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My name is George;
I've just turned 65 years of age. My life has been pretty much a bunch of stumps. The first big stump I had to grind was being put into an orphanage when I was three years old. Boy!! Was that an awful experience. My Grandmother who was very old, finally took my sister who was 11 and myself who was four, out and we lived with her in an old Cracker house, outside of Mayo, Fla. A Outhouse, a hand pump for water and a wood stove for heat, no electricity, but it was still better than being in that horrible place.
My Mother went to Gainesville, Fla. and secured a job with the state of Fla. and re-married. She tried to give my sister and me a home but the man she married drank a lot and really didn't want us kid's around. So we were placed in another orphanage in Lakeland, Fla. Abuse there was even worse, the whippings were so severe that I spent most of school days at the eye clinic, the doctors said the cause of my double vision was from the whippings, my nerves were gone, I was 7 years old. That was the Fla. Baptist Childrens Home in Lakeland, Florida.
My Mother came and took us out of there and brought us to Gainesville, Fla. She had re-married, it was the same thing, drinking and fighting and more abuse. So my Mother put us back in the first orphanage, that was awful, having to go back there, The abuse was so bad that my Mother came and took us out of there again and my sister won a scholarship to Blue Mountain Collage in Miss., and I was placed in another orphanage in Mt. Dor, Fla. By now I was starting to realize that I was never going to have a real home and my big sister wasn't there to look out for me anymore.
I begged my Mom to came and get me, so she did and paid a family in Gainesville to give me room and board while she worked. The people had a son my age and we went to the same school and we both liked to fish. It was the closest thing to a home that I had ever had. We were pretty good kids, we did odd jobs in the neighborhood for our spending money. We would also clean up the bar across the way for the lady, every weekend. That was a good job for us, I was 14 years old and my friend and I decided to take some beer home one night, and we got caught.
The judge decided that because the people I lived with drank on the weekends, that it wasn't a good environment and sent me to Marianna School for boys. That was the closest feeling to wanting to die that I ever experienced. It seems like it was yesterday, you never really get over those feelings. You re-live them over and over.
When you first get there all your clothes are taken away and you are issued Kakis and brogans, that never fit your feet, they hurt so bad that I couldn't walk, so I made a small slit to allow my little toe some room and I was written up for destroying State property. That was enough to send me down. “Going Down” was the term used for a trip to the White House, also known as “The Ice Cream Parlor".
The night that they came for me, we were in the Gym playing basketball. I couldn't figure out why they called me out. I had stayed out of trouble and was getting along with the other boys. It was around 9:00 pm. They called two other boys also, they put us in a state car and two men in the front seat took us to the White House. The men were silent and told us not to talk.
The White House was a building used for the beatings. I remember being at the front door and one of the men went inside and turned the light on, it wasn't very bright and it stunk like vomit, and the roaches ran everywhere. We were taken to a room to the left and were called one at a time across the hall to another small room. The first boy was a short kid and very skinny. When the first lick came down, it was like a shotgun going off, and that kid let out a scream like I've never heard before, and I thought to myself I can't take that, and I thought about trying to run, but the doors were locked and if you resisted they would have other boys hold you down, and it would be even worse, perhaps even death. I was in a state of shock at this point. When it was my turn, I was told to lie down on the cot with a blood soaked mattress and a bloody pillow. You were told to put your face down into the pillow and to hold on to the end of the bed. If you let go, they would start all over again. They must have whipped some boys earlier because the cot was wet with fresh blood and you could see it on the men’s pants.
After a few licks with what seemed to be a leather strap that the barbers used to sharpen razors, I couldn't feel anything, but the noise of the strap was like cherry bombs going off in my head. I remember my bladder breaking because some of the licks were hitting my kidney area. I would go in and out of conciseness. I can't remember if I let go of the cot or not, but knew I was very bloody and I couldn’t feel my legs or my feet when they told me get up, I couldn't, the other boys said I got 56 licks.
When they took us back to our cottages it was after 11:00pm and the showers were over. I threw mu pants in the garbage because they were soaked in blood and pulled my PJ's on over my bloody underwear, because they wouldn’t come off. They had been beaten into my butt. It wasn't until the nest day that I was taken to the hospital and a nurse by the name of Mrs. Womack, took tweezers and pulled my underwear out of my flesh.
My sister and Mother got word of my beating and contacted the N.A.A.C.P., but I never heard anything else. I didn't want to make waves, or they would take you down again, even though you weren’t healed.
I once witnessed a black inmate that worked in the mess hall taken down, and when came out he wasn't moving, he had on kitchen whites and he was a bloody mess, from his neck to his ankles. They put him in a wheel-barrow and took him to the hospital or that’s where we think they took him. The black inmates were on one side of Hwy and the whites on the other, it was 1957 - 58.
At one time I worked on the paint crew and we painted buildings on the black side of the Hwy and we were shown the cemetery. Someone said there had been a dorm fire, but several of the graves weren't that old. You didn't ask too many questions. We were all pretty scared.
The man that whipped me was Troy Tidwell. He had one arm and I'll never forget the name, for years I fought urge to look him up and give him 56 licks. The other sadistic scum was named Walters. He seemed very excited during the whipping, there was another man who was also known to give awful beatings, his name was R. W. Hatton. I think he was the superintendent over the whole place while I was there.
There was a psychiatrist by the name of Walters. He actually spoke out against the way the boys were being treated, but was ridiculed by the administration and made fun of.
To this day I have trouble with my legs, they come and go. my lower back has always given me problems, where I was hit and it has taken a lifetime to conquer the anger and rage that those 56 licks left me with.
And as sure as there is a God, the men that took part in this chronic form of child abuse must one day face their maker and I pray that God shows them more mercy than the did me.
When one first gets to the school they are called rookies, then after a month you are called an explorer and after another month you become a pioneer, then you really have to apply yourself volunteer to do extra duties, etc. This is called working for your 5's. You are called a 5 boy and after a month or so and if you have recommendations from cottage school, and work you are called a pilot, the next and highest rank is ace, In fact few boys ever make it to pilot. The records should show that I made pilot in 10 months.
The night that I got whipped it was around 11:00pm when I returned to my cottage, and everyone had gone upstairs to bed, I couldn't walk up the stairs, I was on my hands and knees trying to get up the stairs so I wouldn't get written up again, and I lay on my bunk and cried all night from the pain, it was pure living hell!! The next morning my cot was bloody from my wounds and my PJ's were ruined.
The next few days were horrible as the feeling started to return to my bottom. They would make us strip down naked at shower time, and the other boys would stare at your wounds and some would tease you. I've seen lots of boys with their buttocks beat so bad they looked like fresh hamburger meat. It was a real horror house.
What amazes me is why it taken over 50 years for anyone to start listening and seriously doing something to bring justice to such a blatant act of child abuse and torture.
Bless the souls that have taken time out of their lives to finally bring light on a very sad and dark period of Florida's history.
Praise God for your courage!!