Although I was a bad kid and locked up in Audy Home on five occasions, I never did any actual time. I usually got out when I went to court. They gave juveniles a lot of breaks in those days, and I was the recipient of many.
I came across an article written in 2009 about Audy Home, and how dangerous it is, and I know from first-hand experience that it’s true. Or at least it was when I was in there in the 70’s. Reading that story reminded me of some of the trouble I had there. So I thought I would tell those stories here.
I Sucker-Punched John Wayne.
Not the real John Wayne of course. There was this big white kid that everybody called John Wayne. It could have been his real name, I don’t know. But he had a lot of respect from the biggest kids there, and he was a bully to the smaller ones like me.
Whenever we ate, the first ones done got to race back to the TV area and pick a good seat. There were about 24 to 30 kids in each unit, but only about 8 comfortable chairs. So I woofed down my food and got the best lounge chair right in the middle.
About 15-minutes later, John Wayne sat next to me on a hard kitchen chair, and he began taunting me. As he looked around for any guards, he said, “You’re going to have to give me that seat, or I will beat the living crap out of you.”
I replied, “I know you can beat the crap out of me. But if you do, I promise you, when you least expect it, I will clobber you with a chair.”
After a few more exchanges, he leaned closer as he looked around for a guard. I knew the punch was coming, so while his eyes were elsewhere, I beat him to it. It was a perfect back-fist that landed right on his nose and sent him flying backward off his chair.
I immediately jumped up and was ready for him after he regained his footing. As he moved in closer to me, I stayed ready to fight, knowing he was about to beat the living crap out of me. The guard got there just in time and stopped him. Whew that was close.
The next day, some big black kid I never knew saw me in the hallway at school. This is where the real ass-whippings happen. He said to me, “I heard you stole on John Wayne. Try that on me bitch.”
I replied, “What you don’t understand is, I won’t lose. If you do beat me, I will get you back when you aren’t looking. I’ll knock you out with a chair, and you’ll never see it coming. And while you are passed out I will stab you with a few pencils.”
To my good luck, a teacher came along and broke it up before it got started. Whew, again.
I beat up the biggest bully at school.
My first day of school at Audy Home, I was given a desk in the front row, right in front of the teacher. There were some pencils and books on my desk. I sat down. Within just a minute or two, a big black kid behind me said, “Hey white boy, give me a pencil.”
The pencils were on the teachers desk in front of me where I could reach them easily. I got one and tossed it back to him. He just sat there and watched it bounce off his desk and land on the floor beside him. He just looked at it and said, “I missed. Come over here and pick it up and hand it to me.”
I just turned my head away. The teacher had his head down like he was reading, but I knew he heard every word. But I was getting mad at him because he didn’t do anything about this trouble maker.
Just then, I got slapped in the back of my head. I turned and saw 5 black kids snickering and leaning back. I couldn’t tell who did it. I turned my head back to the front and whap! I got another slap. Again, I turned to see them all laughing. I looked at the teacher- still head down reading. Then, I got slapped again. After about five or six slaps in the head, I started contemplating my weapons- books and pencils.
Finally I turned around and said, “What kind of pussy hits a kid smaller than him when he ain’t looking, and then hides among his friends?”
To my surprise, at this moment, the teacher walked out of the room! It was on. The biggest one stood up and walked to the front of my desk. “It was me. What you gonna do about it white boy?” He swung a slap at my face, but I moved back and he missed. I grabbed the three books off my desk and whipped them at him as hard as I could, one, two, three. He leaned way back and blocked the first two perfectly. But the third one caught him in the eye. Bullseye!
He stood up and came at me. I grabbed a pencil in each hand as he backed me all the way to the wall. There was no doubt in my mind, this guy was about to make minced meat out of me. But was determined to get a few pencil stabs in there somehow.
Just then, the teacher came back with a few guards. Again, I got saved just in the nick of time.
As soon as they took him out of the room, his four friends became my friends. They all said, “Nobody ever stood up to him before. That was great how you did that.” I became the hero. And we never saw that big bully again.
I got beat up by guards at Audy Home.
I was waiting to go to court in the bullpen (that was the room all the kids sat in behind the courtroom.) My little brother was with me because we got arrested together. I didn’t do anything wrong, it was him that committed the crime. But the cops had to arrest me too for some unknown reason. We were sitting there, getting along with all the other young thugs, when some cops (not guards) came and called my brother out of the room. They took him right across the tiny hall into another empty bullpen room.
Within just a moment, I heard bing, bang, pow! Someone was fighting and throwing things. One of the kids who stood at the door and could see into that room said to me, “They’re beating your brother up!”
I jumped up and ran out the door- that was my instinct as a big brother. Before I got close enough to see what was happening, a big, fat black guard stepped in front of me and punched me in the face. I counter punched him at the same time. I immediately put my hands up as I backed up, and said, “I’m sorry, it was a reaction. I really didn’t mean it.” But he kept coming, and now his nose started bleeding.
I was a pretty good boxer in those days. I spent several summers at a boxing club and learned from a few of the best Golden Glove boxers in San Francisco and Chicago. Plus, my Uncle was a boxer and used to slap box with me a lot.
This guard was way bigger than me, and I kept walking backward, begging, “Please man, I didn’t mean it, it was a reaction to your hit. You got me too. Stop man, don’t make me do it.” I ran out of floor space and started fighting him. I was nailing him left and right, and he missed every time. He was huge and slow. And I was young and fast. He fell on the floor, all dazed.
Just then about five more guards came in. He got up slowly and instructed his pals to hold me for him. they grabbed me and laid me down on the bench so my head was stuck in the corner of it. They held my head perfectly still while he pummeled my face about ten times. He broke my nose, blacked both eyes and left me totally exhausted on that bench.
Just then, the bailiff came out and called “Skaggs”. It was time to go to court. I saw my brother come out of the other bullpen and he looked just as bad as I did. We saw our Mom in court as we stepped up to the judges bench. She said, “What the heck happened to you two?” The judge replied, “They like to fight with the guards Mrs. Skaggs.
I said, “No we don’t. They like to beat us up for no reason.” The judge instructed me to shut up or face contempt charges. So I shut up.
That judge gave my brother 6-months and let me go because I was already signed up to join the Army in just a few days when I turned 17.
The strange thing is, the whole incident was a mistake. All my brother did to get arrested was drop a bottle off our porch. There was an old man hiding by the garage. We really didn’t know he was there. As soon as the bottle broke on the ground, the old man stepped out and said, “You son’s-a-bitches are going to jail for that.” We replied, “It was an accident. we didn’t know you were there.” But he didn’t believe us and called the cops. They arrested us both, even though it only takes one person to throw a bottle. My brother got 6-months for it. That was totally uncalled for. Of course, there was a lot of things he got away with, so he did deserve it. But not like that.
There were some more fight at Audy Home. But those are the most noteworthy. Audy Home was and apparently still is a terrible place to send kids.