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It was May 4th, 1959. I had been in Marianna (aka Florida School for Boys, previously named Florida Industrial School for Boys), since February of 1959. I had heard many stories about "The White House" since February and could see "The White House" every time we filed out of the chow hall after a meal. I will always remember the little sign in front of it that said "Boy Scout Hut." How crazy! I had heard enough to want to keep out of trouble and avoid that place at all costs. It was scary enough being over 500 miles from my home in Miami. I was even in a different time zone.
I wanted out and started "talking about it" with another boy from Cocoa, Florida. You didn't dare talk about running away as that was an automatic trip to "The White House". So you could not say those words under any circumstances therefore "talking about it" referred to talking about running away.
One of the boys had heard us "talking about it" and unbeknownst to us reported it to staff. The format for bedtime was to have our clothes locked up in a locker room and we were issued white nightgowns to sleep in; just thin cotton with an opening for each arm and another for the head. They went down to about our knees.
Around 11:00 pm I was told to get out of bed and go with the two men in my nightgown. The boy from Cocoa was taken also. We were put in the back seat of a state car (blue 1949 ford with the Florida state seal on the doors). We were driven to "The White House." The one place I wanted desperately to avoid I was now driven to in that old blue "state car" in my nightgown in the middle of the night. I was petrified. My worst fears were being realized. There was no talking. We were ushered up the step and into "The White House". A light was turned on. We turned left. Immediately on our left was a small room with a bed. Directly in front of us with a short partition on each side was a huge fan. On the right side was another room with a bed. We were both told to sit on the bed in the room on the left. The boy from Cocoa was told to get up and go to the other room on the right and lay on the bed there. The fan was turned on. It was a huge noisy fan with a bent blade that sounded like a small machine gun as the fan whirred.
Then I heard the crack of the first lick from the leather strap on him. The sound of that hit outdid the fan, bent blade and all. It was incredibly loud and I was just in a state of disbelief. I had heard what happens to people who can't keep holding the bar at the head of the bed and my mind raced as to what would happen to me when my turn came. Around the 7th or 8th lick the boy started moaning the eeriest moan I have ever heard. I heard one of the men say "YOU BETTER SHUT UP BOY!" And somehow he did. I think he got 26 hits and I don't even know how I could even be counting in my state of terror.
"HAVE YOU HAD ENOUGH?"
Suddenly it was my turn. I mechanically went in that room as the other boy came out neither of us looking at each other.
I can hear the words that followed to this day. "GRAB THE BAR AT THE HEAD OF THE BED, FACE YOUR HEAD TO THE WALL, KEEP YOUR LEGS TOGETHER, AND DON'T MAKE A SOUND." The whole thing was so methodical and yet so outlandish.
There seemed to be an eternity between licks. I couldn't believe I could take the second one yet I did. Around the 17th or 18th lick I was squirming all over the bed. The booming voice spoke loudly. "YOU BETTER LAY STILL BOY!"
At 25 licks the question came. "HAVE YOU HAD ENOUGH?"
"Yes sir.” Would I say anything else to such an absurd question? That was 49 years ago. I don't think anything remains in my mind as vividly as that. Tidwell wielded the strap.