn to jack off and I said "No sir," so he says get to the White House and a few minutes later he was there and he had entered and that was the first time that I had went down, and I didn't know what I was about to endure.
It was just me and him and he had turned on this great big fan and said grab the bar and bite down on the pillow and it had blood and vomit on it, there was blood on the walls and on the ceiling and as I lay there I cried out for God to help me but there was no God that day, I had felt the mattress move this big strap and it was two and half feet long and all hell breaks loose and he tells me not to move and to take it like a man and has it came down on my ass it sounded like a double barring shot gun BANG. and after four and five lashes he knew what he was doing and he had moved up to the back and when it became numb he moved down to my legs after that I remember counting 16 licks and I was covered in blood my white pants, my white shirt my under shorts was all bloody. He told me to stand up and remember this day for the rest of my life, so I did. He told me to run back to the cottage and change my clothes, my clothes were so bloody and my back and ass and my legs was so blistered... So I looked into his eyes and saw a monster and just couldn't understand how someone could be this mean... and that's the day that I became a man, in Marianna Florida.
ONE LAST TRIP DOWN
Toward the end of my stay, I was finally transferred out of the kitchen. Mr. Edenfield who ran the kitchen had sort of taken a liking to me. His wife, Mrs. Edenfield had been assaulted by a student in the sewing room; he was an older, bigger boy. So after that, they mostly picked the younger, smaller boys for the sewing dept. and by the time I was 15, I was pretty big. I guess they felt I was trustworthy so I got the transfer.
The upholstery shop finally got me a few little extras that I hadn't had in 2 1/2 years. I would peg other boys' pants for extra desserts. Also, I was there when the winter coats came in. I was able to get myself a real nice navy P-coat. The only colored buttons we were allowed were plain black buttons. So when the coats came in we took all the buttons off of them and sewed plain black ones back on.
This leads me to the day I was in the gymnasium. I was working out on the rings. From being in the circus when I was younger I was pretty good on the rings. I looked over a saw a boy I had known in Sarasota. His name was Raymond, I had seen him on the campus a few days earlier but as that we were not allowed to talk to boys from other cottages I hadn't been able to say hi to him. He came over to where I was and jumped up on another set of rings. When he went to flip over, a cigarette lighter fell out of his pocket. I was horrified. Him, just getting there a few days earlier didn't even know to be horrified. I knew that he was just a grub and that he was gonna go to the White House for this. In a split second decision, I jumped on top of the lighter. When the supervisor came over, I took the blame for the lighter. I was sent to Mr. Hatton's office. Since I was a Pioneer and only six months from release, I was not beaten. However, I was reduced back down to a grub myself. The next day I went back to work changing the buttons on winter coats. But, on my own coat I left the shinny buttons with the anchors on them. They were just so shinny, I couldn't. I should have taken those buttons off and replaced them with plain black ones, but I didn't. Well, it didn't take long before I was caught, while marching to the dinning hall. Since I had been reduced to a grub for the lighter incident, I was now in for one last trip to the White House. It was the same as the others, 16 licks. My entire backside was bloodied and bruised black. I lay in the shower to get my shorts out of my skin and weeks of healing. If I just would have changed those buttons.
For some reason, this beating sticks out in my head more than the others. It's like I'm watching from above and I can see myself running back to my cottage all bloodied and bruised. I just wanted one nice thing. Now 50 years later, just the mention of the word Navy or Navy P-Coat and it brings me right back to that day.