When I was in a reform school called New Hampton Training School for Boys in Orange County, New York, there were, not surprisingly, times when some of us didn’t get along, got into arguments, or simply didn’t like each other. When it became clear that two of us were really itching to settle things with our fists, or one boy wanted to challenge another, the men that watched over us, and did so wonderfully and fairly, I might add, would offer to have the other boys form a circle somewhere so the two boys could have at it.
Because these disputes were handled this way, no one was every seriously hurt, the tension between the two combatants almost invariably vanished, and, it was no unusual for them to become friends.
I think there may have been something like 300 boys in New Hampton. For those of us who happened to be white it was a wonderful experience. You were no longer in the majority because there was just as many African American and Latino kids. Combine their numbers and we were in the minority. During all the time I was there, and I was there for more than a year because I was knuckle-headed enough to run away – twice! – I never heard a single racial epithet – not a single one.
The men that were our guards – they were plain-dressed at sat a desk on one end of the dorm, the end were the exit was, not surprisingly – were great. During the winter we’d all shovel snow, and when the walkways and steps were cleared away, we’d shovel the snow off the lawns. They meant to keep us busy. It was not unusual to hear one of our guards say, “Okay fellas, time for all of us to look like fools and go shovel some lawn!”
Tell you what, if Trump or Bannon were there and acted like they do now, they’d be getting challenged by a lot of us, including me, not because they’re white racist thugs, but because they had it coming to them.
I had some truly good friends in reform school. I think of them today with love and respect, along with a heartfelt thanks that we got to do some time together.