Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Painful Memories for the White House Boys

He’s in his 60’s, married for 42 years, and owns a multimillion-dollar company. He established a scholarship fund at the Arthur Dozier School for Boys where he speaks each year to the students about hard work and a hopeful future.

It was at that same school he learned his trade as an electrician, which turned him into a self-made success story. But, the future wasn’t always so bright for Dick Colon.

Roger Kiser, Dick Colon, Robert Straley and Michael O'McCarthy call themselves the ‘White House Boys’. All served time at the Florida School for Boys during the 1950s and ‘60s.

The men connected on the internet and began sharing stories of horrific physical beatings with long leather straps, reinforced with metal. Often, a large industrial fan was turned on during the beatings to drown out the screams of the boys, as they were tortured.

A makeshift cemetery on the grounds of the school holds thirty-one steel tube crosses. Painted white and unmarked, the men believe the crosses mark the graves of boys who suddenly vanished from the school, never to be seen again.

When boys disappeared from the school, administrators explained it away, said former student Roger Kiser.

They'd say, "Well, he ran away and the swamp got him," Kiser recalled. Or, "The gators got him." Or, 'Water moccasins got him."

It was the ‘White House Boys’ who convinced Florida Governor Charlie Crist to open an investigation into the school. They believe authorities will find the remains of children sent to the Florida School for Boys half a century ago.

Crist wants Florida Department of Law Enforcement, FDLE, to determine if anyone is buried there, whether crimes were committed, and if so, who was responsible.

The investigation will not be an easy one. Locating records and witnesses from fifty years ago will be difficult if not impossible. Many of the administrators and supervisors of the reform school are long dead.

The ‘White House Boys’ live with painful memories and say they want justice. They have waited most of their lives and will wait as long as it takes.



shari said...

As a teen here in the 60's in Orlando area, lots of kids were run thru the juvenile system with no rights to an atty. or any advocate on their part. There was also a girls school in Ocala, fl that had the same reputation. You didn't really even have to actually break any laws to end up in these places sometimes. If the juvenile authorities deemed your home life neglectful (ie. alcoholism, etc.)a judge could send you to one of these schools and the authorities had you until age 18. A sad but true story in Florida during that time.

Anonymous said...

My Grandfather and Grandmother worked at the school until the early 50's. My father remembers a bad strain of flu hitting the school and 27 boys died in the 30's. Many were buried on the grounds.

I'm not saying abuse didn't happen. I feel certain that it did but the graves might not hold any clues.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad no one is saying abuse didn't happen there. It happened as late as the early 80's. They were still beating kids, and stuffed the bloodhound dogs heads after they died to scare and intimidate kids, even putting gold teeth in the mouth to represent the children the dogs had stopped from getting away. Wonder how many scandals one "school" can have and politicians still act like they are in shock. There was a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU against Governor Graham - Bobby V vs Graham I think it was called. Lord only knows how many times during that 30 year time frame people brought this abuse out. There was enough public outcry during that lawsuit that a consent decree issued to change the way juveniles were dealt with in residential settings. I can only imagine the horror those boys suffered. I wish I knew how to get in touch with those men.

Anonymous said...

I hope the people responsible in this Florida’s boy’s reform school are found. I don’t care if they are 80 years old or older. They need to pay for what they did to these boys. It is a sick, sick world. In my opinion, the death penalty would be a just move for the people who abused and murdered boys at this school. I wish I could get my hands on them. This story has given me nightmares. My heart goes out to those victims still alive.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous: I have received many shocking stories, we are the WhiteHouseBoys at:
Robert Straley
Contact info on Site

Bob said...

A Project Dedicated to the Survivors of the White House
611 S. Fort Harrison Ave.
Clearwater, Fl. 33756

Press Contact: Robert Straley 727-447-4441
Project Director: Michael O'McCarthy

Anonymous said...

When I was there 3 boys ran and where never brought back we were told they got caught but were sent to the prison at raford, then 4 days later there were new markers at the cementary. things did not look right,I asked the one armed bandit about it and was told I could be next, 1 week later I was taken to the white house, the fan was turned on I was told to lay on the metal bed faceing the wall the one armed bandit took one of 6 strapes hanging on the wall,you could hear the strap hit the wall before it hit you I would tense up when I heard the strap hit the wall if you took your hands off the railing on the bed he would start over,after 75 hits I was taken to the doc to remove parts of my pajamas from my rearend and legs. the worst time to be taken to the white house was at night when you were inyour pajamas they would come and put you in the stste car and you knew you were done.

Anonymous said...

What about the girls home in Ocala?
My sister was there in 1955-56.
We were only allowed to visit her once, and that visit on the grounds. We were not allowed inside any building on the grounds.
She told us that girls would be beaten with a rubber hose.
Florida claims pregnant girls were not taken into the home, but I have strong doubts about this.
After all, who would know?
I consider the abuse these boys and girls received from these homes and the state of Florida for not protecting them from abuse...
Florida's Shame.

Anonymous said...

Is there a board for the girls reform school in Ocala?
If so, would someone please post a link?