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ROBERT STRALEY





I was thirteen when I was sent to the Florida School For Boys in Marianna (FSB). I had an abusive relationship with my mother (mental abuse) and starting running away from home. This got me sent to the Juvenile Hall. I was there for about a month and then, one day, with out a clue or plan, I and another boy climbed the fence, razor wire and all, and ran into the woods. We were caught about a week later and I was sent to Marianna as the outcome.

There were about eight of us that traveled in the back of a locked truck to arrive at The Florida School For Boys. When I first saw the FSB grounds I was surprised at how beautiful it looked. There were two story brick cottages surrounded by foliage and oak trees.

I saw a group of boys walking in line to one of these cottages. To my surprise they were mostly wearing street clothes which excited me as I was small, weighing only a hundred and five pounds and the clothes I had been issued in the Juvenile Hall were far too big, I was lost in them. I spent the day pulling up on my pants. I had a hopeful feeling because the place looked nice, I could make some friends. I thought I might like this new place.

We were given uniforms, you could wear street clothes if your parents would send them, processed and assigned a cottage by age. I was thirteen, only three or four months from fourteen so I was in a cottage where the boys were from thirteen to sixteen. When we had put our state clothes on our bunks I drifted off to set on a bench at the back of the cottage, being shy and not knowing what to do. Three of the boys that had traveled in the truck with me came over and sat down. They immediately started to talk about running away as there were no fences. They asked if I wanted to go and I told them I thought I would stick it out as the place didn't look all that bad. I left, never dreaming that there was a boy that had been behind us and listening to every word. A brown-nosing snitch.

We had supper in a large mess hall, it was better than I had been getting at Juvenile Hall which had been peanut butter and jelly sandwiches twice a day. We marched in single file back to our cottage and when we got there I and the other boys that had been setting on the bench were quickly gathered up by a tall man (KNOWN OFFICIAL TO BE NAMED AT A LATER TIME)and another man (KNOWN OFFICIAL TO BE NAMED AT A LATER TIME). He said we were going to the "White House" for talking about running. When I had the audacity to say that I had not done that, he just grabbed me by my neck and practically threw me into a waiting car. He might have had just one arm, but his grip was like iron.

It was a short trip to the "White House", we were pushed and shoved into a darkened doorway and a small room. The tall man whose name I believe was Hatten, reached up and started a huge fan that made a considerable racket. (KNOWN OFFICIAL TO BE NAMED AT A LATER TIME) grabbed one of the boys and said "You're first," turning to give the rest of us a cold look.

We stood with wide eyes, trying not to tremble, but our fear was overwhelming as we heard the faint screams and cries of the first boy. The fan was not quite noisy enough to completely blot out those fearful sounds. When the first boy came out his eyes were bloodshot and he was shaking like a leaf, his hands on his crotch. It seemed as if time had slowed down to a mere crawl. It was eerie, unreal. Something beyond our young comprehension. Two more boys went in and came out with shocked expressions and glazed eyes. I was scared to death. I had never been whipped, I had never been in a fight, I didn't know what pain was, but I was about to find out.

The other boys were standing against the wall, faces down turned, averting each other's watery gaze. I remember looking at them as if they could somehow help when the tall man came around the corner quickly and grabbed me by my arm. I winced in pain, these men were strong and didn't mind letting you know it. There was (KNOWN OFFICIAL TO BE NAMED AT A LATER TIME), a long, thick leather belt, longer than my arm, hanging from his hand. A low iron bed with a thin mattress, a stained sheen and dirty striped pillow was up against the wall. He told me to grab the bed rail and turn my face to the wall. I did and the beating began.

The first four or five blows were so hard I was merely stunned and amazed at how far down in the bed the force of the blows had sent me. Then it started to get bad, really bad, some of the blows were landing just at the top of my legs and some just at the bottom of my back. It felt like my skin was ripping, being peeled off. I rolled over and started to get up thinking it would be better to fight these men, anything would be better than this, maybe they'd just knock me out. No such luck. The tall man grabbed me by the neck and slammed me down on the bed, his knee on my back. I started screaming, begging, shouting to God to help me, but the beating continued. Each lash felt as if it were tearing off my flesh and with each lash the pain just got worse. Finally it was over.

I was in a state of shock, Someone pulled me off the bed and pushed me toward the door. I remember missing the door way and stumbling straight into the edge of the door frame. They took us to the shower room and made us change into our new state clothes. We all looked at each other as we stripped while the men watched us with a satisfied look. All of us had bloody underwear that was literally beaten into our skin. One of the older boys that had more courage ripped his off fast, like ripping off a bandage that has been on a wound. We did the same, it burned like fire. Once naked we were told to hit the showers. The water was cold and it felt like someone had thrown acid on the raw flesh of our wounds. The top of our legs to the bottom of our backs were deep black and blue with red patches where the skin had come off. We had only gotten thirty five to forty five lashes, if you ran and got caught you automatically got one hundred. I still to this day cannot imagine that.

I got up the next day, walking very stiffly, my left eye nearly closed from hitting the door frame. The boys in the cottage were not a bad lot and I soon made friends. One was a boy named Mike Schreck that would turn out to be the best friend I would ever have. He was six foot five at fifteen and not a bad bone in his body. He would later take a beating for me, taking the blame for some seemingly trivial event. He knew how terrified I was of the "White House" and (KNOWN OFFICIAL TO BE NAMED AT A LATER TIME). But it was far from over and the real nightmare was about to begin. Twice, in the late of night, around two or three in the morning, I would feel someone sit down heavily on the edge of my bed and I would awake with a start to look up into the cold eyes of (KNOWN OFFICIAL TO BE NAMED AT A LATER TIME). He had his hand on my arm, I could feel the clammy sweat of his palm. He smelled bad and his breath was as rank as a dog's.

"Get up and follow me," he said in a flat voice. I followed and there was the tall man again, standing by the front door to our cottage. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. (KNOWN OFFICIAL TO BE NAMED AT A LATER TIME) said I had been smoking and if I denied it I was "going down" I was utterly helpless. Of course I had not been smoking and they knew it. Looking into their eyes that first time I realized the devil probably has a smiling face These men were pure evil, they had complete and utter control over us and no one to answer to. Sure, there were inspections, but we always knew about them at least a week before. Everything was clean, neat, polished and happy little boys were playing under the shade of the mighty oaks. If only they could have been privy to that night. So down I went and there was more screaming and crying and pleading and I was told to keep my mouth shut. I had never gone down. I was even denied the luxury of telling my friends, looking for some sympathy. But the boys knew, a few of them. It's hard to hide black and blue in the shower.

Two months later this happened again, but this time they took me to a room below ground. I remember walking between them, my feet barely touching the ground held in their vice-like grip. We came to a stairwell that went down into darkness. I was shaking so bad I could hardly stand up wondering if they were going to kill me this time, just for fun. I knew in my heart they were capable of anything.

We went in the room and one of them flicked on a light switch. It was a small bulb and didn't give off much light. The last thing I saw were the windows that were covered with cardboard before they slammed me onto the hard floor. They were on me with their knees, both of them. This time I didn't scream, I couldn't. At one hundred and five pounds there aren't many options when two grown men are on top of you. I thought they would crush me, it felt like my spine was going to crack. My world exploded in pain and that's the part I remember well, all of that terrible weight. I had been naive and innocent and hardly capable of grasping the evil that men could do to a child.

This was what I buried for forty eight years until it became an old, familiar, re-occurring nightmare. I was always walking down steps into darkness and in my dream it became larger than life, the walls beating like Poe's Tell Tale Heart, stairs becoming stone, winding down and ever down towards something that gleamed red in the dark. It lay waiting at the bottom. Something so terrible that I would surely go mad if I came to it face to face. Then I would awake, just as it touched me.

At least once a week for forty eight years I felt that weight push down on the edge of my bed, as an invisible demon from my past visited me once again. In my dream I lay frozen in fear, thinking it would somehow go away if I would just be really, really still. Then there was that clammy hand on my arm, and the smell of rotted teeth and I would awake, leaping or falling out of bed, to search the house for some intruder. It was a dream so real it was nearly impossible to react in any other way. Even to this day it happens and I am old and should know better.

So, after having a particularly bad night, I told a friend and former secretary about Marianna. I had never told anyone. She said I should do something about it and being a resourceful young lady, managed to find Roger Kiser's web site. When I saw the picture of the torture room and read Roger's terrifying account, I could hardly believe it. It was a hard week, all of those demons rising to the surface, truth coming at me like the lights of a onrushing car in the eyes of a rabbit. The "White House" It still stands, a grim tribute to the poor children of the Florida School For Boys. The school opened in 1900 and the very ground it sets on is soaked in their blood. If it was that bad in 1963 what cruelty was suffered in the past? I can almost hear the children screaming.



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