Pa Fenton loaded us into his car and drove on down the road. The ride was a short one, as us kids had walked most of the way to his home, over the long cold night. The car was crowded, as Pa and Ma were in the front seat. Both Ma and Pa were old, probably in their late sixties, with silver hair and wrinkled skin. They all were dressed for court, and Pa had shaved sort of.
Jack’s Mannequin- Rescued/lyrics
Marty, a girl of about 16 years was in the back seat, and moved over to let my brother, sister and myself have some room in there with her. She smiled a big smile at me, and I didn’t know how to deal with that, my heart thumped in my chest sitting next to her. The house we were headed for was only another mile down the road. We had almost made it there on our own, despite how tired we were.
At least we would be safe now. Ma and Pa Fenton ran a receiving home for abused children, and allowed those kids to live with them, until foster homes could be found. Usually that process only took a month or so, but in this case it might take a little longer than that. We would still have to be processed through the system, and we would probably be split up, as nobody ever took in three kids at the same time.
The process can be long and involved. We would have to call my probation officer, who worked for the state, schedule a court appearance, and go through the multitude of formalities involved with children that had been abused, or were considered beyond parental control. I had been through all of this before a couple of times. I was labeled 601, according to California statutes.
601 was beyond parental control. I was considered a chronic runaway. At no time had anyone listened to or understood, my views of the events, that finally led to why we were here now. I was only 12 years old, and grown-ups didn’t think I should have any ideas or opinions, about what my brother, sister and I, had been living with. It was generally thought, children didn’t know anything.
Pa started telling us what was to happen in the coming days. I was to call my probation officer as soon as we got to the house, so Ma and Pa wouldn’t get into any trouble. Harboring runaways was as bad as robbing banks, as far as the state was concerned. It was okay to beat your kids, but it wasn’t okay for someone to save them, it seemed.
The ride only lasted ten minutes, and didn’t allow us to rest from our ordeal. Marty said she was happy to see my brother and myself again, and that probably made me blush. We had met her 4 months prior, and I had a mild crush on her. Marty was 15 or 16 years old, and pretty in my way of thinking. She had, had a bad home life, and was living in the receiving home, awaiting a family that could treat her right. Sometimes it seemed as though nobody had a very nice family.
When we pulled up in the driveway a young boy came out of the house. His name was Steven we were told. He immediately told Ma and Pa, about the phone call, and said whoever it had been wasn’t willing to leave a message. I chimed in at that. ” That was me ” I said, and then explained how I only had 1 dime, and knew it would be pointless to leave a message. I wouldn’t be near a phone, as we were walking across town, and trying to hide from the authorities.
Us kids hadn’t eaten since the evening before we left home. We were starved, and weary. Karol and Kevin were a little apprehensive as to what was going to happen next. I wasn’t quite so worried as this time I had witnesses, as to the conditions we had been living with. Ma and Pa Fenton knew who my probation officer was, so while Ma made food for us, Pa dialed the phone and talking to my probation officer started the next phase of our tribulations.
During the 60’s, social workers were called probation officers. They had large case loads, and at that time, and children were meant to be seen, not heard. She had known of my situation, and had figured it was just a case of a 12-year-old boy, that didn’t want to conform, or follow rules. I realized this was going to muck things up, especially since I was stronger than my siblings and prone to speaking my mind, when I was allowed to.
Pa Fenton talked to my p.o. It was late enough in the day, to put off any kind of action until the following day. I didn’t have to talk to her, at least not then. Ma and Pa both, were happy to see us again and even happier to meet Karol. They had heard about her, and how bad we said things were. They did believe us, but having a new source of information definitely helped the situation. Karol telling the story would at least give credence to my tales.
Marty and Steven were the only children at the home, at that time, so there was room for the three of us as well. The place was set up dormitory style, with a girls section and a boys. there were lots of bunk beds along two of the walls, and each section had room for about a dozen kids in waiting. Last time I had been there, eight other kids were pretending that was home.
We settled in, hoping we would be able to stay there more permanently. I was dreading the coming day, having to see my p.o. She wasn’t ever mean, just disbelieving about things, when it came to me. She would be one of the more decent people I had to deal with, it turned out.
Morning came and I had to be awakened. I slept so soundly everyone thought I had kicked the bucket. I couldn’t remember a time before then, that I rested so well. I didn’t have to be aware of my Step Mother slipping in and hitting or kicking me. My Step Mother had broken my nose so many times, I had deviated septum, and couldn’t breathe through my nose. I would get hit, for sleeping with my mouth open too! I had learned to cover half of my face when I slept.
Betty Ralph’s came by at about 8:30 am, and talked with us. We already had a court docket for 2:15 that afternoon. She was extremely apologetic for allowing us boys to be sent back to my parents place after the last time, we went through this. The judge I had seen told me, ” If you were my son, I would take you home and give you what for “. That was just what I had needed to hear. The attitudes back then were different from today.
Court was a fiasco, as one might expect. The same judge, my same probation officer, only this time she actually argued in favor for us kids. Although the judge didn’t like this turn of events, he allowed us children to remain in the custody of the receiving home until foster homes could be located. We were never able to be placed in a home together, and over the course of a two month period, we were placed into separate foster homes.
We finally had been heard, and I should have just called Ma and Pa Fenton in the first place. We could have saved ourselves the long walk, and all of the worry about police, truant officers, and my Step Mother’s punishments. We had finally been Rescued….