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Larry A. Houston
The Florida Industrial School for boys at Marianna-1958-59
My name is Larry A. Houston from St. Petersburg, Fla. . I was sent to FSB (Florida School for Boy's) when I was only 14 years old. I came from a broken family, had a sister & brother but was a nice kid not a rough-neck. When I got there it was a beautiful campus and I thought this was going to be ok. I was put in #12 Cleveland Cottage and the cottage fathers name was Mr. Robert Sealander. My job assignment was the sewing room with Mrs. Edenfield. She was a nice lady and her husband was head of the kitchen. The schools Psychologist was named Dr. Robert Curry and he smoked a pipe with cherry blend tobacco and had a brand new Desoto that was pink & grey. When you were interviewed by him he asked weird questions like did you like to masturbate and had you ever thought about having sex with your mother. He was bald on top and sorta husky.
I got called to his office one day and was told someone had overheard me talking about running and I was going to be punished. Guys had said they like to make you sweat and boy I did. They came for me at my cottage at night just before shower time. When I got to the "white House" three other boys, Mr. Hatton, Mr. Tidwell and one other man I didn't know were waiting for us. The smell of the place was very musty and stale. It was a small building in back of the kitchen. The other boys and I were told to set on a bench that was in the hall, all of a sudden someone turned on a big exhaust fan that was very loud then Mr. Tidwell said which one of you wants to be first, no one answered so he pointed to me and said boy go in that room, which I did immediately. I was scared to death and shaking all over for I had never been treated like this before. Mr. Tidwell said drop your pants, lie on the cot and bite the pillow and grab the bedrail, look towards the wall and don't say a word or we will start all over. Mr. Hatton reached under the pillow and grabbed a long leather strap with a wooden handle. The first blow was so hard it felt like my whole ass was split open. I screamed out in pain and Mr. Tidwell said what did I tell you boy, you better shut your mouth. I gritted my teeth and hung on to the bedrail as tight as I could. Mr. Hatton beat me up and down my legs and buttocks as hard as he could, you could hear the strap hit the ceiling and the wall so you knew it was coming.
I lost count at 39 whacks but it was over soon after. Mr. Tidwell said "get up boy, pull up them pants and go stand in the hall" I could hardly move, but managed to get my pants up. Mr. Tidwell grabbed my arm and pulled me into the hall, pointed to the next kid and said boy get in there but the kid was so scared after hearing me get beat he was froze to the bench. Mr. Tidwell grabbed the kid by the arm and jerked him up so hard the kid hit the door frame with his head as he was drug in the room. We could not see in the room because the lighting was very bad. They only had one small wattage bulb and the bench was down the hall a little bit. Don't know who whipped that kid but he got it pretty good. By then I was in so much pain and I could fell blood running down my legs. Next thing I remember I was back at my cottage. Mr. Sealander took me to the locker room, told me to get undressed and get a shower. I could hardly get my jeans off because of the swelling in my butt and legs but finally managed to. My underwear was literally beaten into my skin. I had to stand under the water a long time and pull very gently to get them off. When I was completely naked some of the other boys in the showers were whispering that I was the worst beating they had ever seen. I went to the mirrors and looked at myself and couldn't believe what I saw. I was already black and blue all over my butt and legs and had cuts still bleeding. I put on my pajamas and went to bed. It took me two weeks to heal up. Believe me I never talked about running again.
I went "Down" two more times before I went home. Once for low school grades and I canít remember what the third time was for. I got less whacks but the experience was the same. I'm pretty sure my lower back was injured while I was beaten. I had back trouble all my life and to this day still suffer.
I heard a lot of rumors about boys going missing and sexual things happening but to my knowledge it never happened to me other than Mr. Robert Curry asking me strange questions. There were also rumors about the colored boys getting beat a lot harder and a lot more wackes than whites got but I never witnessed any. I know if you were caught for running they gave you one hundred whacks but I personally never saw that either. I canít even imagine getting more than I got. I was really tore up and never want to experience that again.
To Roger Kiser for starting this whole thing, Kudos.
You have brought to the surface many hidden memories that needed to be out of my system. And to Robert Straley, Bryant Middleton, Dick Colon and Michael O' McCarthy who helped and/or had a hand bring this matter to the Governor of Florida for the investigation into the thirty nine crosses with no names on them I want to say "May God Bless each and every one of you" and to Karl Schultz, thanks for being my best friend while I was in Marianna where ever you are.
Larry A. Houston