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Roger Dean Kiser (Kaiser) April 1959-1960 * 1960-1961


DEATH IN THE LAUNDRY



I guess I will never forget the day that I began to realize that a single human life was not so unimportant after all.

I was thirteen years old and had been sentenced to the Florida School for Boys Reformatory, at Marianna for running away from the Children’s Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida. Other than going into the Spring Park School building, through an open window, searching for food, climbing a tree, riding one of the girl’s bicycles and going to the bathroom without asking permission; I had never been in any serious trouble before. “Incorrigible child” and “Unable to follow instruction” was the main reason Judge Marion Gooding sentenced me to that institution until I turned eighteen.

I was assigned to Cottage Twelve (Cleveland) under the direction of Robert Sealander, our cottage house-father. I was also assigned to work in the institution’s dry cleaning department which was attached to the left side of the laundry building.

One afternoon I was on the right hand press when I heard a large commotion outside on the large cement walkway. Turning to look, I did not see our instructor so I walked to the double doorway and peeked outside. Boys were running in every direction.

Not knowing if something was going to blow up, I yelled “What happened?”

“He’s dead and he’s in the tumble dryer,” screamed a crying boy.

Just at that moment, I saw my instructor walking toward me. I ran over to the press and began working on the uniforms.

When he entered the room I turned my head and asked “Who’s dead?”

“Another one of you little fuckers just bit the dust.” he replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Just shut up and get back to work.”

Several minutes later he got up from his desk and walked outside as five or six cars pulled up to walkway. Several line of boys were marching, two abreast down the roadway. As our instructor walked down the ramp, I walked over to the large window and peered outside. Unable to see down the ramp, I walked to the door and stuck my head outside to see what was happening. Within ten minutes the area was cleared of boys and several men came out of the laundry carrying what appeared to be a body covered in a sheet or a white blanket. The bundle was thrown into the back seat of a car and fell to the floorboard. The doors were closed and the car drove away at a fast rate of speed. I ran back to my work station and turned off the steam valves and ready myself to go back to my cottage. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes later out supervisor returned and told us to return to our assigned units.

On the way back to Cleveland Cottage I heard that the boy killed was a black boy, another stated it was a white boy. I was rather confused as the white and black boys were always kept separate. I have always wondered if a black boy was there to deliver dirty laundry to the laundry, as there was a tug sitting outside the building and was not removed until three days later. I heard that he (the boy) had got right up into the face of the laundry instructor and began cursing him. The man instructed several of the boys to take the boy and place him in the tumble dryer, which they did.

Several days later, word was going around the institution that several of the cottage house-fathers were heard talking about boy's body having been taken out in the woods and dumped in a shallow grave along with his personal possessions.