Donl_Point, It’s Not Polite Bartlett Appears Exclusively in the Texas Observer n eechuo.economy. Regretting the depressing content of the Observer recently, we cannot promise much relief. The legislators are going to classes, called appropriations committee hearings, on the handiwork of their predecessors, and the lessons are not conducive to respect for dear old Dad. In almost every program for human beings the state is criminally derelict. The legislature has been enacting various far-reaching reforms improving the health, welfare, and love life of hogs, livestock, and other animal orders of life. While it may be too much to expect . of the legislative process, should the legislators get around to human beings during the regular session, we have a few suggestions. Abolish the Legislative Budget Board ! That scrooge-like instrumentality for the buffering of the legislators from the disgrace of their government lost its right to exist when it brought in a projected budget so crude and cynical its enactment would be the same thing as murder, neglect, the twisting of the abandoned young, the miseducation of our own , children. The House, the chamber which must originate the revenue bills, should unite behind a tax program on sound principles and fight for it till hell freezes over or Standard of New Jersey gets out of Texas. The business witnesses are unwilling to accept even Gov. Daniel’s mild franchise tax increase. The spokesmen for the big corporations are screwing up their courage to fight for a general sales tax, and one may be sure the Texas Senate will vote as they’re told. Very well, then : let the House, as the guardian of the people’s interests, wrap up a neat little. package of Gov. Daniel’s natural gas bill, Rep. Eckhardt’s graduated oil tax on the 17 biggest importing Texas producers, and Rep. Johnston’s company profits tax. With such a program we can get the human beings in the state’s care “off the floors” without flooring the average consumer. Let the hypocritical dailies go on bleating about “economy” while shunting aside, or simply blushing about, the desperate needs of the state government. Let Frates Seeligson and Dorsey Hardman and Bill Fly and Ben Ramsey go on drawing up variations on the plan to soak the poor and polish the stickpins of the rich. Let Gov. Daniel twaddle along with his limping program, half right, half wrong, half moral, half immoral. If the House will make its tax program clear, the Senate can be held to account in the elections. Better to bring the government to a standstill than enact a sales tax ! THE TEXAS OBSERVER A0,10 THE BOYS AT GATESVILLE Published by Texas Observer Co., Ltd. FEBRUARY 21, 1959 Ronnie Bugger Editor and General Manager Larry Goodwyn, Associate Editor Sarah Payne, Office Manager Published once a week from Austin, Texas. Delivered postage prepaid $4 per annum. Advertising rates available on request. Extra copies 10c each. Quantity prices available on orders. Entered as second-class matter, April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. HOUSTON OFFICE: 1012 Dennis, Mrs. R. D. Randolph. EDITORIAL and BUSINESS OFFICE: 504 West 24th St., Austin, Texas. Phone GReenwodd 7-0746. We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of man as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit a gang from one side of San Antonio, and from another gang the other side of town. The same is true of El Paso. They can kill one another with their hands.” Had they? “No, but we’ve had broken jaws. They knock. ’em down and kick ’em and stomp ’em. Those Spanish boys are the ones I have are not so bad …. A few want to take advantage of our lenient program. They make fun and laugh at the attendants. We do have to lock that kind up.” . Corporal punishment is prohibited, he said. He has dismissed “several” guards on this account since he became superintendent a year ago. On the other hand, there is a danger that the boys might get a notion they can get a guard fired by provoking him to violence; `the facts in a case have to be weighed, he said. Trouble with narcotics? “I don’t believe so. If I were to say they don’t ever get narcoticsthey have visitors to see them. They have to submit packages to inspection, but there might be something hidden. They visit on the grounds.” After two months at good behavior, a boy can go into Gatesvile town with his parents for most of a day once a month. “A good many parents come. Some come more often than others. There are days when 100 boys check out.” Now and then parents will haul their boy away, and-“we file on ’em for aiding and abetting. They become subject to a two to three year term.” The school, called then a reformatory, was built in 1890, and the oldest buildings form a large rectangle of rectangles. Each group of boysfrom 40 to 112 live in a. “company,” each company is supposed to have a building, and each building has sleeping space and a “chapel,” a misnomer for what is really a recreation. room. Walking into the somewhat desolate recreation ; room of the first building, Perry reflected on the lack of books at the school. “It’d take $10,000 to do very much for these boys with books,” he said. “I really think it’d be better to have a library.” There are about 3,000 books, including the school books, for the 1,157 boys at Gatesville now. A Field of Beds Upstairs spread flat across the whole floor behind diamondforming wire caging separating the attendant from the boys were the narrow iron bunks for the 63 boys in this conwany. They were a few feet apart, without separating partitions of any kind. We saw simply a field of beds. Each boy has his bedonlyno table, desk, box for his stuff. There is a clothes room for each company in which each boy has a locker or space. The barracks depressed Perry a little. “Eleven hundred and fifty of ’em to feed and clothe with money for 850! We can’t /afford to cut that food much more or you have a food strike. It shouldn’t be, fellows, I’ll tell you. Any time you’re gonna handle this kind of proposition you ought to have enough to pay for the necessities of life.” We passed a three-story box building which had almost forgotten its green painting years before. “That third floor up to five years ago used to be the bullpen. They’d lock ’em up there. Now we use iit for overflow sleeping quarters,” Perry said. Outside the building, mops were laid in a row across a spar, and brooms stood In line against the wall. About a dozen boys were double-filed in front of the next building. They had on blue jeans and gray sweaters, the “uniform,” along with T shirts for warmer weather. They can wear their own clothes visiting days, but these were new arrivals. By the road through the grounds, a family sat together on the grass having a Saturday picnic. Rep. Kennard, who coaches a Little League football team in Fort Worth, wanted to know about intramural sports. There is no such program, Perry said, although there is physical education and some competition. “We have a swimming pool in the summer, but it takes all day, starting at eight in the morning, to run ’em through.” Walking into the dark hall of another company, Perry said, “They’re just like any other kids if you motivate ’em. If you take this approach’Hold still little catfish while I gut you’they don’t like it and I don’t either.” Inside in the clothes room five teen-age boys sat around idling off the morning. One of them was spinning records. Elvis Presley. They all had crew cuts. Perry likes crew-cuts: his main purpose is to get rid of the duck-tails, but he also likes crew-cuts, and “you’ve got to have some uniformity.” Even so, they looked like any other boys. They might have been sitting around a house on a balmy winter Saturday forenoon. One of them, a handsome boy in a bright red sports shirt, looked like he might be a very good ‘student or a high school football quarterback. What about the Negro boys? He’ would take us over to “Colored Hill.” He warned us it’s not what it should be. “We just don’t have any place to put them.” He asked for seven new company units, intending two for the Negroes, but the Legislative Budget Board recommended only four, “so I don’t know whether we will put more than one over there or not.” Had the board members ever been through the school? Kennard asked. Two staff people were out here for a hearing once, Perry said, and they saw some of the school. There are two barracks buildings for the Negroes: Harris Hall, with 211 boys, and Sterling Hall, with around 80. Harris Hall houses two companies and has two “chapels,” though they have . nothing in them but a few tables and chairs \(and the common laArmy-style barracks moved to the area at a cost of $5,000 or so to relieve some of the crowding. All this, and the common cafeteria, stands within a large grove of live oak trees. Beds Nearly Touch Upstairs Harris Hall is divided into two large sections. Perry thought there were 105 beds in the larger, but three boys sitting around told him there were now 112. “A hundred twelve!” he exclaimed. Across the screened-in middle room he thought there were 95 beds; he learned, this visit, there were 99. So it goes. For each side there are three latrines and two toilets, plus four shower heads. The boys are supposed to take a bath every night: 112 boys for four showers. The beds in Harris Hall are about 12 or 14 inches apart; they even float in the aisles, like chains of rafts. There are a number of double-bunks there already. We counted eleven beds in one tight little corner, including the doubles. The sheets are changed once a week at Gatesville. The boys change clothes every other day. Each boy makes up his own bed. Each has a towel, and there’s lots of soap. As we left Harris Hall we wondered if such carefully carpentered crowding might not diffuse the delinquent contagion: t h e hows and whats of stealing cars and jimmying windows. “I believe they learn most of those things before they get here,” Perry said; but he added, nobody really knows. We went across to the shed where they eat. Perry apologized for the “smell like a poorhouse,” but they can only get lysol through the Board of Control, whereas another kind of disinfectant could be used more safely around food. The boys lined up for the cafeteria-style lunch. The line extended out into the grassless yard, where a . lot of them stood around, slow to get in line. The meal was black eyed peas, potatoes, corn, raw carrots, corn bread, three or four pieces of white bread, served up on tin plates; and water. No meat. “I guess this is one of those meatless days,” Perry said. They have chicken once a week, roast once, fish Fridays, meat pie maybe twice. Perry explained that meat one meal at Gatesville costs $400; sometimes he divides a meat serving over two days “when money is a little bit tight.” As we left he asked an attendant about milk. For breakfast every morning, the man said. And once more each day? “Uh … occasionally,” the man said hesitantly. Perry was sure they get milk twice a day. Passing back through Harris Hall we were aware of pungent bathroom odors from the “chapels.” A few boys watched us leave. “How long since a legislator has been out here?” Kennard. asked as we got back into the car. “Well,” said Perry, smiling, “I’m almost afraid to say. But tell you whatthey don’t know what we’re up against down here. Driving over to the little boys’ unit, he said, “It’s yours as much as mine. We’re just trying to take care of it for the people of Texas … don’t think you’re gonna have ‘ a good program unless we get that parole s y stem we’re talking about.” Roomful of Boys The new units look like a modern elementary schoolfive redbrick buildings, low silhouette rectangles, with bright green oats sprouting on the flat plain around them. Here the ‘smallest boys, ten or eleven years old, and the minor offenders, truancy, running away from home, early minor theft, incorrigibility, are kept apart from’ the older ones. We went into the pleasant cafeteriatile along the walls, indirect lighting, shining tinto eat with them. The menu was the same as over at Colored Hill; the quantities were abundant as they had seemed over there, too. As boys arrived at a vacant table, they put down their trays and stood waiting for others to arrive for the other seats; then they all sat down together. We, Kennard, Perry, and the reporter, sat down with full trays at a table in the middle of this roomful of young boys. Perry told us they have, at Gatesville, 125 cows and 350 hogs. They grow their own cotton for their mattresses. For the 1,157 boys, there are 101 attendants, 33 school teachers, 20 matrons, and 12 case workers \(two of them working mostly in administra”There’s n o t much coercion here,” Perry told us. “They go ahead and do what they’re expected to. They have to know what you would do. We try to build it on respect rather than coercion.” All the boys are required to go *.o school except about 30 of them “Well, they call ’em wetbacks, \(Continued THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 4 Feb. 21, 1959
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