AFTER TWO NEAR death experiences within an hour, it was time to move on. We spent a few minutes looking at & around the little brick storage building before heading back down the hill. We stopped about half way & got back out by the little cabins. The house that I’d seen before was still there, looking much the same. It was still not accessible due to its condition but we were able to look into the back porch. The old Typewriter sat in the same spot on the porch, covered with a little more dust & cobwebs. Circling the building (one of us way more cautiously due to a specific snake issue!) we looked in the shed. Tires, old paint cans & other equipment sat, untouched, like the rest of the property, for God knows how long.
SEEING SOMETHING PARTIALLY buried in the dirt, E started digging. She came up with an old, glass RC Cola bottle, that I was later able to date to between the mid 60’s to early 70’s. It had something wedged inside of it that we couldn’t identify but whatever it was looked to be rusted.
WE ALSO FOUND some of the original brick that had been part of the school & more than likely made by some of the Dozier boys right on campus. There had been a large plant built in the early days of the school specifically for brick making & the bricks made there were either used on campus OR sold to the residents & businesses of Marianna. It was probably the 1st sweat shop on record…Sorry Kathy Lee!
REALLY, I MISSED AN ENTIRE BUILDING?!?
I’VE NEVER BEEN the most observant person, however, I didn’t think that I would EVER miss a 2 story, brick structure that was NOT only painted white BUT literally sat 15 feet next to a house that was its identical twin…The same house that I had been looking at just a couple of months before! Well, there was that one time that I completely missed the brand new Super Walmart that had been built & operating for over a year & sat on a major road in our area BUT in my defense I avoid Walmart like the plague, so technically I really didn’t have a reason to notice…Let’s just leave it at that & move on.
THE SECOND COTTAGE hadn’t fared well & was in various stages of collapse. Since the front of the cottage was impossible to access, we would have to enter through the small door located in the back. We got to that exact door but before we could so much as cross the threshold, E (Aka The Bestie!) saw a couple of metal dog dishes sitting on the postage size slab of concrete that looked like a sad attempt at a patio. It was obvious by how new the bowls looked that they’d been placed there recently; Somebody had been there recently…Maybe a squatter? With the way that cottage was looking, the thought of anyone choosing to take cover inside was almost laughable as not much cover would be given. The roof was 95% gone & the walls weren’t much better. It would be an odd choice…But in my world, stranger things have happened.
IT TOOK ALL of 5 minutes to explore the cottage. Basically, the room we entered was the ONLY room that we could walk around in; The others, were inaccessible due to the roof collapse. We looked around, took a few pics & on the way out, I happened to look down & saw something pointy with a red handle. I picked it up & though the metal part was rusty, the wording on the handle could be clearly read. I put it into a plastic bag…Time to move on.
WHEN ONE DOOR OPENS…
AT THE BOTTOM of the hill sat the focal point of the North Campus…The Church. It was still beautiful, even in spite of it being a part of a notoriously brutal reform school. Last time I was there, it was full of stuff as seen through a broken window at the back of the small building. I could have gone in then but opted not to as I had been alone & with ALL of that stuff in the way, there was no way of telling what OR who could have been inside. This time, I wasn’t alone & was going to get inside of that church…
NO MATTER WHAT!
OF COURSE WE tried the front door, which was still firmly padlocked. We circled the building, taking the time to look & test both of the doors on either side. Both were not only locked but when shut, they were flush with the outer walls of the church. By the time we had made it to the back of the building again, I decided that I would go in through that damn window. We were running short on time & I really wanted to get back into the dorms. The church would just have to wait. We left the car hidden behind it & started walking up the opposite hill. The wind was picking up again & the old trees were creaking. I looked up at one after hearing a loud click, thinking it was going to come down & that’s when I saw it. Those 2 side doors that had been locked when we looked earlier…One of them was now cracked open…
HOLY MOTHER OF God!! I’m not always a big believer in fate BUT I was taking this as an obvious sign that there was something that somebody wanted us to see! Opening the door slowly, we looked inside & not seeing any immediate threat, we stepped inside. It was dark, musty & loaded floor to ceiling with stuff. It was hard to even get all the way inside due to the old furniture piled everywhere. And then there were the boxes; Tons of boxes, all marked with dates. After looking inside of several, it was apparent that they held old school records & curriculum. More shocking were the stacks of student cards piled everywhere! Hundreds of cards containing names, dates of birth, addresses, social security numbers, etc.. WTH???
I’M PRETTY DAMN sure that what we were looking at was beyond illegal. Not exactly knowing how to handle the situation, I grabbed the biggest stack I could & stuffed them into an old floppy disk holder (which still held some of those old disks!) & put it off to the side. We then started going through a stack of framed photos showing posed students that had attended the “Jackson Alternative School.” I assumed that a lot of the kids pictured in these photos were the same kids listed on the contact cards…I wonder what they would think if they were told that their private info was pretty much laid out for anyone to see? Maybe I’d have to start making some calls to find out the answer!
ALTHOUGH WE SPENT around an hour inside, we never made it into any of the other rooms. It would have been impossible to even try as there was just way too much crap in the way. We couldn’t even make it onto the stage area because there was an old dusty organ, metal desks & filing cabinets & other outdated furniture. Grabbing the stuff that I had set aside earlier, I sucked it in so that I could squeeze between the old chalkboard & yet another set of rusty filing cabinets & finally got to the door on the opposite side from where we had entered. It took both of us pushing hard on that damn door before we were finally able to get it open enough to get back outside. The weather was starting to decline again & it was getting later. To have any chance of making it to the dorms, we had to get moving. Leaving the church & its unsettling contents, we began up the hill.
OUR FINDINGS IN the church were without a doubt bothersome BUT it was the time spent inside of the dorms that would become the breaking point for one of us & a major turning point for the other.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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