FOUR YEARS IN THE MAKING
ON A CHILLY morning in early November, under a clear blue sky, we pulled up to the South Campus of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. This would be my 7th trip to the school BUT this time would be very different! This time I wouldn’t be standing outside of the fence that surrounded the South Campus, trying to concoct a scheme to get inside because there was NO longer a reason to do so. While the tall fence remained in place, the gate keeping the world from finding out the truth was gone. I was FINALLY going to get inside! It was ALL happening on my 41st birthday…Talk about having a full circle moment!
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE
WE DROVE RIGHT onto the main road that wound its way through the 1200 acres that made up the South Campus…And straight into the line of sight of a Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy who was exiting the campus. Well Damn, Here it was! I had fought for 4 years for access ONLY to be thrown back off when I was only feet inside! I held my breath & braced for a confrontation…It NEVER came! The deputy never even slowed down. He just looked over at us, saluted & nodded. WTF is up with this place???
An Old Guard Shack At The South Campus Entrance
AS WE FOLLOWED the road up a steep hill, I tried to take it all in. There were buildings as far as the eye could see & a bunch of dorms off in the distance. Remnants of the havoc that Hurricane Michael had unleashed on the Panhandle were still visible everywhere BUT for the most part, this side of the road appeared to be in much better shape than the side that was the North Campus.
WHEN WE FINALLY stopped, I got out to try to get my bearings. As I stood there & took everything in, I was amazed at how different it all looked closeup…And then I happened to look up & was surprised to see that I was standing under the AGDSB water tower. It was so massive that it looked like it was next to the sun.
MY PRIORITY WAS to find the Whitehouse & photograph it. A little over a month before, I had been given info that the WH had been vandalized. Upon being called out on this, an official responded to to a WHB (whom I’ll be referring to as “M” from now on) regarding the issue by sending a half-ass promise to look into the matter along with several photos of the outside of the small building. Unfortunately, the photos were taken from a good distance away & ALL of them were at an angle, so you couldn’t see much…Other than the yellow crime scene tape around the outside. For some reason “M” had been kind enough to forward me the entire interaction, photos & all. That was the exact moment that I had decided it was time to make another trip to Marianna.
TAKING A DETOUR
THERE ARE A number of things that the Arthur G Dozier School For Boys are known for (besides child abuse & murder). One of those things is the campus print shop. Initially, the print shop was used to print campus publications like “The Light”, however, it soon became another way to exploit the boys in order to make money by offering up printing services all over the State of Florida. At one point, ALL of the printing for our fine politicians in Tallahassee came out of Dozier…Guess that’s one way to get politicians in your back pocket…
Boys Working In The Printshop ~ 1950’s
THE BUILDING AS a whole seemed to be holding up well, although a number of the windows had been broken. I stepped inside into a small room that was empty except for some type of equipment on the floor in one of the corners.
THE ROOM TO the left was large & bright with concrete floors. It looked like a garage with its big bay doors. Of course, those doors were broken BUT hey, at least the view of the property behind it was unobstructed.
ON THE OTHER side was a small, L-shaped room. It was dark & the focal point of the room was some type of old printing machinery that was still bolted to the wall. Directly across from it was a door that stood partially open. I peeked in BUT there was NO way in Hell that I was going all the way inside because it was pitch black! I pulled out my flashlight & used it to scan the room. I was able to make out some shallow sinks on one side & a bunch of metal racks on another. A 3rd wall had some type of long, man made wooden table against it. Maybe this was an area used for photo development?
HAVING SEEN ALL there was to see, I exited out the same way that I had come in & started back up the steep concrete path. It was as I reached the top of that incline that I saw it.
A TIME CAPSULE FOR EVIL
THE MOST NOTORIOUS building at the AGDSB sat at the top of a hill, its white cinderblocks forming a perfect square. Looking at it from the outside one might think it was just another empty structure, quite possibly passing right by it…Except for the bright yellow crime scene tape framing its perimeter.
FEELING THE URGENCY to get to it, I started to run. It was when I was only about a foot away that I noticed the that the front door was slightly ajar. I was totally confused because that door should have been padlocked as the building had been permanently sealed back in a small ceremony back in 2008. I quickly closed the remaining distance & sure enough that door was open! But it wasn’t just open like somebody forgot to shut the door on their way out, it had been kicked in. In fact, whomever had broken in had used such force that the steel plate holding the padlock in place had been torn from the door, taking the wood with it.
IN MY OPINION, it was complete overkill considering that the OPEN padlock was hanging from the door frame, leaving me to believe that it was an inside job & the intention was to make it look like vandals came along & broke in.
WHY GO TO such lengths to make people think that this was a random attack? Why even bother to vandalize the WH at all?? It’s been sitting here, locked up tight for over 11 years now & suddenly people are going to start strolling onto the property, bypassing 100 other buildings that were NOT secured, ONLY to come upon this postage stamp sized building, kick in the door & start wreaking havoc on the inside?? Oh, and let’s NOT forget that since Hurricane Michael, the AGDSB South Campus has had a new tenant; The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office…Located a mere 317 yards away from the WH!
I CAN GIVE 2 words to sum up my thoughts on the random vandal theory; BULL SH$T!!!
I WAS SO pissed that I didn’t even realize that I had stepped inside. If I had to describe my 1st impression in 3 words, I would say it was filthy, musty & cold. It felt like the air inside was electric…Charged with decades of hate & fear. The front room ran the length of the building & wasn’t very wide. There were 2 good sized windows, letting plenty of the late afternoon sunlight in, so it was well lit…Of course after taking a look around I almost wished that it wasn’t.
THE ROOM HELD a small bathroom at one end & the dirty concrete floor had trash, including an empty cigarette pack that was too clean to have been there for long. An old fire extinguisher was lying on the floor next to the front door & there was graffiti on the walls which made me wonder exactly how long had this door been open?
WANTING TO DOCUMENT everything I saw, I took out my phone & started taking video. I spent a few more minutes in the front room making sure to capture the kicked in door, the graffiti, the garbage left behind, etc. & then stepped through the open doorway into that hall…What I saw will be with me forever.
TO BE CONTINUED…
☆ IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW SUFFERED ABUSE, PASSED AWAY, WENT MISSING OR WITNESSED ANY WRONGDOINGS WHILE AT “THE FLORIDA INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL FOR BOYS” AKA “THE ARTHUR G. DOZIER SCHOOL FOR BOYS” OR THE OKEECHOBEE SCHOOL FOR BOYS, PLEASE REACH OUT AT findingflorida.blog OR ANY OF THE CONTACT INFO LISTED BELOW!!☆
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