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This story is about my father Paul Waldron and his stay at The Marianna Reform School For Boys.
I was horrified to learn of the atrocities that were visited on the young boys at the Marianna Reform School, a home for wayword youth. I was even more stunned to find out that my father was one of those youths.
"Cassie, come here for a moment, I want you to watch this", my dad said. I watched in horrified silence as for men unraveled stories of sexual, physical and emotional abuse and even death in a building called The White House at the hand of the very people that were there to care for them. When the program ended I looked over at my dad and said the words that I'm sure people all over the country were speaking, "My God, that's just terrible, those poor children." It was then that I noticed the glassy sheen in my dad's eyes. "I was there. I remember the stuff they are talking about", he said to me. I was at a loss for words for a moment. Then I asked my dad to tell me his story.
Watching my father telling me about his experience at that school, and the one time he got sent to the White House was heartbreaking. My dad has always been a strong and eternal figure to me, as I'm sure many fathers are to their little girls. Learning this made me see him in a different light, a stronger light perhaps.
He was twelve when he was sent to the school for truancy, his mother and the judge at a loss as to what exactly to do with him. He told me that through the majority of his imprisonment (my word); he kept to himself and tried to stay out of as much trouble as possible. As I'm sure you readers will agree, trouble is one thing you would not want to find you in a place like this. Trouble found him anyway in the form of a lie. Not only did I listen to his story of abuse unfold, but I watched his body language and facial expressions as he told me his story. Hands shaking and eyes intense he told me how it was walking into that room, the smell that assaulted him, a smell of must, and the blood on the concrete wall and floor. I listened to all of this with growing disgust. I imagined the twelve year old version of my dad lying face down on that cot of human feces, snot and blood, and I was outraged. How could somebody do this to another person let alone a child?
Why was this acceptable?
He continued telling me about the beating he received, 70 - 75 licks is how he put it. As he described his pain and terror it was as if I flinched on the inside for every whack with that lunatic belt he got. I just could not believe that my daddy had suffered at the hands of those sadistic men. As I said before, I started to look at him in a different light. I have always thought him a strong and caring man, but this opened up something more. To go through something like that, to carry it with you is one thing, but to rise above it and not let it shadow your existence is something else entirely. I just want to let you know Dad, that I think you are courageous and kind. Thank you for NEVER turning a belt onto me the way those men did to you.
Love your daughter and biggest fan, Cassie Girard
P.S. A message to the men from that room........... It takes a truly small and evil person to do what you did to those boys. I hope you believe in karma, because you will get yours.