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I've finally had time to regroup and digest the information from the videos
and a lot of tears later. I too was in Roosevelt cottage in 58-60. Chuck do
you remember the man's name at the cottage? For some reason the name Hagen
(sp) comes to mind. I remember he had a young son who was always coming and
going and his wife was short, heavy set and had short black hair. He was
very tall, thin, dark black hair and wore glasses and was the epitome of
evil. Just thinking of him now sends chills down my spine.
When I first arrived I was assigned to the band, but was later transferred
to the warehouse, then finally volunteered for the kitchen crew. Mr.
Endenfield was the head cook and the last I heard he still lived in
Marianna. Some of the guys I remember, were Bill Cavenal, Bob Campbell,
Lance Renart, Bob Orr, Stanley Nelson or Nelson Stanley and a guy we called
"Blinky" Price, because he had been so abused and would start blinking and
twitching when you talked to him. I recall a lot of faces, but over the
years names have faded.
During my time at FSB I never seemed to get anything right and had one kid
snitch on me twice for "talking about it." later got caught planning with
another guy to run and Mr. Hagen (think that was his name) tricked us into
confessing after about three hours of interrogation. He led us to believe
the other guy had admitted to running. Mr. Tidwell and another man came
late that night in a car and took us to the Whitehouse, that was one of the
worst beatings I ever received, lost count somewhere around 57 whacks. But
I have to admit, the worst guy to do paddling's was a short, thin guy with
a mustache and black wavy hair, to say he was brutal is an understatement
and he always seemed to hit low and upward. As I recall I went down around
six times and once was even caught or overheard counting the whacks and was
really given a beating after that.
I was from Miami and was, to the best of my knowledge around 13 or 14 when
I arrived. I remember signing the book with what appeared to be thousands
of boys names in it. As I recall Mr. Dozier wasn't the superintendent yet,
but did arrive or took over shortly thereafter. Some of the people who were
supposedly taking care of us were; Mr. Hagen, Tidwell, Edenfield, Sassor,
Hatfield and the nurse Womack, many more but I can't remember their names.
There was a psychiatrist there, who did the interviews when you first
arrived and always smoked a pipe. Anyone remember his name, he was somewhat
tall, blonde/light brown hair and was balding? Always had a lot of
questions about sex, more than was comfortable for a thirteen year old.
Anyway, after I left FSB (left under what they called the "Must" program) I
returned to Miami, got back into trouble, was sent to Kendal young school
for six months. It was a breeze after FSB. Got my act together somewhat
long enough to finish 11th grade, dropped out and joined the Army. I spent
22 years on active duty (9 years Enlisted, 13 as an Officer) I left the
Army with a Masters in Business and was medically retired from Walter Reed
because of wounds received in Vietnam. I have to honestly say or at least
feel, that Vietnam as a Ranger in the Infantry was a picnic compared to the
days I recall at Marianna. I'm sure you feel I may be embellishing that
fact or overstating it, but after having had time to rethink the horrors of
FSB and my inability to forget the abuse suffered as a young child, I'd
take Vietnam again rather than "go down" again.
Whatever the path all this leads to, if in fact it leads anywhere. I want
everyone to know that I will be here and am willing to discuss this or talk
with whomever will listen about the brutality and horror of that place. I
sat down last night with my wife of 41 years and told her everything, she
was speechless and asked why I never told her? Now I have to think about
telling my four children and my six grandchildren about The Florida School
for Boys. Please count me in, on any issue that pertains to letting the
world know about how we, as children were treated and abused. My mind is
still very shape and the facts are still vivid of that place. The combat
wounds have healed, but the wounds of FSB never have.
As Shakespeare said in 1598: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother", how true
those words are even today. The Nation needs to hear our story, if for no
other reason, so no child's blood is ever shed again in the fashion that
ours was. Maybe letting everyone know will heal the wounds for those that
can't or won't talk. Fifty years is long enough of covering this dirty
little secret up.
Bryant E. Middleton
Cpt ret USA
Fort Walton Beach, Fla 32547
I was there as best I can remember, 50 years ago and that is a long time, but to me there are days that it feels like yesterday. I pray that I'm not going to wake up in the morning and find that I'm still there; hopefully everything in that dream isn't what is to be.
I arrived at FSB some time in the latter part of 1958 and remember leaving somewhere around the first part of 1960. I'm not exactly sure when I left, but I do remember two deputies from Miami coming to get me for a pending case against another kid in Miami. All the way back to Miami on the car radio a song kept playing "The Twist" by Chubby Checker and the two deputies kept saying "I'll bet you boys don't do the twist much" when I asked what was the "Twist" they told me it was the latest dance. So I was there before the Twist was popular and returned back to Marianna after the court hearing. I recall that the judge told me, if I testified again the other kid, he'd consider releasing me. I never snitched on the other boy, and they never did release me early because of that. When I returned to FSB the judge rendered a report saying that I was uncooperative and my life was pure hell after that in Marianna. But I wasn't going to subject another child to what I was going through, don't get me wrong, I was no martyr, but I sure as hell was no snitch either. I guess I felt, even as a child of 13, I was saving another child from the hell of Marianna, not that, that is what I was truly thinking, but I couldn't "tell" on another kid, not even for my freedom.
I was assigned to Roosevelt cottage under the brutal control of Mr. Hagen, a truly evil man in every since of the word. The first day I arrived, I was taken into a large formal two story white building where I registered and signed a large ledger book with what today seems like thousands of boys names in it. I remember the heavy set older woman telling me to sign the book and to put down what my offense was. When I told her I didn't know why I was there she looked at the records and said my sentence was for being "Incorrigible." I told her I didn't know what that was or how to spell that, she said "you making trouble already, ain't you?" So began my stay at Marianna and it was only going to get worse; I was about to meet Mr. Hatton (sp) for the first time. I was taken over to another building with four other new boys. Mr. Hatton lectured us while standing outside the building across from the mess hall. Mr. Hatton turned to me and told to go the field and get one of the boys working there and bring him back. I ran as fast as I could and found the boy. On the way back I stopped and picked some wild blackberries that were growing on a barbwire fence. When I got back Mr. Hatton asked me if I went straight there and back? I told him yes and he asked if I stopped anywhere along the way? I told him I stopped and ate some blackberries and he went absolutely crazy with rage. About ten minutes later I paid my first visit to the White House for not doing what I was told, one of many trips to the White House I was going to make, six in all if I remember correctly. I went down my first day there.
Mr. Curry interviewed me later that afternoon and asked a number of questions, mostly sexual in nature and even showed me a book with pictures of penises. He wanted to know what kind of sex I enjoyed and did I have a girlfriend that I was having sex with? A bit strange to be asking those type of questions of 13 year old, but one of the other boys had told me earlier what to expect in the way of questions and what "Not" to say. The other boy warned me and told me what Mr. Curry really wanted to hear. After my first lesson with Mr. Hatton and a fresh beating I had already learned a hard lesson and said what he wanted to hear. I sure as hell didn't want to go back down.
My first job was in the band and I was placed in a six foot by six foot room with a narrow window and told to practice all day, it was smaller than a jail cell. After about a month or so, I told "asked" the band director for a transfer and was sent to the warehouse. The warehouse was unbelievable, because it had everything from large sacks of grain to toilet paper and everything between. There were two older women who worked there along with the male supervisor and any time the women had to use the toilet all the boys had to come to the front of the warehouse. This was so we wouldn't peek through the wooden walls and watch them. One time a boy who worked there with me got an idea one day to get drunk. We opened a large metal can of orange juice and mixed it with rubbing alcohol, probably one of the sickest days I've ever had. The other boy got real drunk, me, I just vomited all day. I never saw that kid again, it's as if he vanished off the face of the Earth after they caught us drinking, he was there one day and then not the next. One thing about the warehouse that has always stuck in my mind was the syrup room and how nasty and spooky it was. There were dozens of cases of syrup or blackstrap molasses in there and millions of spider webs. I was told one afternoon to go get a case of syrup for the kitchen crew and went to the next building and opened the wooden door. I went inside the dark room and found an open case and there was a live rat treading in one of the large jars of syrup. I ran and got the warehouse supervisor and he came back with me and looked at the live rat in the jar. He said leave him, that'll teach him a lesson and the other rats too. From that day forward while I was at FSB I never ate syrup again. I should have saved that rat, but was learning to do what I was told to do. When I transferred to the kitchen crew, I tried to warn the other boys when I was on the serving line about the syrup., At least until Mr. Edenfield said he'd send me "down" if I warned or said anything to anyone again. Needless to say I had to bite my tongue after that. The stories of the things that went on in the kitchen and how food was handled would make a homeless person cry and refuse to eat. But we did what we were told, a "learning phase" at Marianna, if you will.
One of the other individuals that caused me major grief was a teacher by the name of Sassor (sp). He had me sent down because I couldn't pronounce his name, to his satisfaction. They beat me to teach me a lesson about respecting the staff, instead of the real reason, I was a 13 year old child who had difficulty pronouncing a name. One thing I remember very well was the last threat Mr. Hagen made to me. I was being released and was required to have a haircut before leaving. I told the boy (one of us), to "bIock" my hair rather than the standard short haircut we were required to have. He told me he couldn't do it because it was against the rules. I told him I was being released and he told me he'd do it but not to tell anyone. Just as he finished and my hair was blocked, Mr. Hagen came in the barber shop and saw how my hair was cut. He looked at the other boy and told him to cut my hair short as required. I spoke up and told Mr. Hagen he couldn't make me cut my hair because I was being released. He looked at me with a look that would scare anyone and said "How would you like to stay here and be send down again boy?" I replied "you can't keep me here and you don't scare me" then Mr. Hagen said "No ones is ever going to know what happened to you and you will be here forever, how'd you like that boy?" before I could say another word, the boy took the clippers and shaved the back of my hair real short. When Mr. Hagen turned and walked out he said "you'll be back boy and I'll be here waiting for you" That scared me and the other boy said after Mr. Hagen was gone, "dying wasn't worth it over a haircut". I could go on for hours telling about the abuse, beatings, physical and mental torture endured by me and other boys and how over the years every time I'd closed my eyes I could see the horror of Marianna. I currently live an hours drive from Mariaana and as I travel the I-10 highway headed East to visit family, I have to pass Marianna. It's difficult to explain the emotional thoughts and feelings I have as I pass the exit. I just simply try not to look at even the word Marianna on the sign as it floods my thoughts of being abused and tortured as a young child. I'd rather die than stop there for any reason even gas or food. I'm 63 years old now and it's to late for me to change or forget what happened there, it's never going to go away and my fears of being "taken down" will never stop. When I see a law enforcement officer or a State trooper in Florida, my thought are always the same "Southern evil" and being put back in the system and being "sent down" again.
I hope some of this helps and that whatever the outcome, that you won't forget me. My mother let me down, simply because she didn't have enough money to feed me and my sister, the courts let me down as a child, the state of Florida let me down even more and after a combat tour in Vietnam and being called a baby killer, I felt my country had let me down too. Well, that pretty much is an abbreviated version of my miserable life as a child and a human being. Let's hope your efforts and us other boys of the Florida School for Boys at Marianna can prevent other children from being abused or subjected to the horrors that were inflicted on us; especially by our supposed protectors and guardians. No child should suffer what we did or be beaten and placed in an unmarked grave like discarded garbage. We deserved better and didn't get it, let's make sure the world knows of our childhood abuse and make damn sure it doesn't happen again. How could they let that happen to children? Why?
Bryant E. Middleton