I’d been taking pictures all summer with a Kodak StarFlash camera. Popular back in the late fifties and early sixties, it was a camera body with the flash reflector built right into the top of the case. They came in colors but mine was white and was a Christmas present from one of my aunts in Texas. It took standard 110 film rolls and for flash, it used these little plastic ampule looking bulbs with the plastic tinted blue to make the flash wash less color out of the pictures. Day or night, if you put flash bulb in it, it would flash. Nothing so fancy as a switch, but then neither did it need to warm up like some of the new strobe based flashes. Plus that, the camera was a pretty rugged little thing. I dropped it any number of times and it always managed to work …until one day it didn’t. But it took four years or so to wear it out.
Up in the woods of Rindge, New Hampshire there was lots to take pictures of at the boarding school. First, New Hampshire is just plain photogenic, at least it was back then, and the school had all sorts of distractions for young boys and girls from a fully functional farm to arts and crafts and carpentry to vehicles mechanics. Even tree house building was a sponsored activity at the school whose focus was more helping kids discover their potential than regimented classes on the three Rs. Education was never downplayed, we had to achieve specific learning objective appropriate to the class years we were in. But they offered modular studies that we could take at our own pace. One year, I managed to work through and pass all of the test for my full grade year in the course of five weeks. That left the rest of the year for me to engage in hordes of things I took a shine to. And one of them, obviously, turned out to be photography.
We had an english teacher who doubled as the photography teacher. His name was Alcott and he was a generation or so removed from the famous Louisa May. So when I found myself with some 25 rolls of film to develop and print, I was assigned to Alcott to learn about photo development and general darkroom procedures. Bill Alcott was also a pedophile of the first magnitude, and being a typical dumb little kid I totally believed him when he explained that to protect our clothing from the darkroom chemicals, it was best to work in the nude. At this point I could make a long story short, and doing so, I can say that before the end of the first session I was finding my private parts being investigated by my mentor. This was an experience that freaked me out and when I fled the darkroom in frightened escape, exposed and destroyed each of the 25 rolls of film I had so dutifully collected.
Trying to explain the incident to the school headmaster brought a thunderous response of accusation that I was trying to fake a scandal against a teacher who’d given me a bad grade. I had actually never taken a single class from Alcott, yet somehow I was shown classroom attendance under his proctoring replete with failing grade. How is a 13 year old kid supposed to counter such a thing? I was taken from the mainstream dorms and sent off to an offsite residence called Red House. There, I spent my time being ‘tutored’ by Bob O’Brien, who appeared to have the same predilections and appetites as Mr. Alcott, who would often make unscheduled visits to the Red House. It was summer and so I was constantly told to run naked through a sprinkler in the very secluded yard as a function of PT. Both O’Brien and Alcott took a lot of photos of me which, I’m sure, were developed at the scene of the original crime. After a month or so of both the sprinkler exercises and the discovery that I had been joined in my bed as I slept, waking suddenly in the night due to painful penetrations of a particular orifice, my behavior became problematic. I was refusing to eat, and was in fact throwing my food topped dishes at those in authority over me and spending lots of time trying to formulate (and be caught in) escape plans.
When the local police ended up involved one day because I made my way to the town road that intersected the small street upon which the Red house sat at the far end and got picked up almost immediately by a farmer in a truck. I spit out my tale of woe to an outraged driver of the truck and deposited at the city cops segment of the city’s municipal building. The school was notified and the headmaster himself came to retrieve me. At first the cops refused to let me go, their regulations stating that a child in my situation was to be returned only to a parent or legal guardian. But the school produced papers that my parents had signed which amounted to a dependency waiver In order to attend the school, parents had to forfeit their parental rights to the student, leaving all life decisions up to the school so they could be free to exercise necessary treatments, medical or psychological. In those days, instantaneous communications were still far off in the future, and many circumstances were intolerant of waits of hours and hours or even possibly days or even weeks to secure parental authority to act on a student’s behalf. Or the schools. Today’s communications are instantaneous and so there is absolutely no need for such a draconian disposing of rights of parents over their children Any organization asking for such broad powers these days needs to be viewed very closely and with high suspicion. While certain powers of attorney are necessary, such a complete denouement of parents rights is a very bad idea. Armed with their paperwork, I was fetched back to the school and the police admonished for involving themselves in something they had no business insinuating themselves into.
Fortunately I was not returned to the school dorms, nor was I returned to Red House. I was placed, instead, with a faculty members family. These were honest and loving people, and I owe all of the many benefits I took from my three years of attendance mostly to them and their even handed approach to everything. By the way, nary a thing happened to my two tormentors, who both continued on school staff without so much of an out of step stumble. Both were later discharged from the school with no reason given, but I suspect it was likely that their extracurricular appetites finally caused them to target the wrong kid. I know that for the first time in my life I had fantasies of taking another person’s life, and under very grotesque means that often dealt with soaking them in gasoline and lighting them up like a Salem witch.
While I could use this forum to talk about the pure hatred I developed for homosexuals at large, I won’t. Suffice to say that over time I was at last able to separate the difference between people with a particular sexual orientation and pedophiles. I don’t look at gayness much differently than I do hair color these days, but I have an unquenchable vehement distaste for adults (or even other, older kids) who act as sexual predators. Adults molesting children is, in my view, a capital crime punishable by summary execution and to hell with the appeals process. Bring on the gas can and and Bic lighters. Where i was fortunate was the attitude taken by my new benefactors. They chose not to bring up any of the issues of my complaints. In fact, they tended to downplay them in favor of attention to new and positive focuses of my time and energy. Sadly, may agencies and institution made a huge deal out of a child’s experience and that helps to cement them into the psyche of the victims and invites PTSD. The same is true for the suppressed memories crowd who seem to want to ensure that people with issues can relate them to a non-existent event in order to defray unreasonable senses of guilt about modern and totally unrelated issues. “Ah, you feel badly because you feel you cannot succeed in relationships. Well, it’s not your fault. You have suppressed the memory, but you were molested by your cousin Eustice on your second birthday and that’s where the trouble lies…’ Hogwash. A load of hooey.
Accentuating the positive and guiding the child away from focus, or worse yet, obsession about the issues, is a demonstrated much better course of action because it permits the individual to disassociate themselves as a function of their own growth and maturity process. It’s not an imparted artificial achievement that does the trick. Humans are, and kids to a greater extent, a lot more resilient than many give them credit for. This is another reason why wilderness based schools and programs are the more positive helpmates of kids who struggle with issues that make them incompatible with the mainstream and need custom guidance and challenges that permit them successive successes of their own to lead to the major successes only they can earn for themselves.