Fiona: What is your name?
Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.
Fiona: What is your age?
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Hayward California but raise in Jacksonville Florida in a Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida from age 3 to 14.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I am married with 4 children and 11 grandchildren. I live in Brunswick, Georgia where I write (I have written 43 book on child abuse and related issues). I attended Spring Park Elementary and Landon High Schools in Jacksonville but dropped out of school 2 weeks into the 7th grade. I went to nursing school and became the first male LPN in Georgia and later became a EMT with Pennington Ambulance Service in Albany, Georgia. I was a medic in the U.S. Army for 3 years and then worked 3 years in private duty nursing. Tired of nursing I became the ammunition inspector at the Riverbank Ammunition Plant in Riverbank, California for 3 years and then moved to Brunswick, Georgia where I now reside.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I am now retired and spend most of my time writing and building model (miniature) structures) which I donate (for free) to the local animal shelters to sell to help get animals adopted and out of cages.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing in 1990 (which was very difficult with only a 6th grade education). I began writing because of the sorrow and pain I still feel today having been abused in the Children’s Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida as well as the abuse I suffered at the Florida Industrial; School for Boys at Marianna for having run away from the orphanage.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer when my first book was published. (Orphan-A true story of abandonment, abuse and redemption).
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I was inspired again by the physical, emotional and sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of the orphanage matrons.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The publisher came up with the title. My original title was “The Sad Orphan.”
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I only write non-fiction. When writing about child abuse is very dishearten but one must expose what abuse feels like so others may not have to suffer. Yes, writing about such is very challenging.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My book(s) are realistic and 100% truthful and based on me and my fellow orphans both male and female.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I do have to travel back to the orphanage to replace the sadness I felt as a child. Very difficult to do but I felt I must do that to truly expose the truth.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The publisher designed the first cover but I have designed the other 30 or so.
F My book(s) tear at the heartstrings of the reader and hopefully make the readers realize that child abuse lasts a lifetime. It is important that you reach into their hearts.
iona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That child abuse lasts a lifetime.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I read very little as the writing of others changes my writing style. Any writer can write about an apple but an excellent writer can make the reader taste the apple.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
There was no one who supported my work because of my lack of education. However, when I became one of the top contributing authors to the Chicken Soup for the Soul Book series things began to change. I now have stories in 15 countries and donate my work to anyone using such in educational materials in schools in many countries.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I do not see writing as a career but I do write, now and then. The problem with many writers is they do not put their own judgments and beliefs aside and try and write using their personal thoughts as a guideline.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would not have changed a thing in any of my books.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned that the sadness never goes away.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
In the past I have worked with Michael Landon and Edward Asner. My book is now being considered for a film titled “The Reformatory”. I could not play the lead but I could play the abuser as I remember how terrible they were and the looks on their faces. I did make a short film of the beatings which I played the lead as Mr. Hatton. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6w5pKLSzQo)
Personally, I have made more than 50 videos over the years which are on YouTube (Roger Dean Kiser) and (Dozier School)
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
My advice to other writers is: write with an open mind remembering others do not see things as you do nor have they experienced what you have in life. Remember, no reader wants to hear you talk about ice-cream when they have never tasted it or even knows what it is.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
In the orphanage we were not allowed to read.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
A good joke makes me laugh but I rarely cry. I cannot cry when someone dies but I do cry and cannot speak when one of my animals die.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I would love to have met Paul Lynde (Comic) He made me truly laugh.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I fish and go camping with the grandchildren.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Mainly news and films like “Sling Blade and Mice and Men
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Love Turkey and dressing. Yellow is my favorite color and music from the 50-60s and easy listening.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
If could no longer write I’d be dead. LOL.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“Child abuse lasts a life time.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Amazon authors links
For the past ten years I have battled the state of Florida because of the bloody abuse I and many other boys suffered which in their care. The story is below. I tried for years to expose the bloody beatings, sexual abuse and murder of thousands of boys in the 1950s and 1960s. As the result of my book “The White House Boys-An American Tragedy” more than fifty boys bodies have been exhumed and returned to their families. The school was closed several years ago and now the Florida Senate and House have voted 1.6 million dollars (two weeks ago) to erect two memorials; One in Marianna and the other in Tallahassee, Florida.
THE HORRORS OF THE WHITE HOUSE
Roger Kiser 12 years old
I was about 12 years old, living in the Florida School for Boys at Marianna, when they called me to the head office. They told me that I would soon visit the ‘White House,’ which was a torture room for boys who broke one of their many rules or tried to escape. I was sent to the school for trying to escape from the Children’s Home Society orphanage in Jacksonville. I had been incarcerated there for 10 years for the ‘crime’ of having no parents to care for me.
When I heard that they were taking me to this ‘White House,’ an extreme fear came over me. I almost passed out and was trembling so badly that my legs collapsed under me. I fell to the floor and lay there. The men told me to “get my sorry butt up” and sit down on the hard, wooden bench outside the office. I waited there for the two men who would take me to the ‘White House.’ I knew their routine well, as I had heard about it from many other boys who were taken there. Other than the time I learned that I had cancer and would die within six months, I have never known more fear than when I was told I was going to be taken to this place.
After a wait of about 30 minutes, these two men came to get me. They grabbed me by my arms and lifted me off the bench. There were several other boys in the office with me, so I had to try to act as though I was not scared, but they knew. The two men walked with me across the grass circle that divided the offices from the ‘White House.’ We stopped at another office and a man with one arm walked out. He took the place of one of the men holding me. We continued walking toward the mess hall. As we rounded the building, I could see it right in front of me: ‘THE WHITE HOUSE.’
My mind was just going crazy with fear. My thoughts seemed to be swimming in a circle, like a cat that had been thrown into a cold river. I was so scared, I could not think straight. Words were coming from my mouth before my mind could think of what it was I was attempting to say. I was trying to decide if I should run and hide or maybe kill myself. Anything was better than what was going to happen in there.
When we reached the door, one of the men took out his keys and stuck one into the lock. I looked back over my shoulder and I saw about 50 boys. They stared in silence. As the door opened, an ungodly odor filled my nose and I could hardly breathe. I remember trying to step through the doorway, but the odor was so overwhelming that I fell in the short hallway inside. One of the men grabbed me by the back of the shirt collar and jerked it up around my neck, choking me. One of the buttons fell off my shirt and hit the floor, rolling very slowly around the corner. Almost everything was happening in slow motion. My whole body was just numb and it was very difficult for me to breathe. I tried to pull the shirt down from around my neck, but the man jerked it once again and hit me on the top of the head with his knuckles. I hit the floor again and bloodied my nose from the impact. At that point, I was not walking at all; my legs would not work.
The two men picked me up and carried me into a small room, which had nothing in it except a bunk bed and a pillow. They put me down on the floor and ordered me to lie on the bed facing the wall. Crying, I pulled myself up onto the edge of the bed and wiped the blood from my nose onto my shirtsleeve. When I looked up at the men’s faces, they were plain, cold and hard. They had no expression whatsoever. I did what they told me to do. One of them said to move my hands to the top of the bunk bed and grab the bar at the headboard. I did so as quickly as I could. Not one sound could be heard. I felt one of the men reach under the pillow and slowly pull something out. I turned over quickly and looked at the one who was standing near me. He had a large leather strap in his hand.
“Turn your damn head back toward the wall!” he yelled.
I knew what was going to happen and it was going to be very bad. I had been told what to expect by some of the boys, who were taken to the ‘White House.’ I never heard from some of them again. I also heard that this giant strap was made of two pieces of leather, with a piece of sheet metal sewn in between the halves. Again, everything was dead silent. I remember tightening my buttocks as much as I could. Then I waited and waited, and waited. I remember someone taking a breath, then a footstep. I turned over very quickly and looked toward the man with the leather strap. There was an ungodly look on his face and I knew he was going to beat me to death. I will never forget that look for as long as I live.
I tried to jump off the bed, but I was knocked backward when the leather strap hit me on the side of the face. The men grabbed me and held me to the floor. I was yelling to God to save me, begging for someone, anyone, to help. There was blood all over everything. It was everywhere.
“Please forgive me! Please forgive me,” I repeated at the top of my voice. “Please forgive me! Dear God, please help me!”
But it didn’t do any good; God didn’t hear me that day. Maybe He was smart enough not ever to enter the White House, even to save a child. After about five minutes of begging, pleading and crying, they told me to get back on the bed and grab the top rail again. They warned that if I tried to get off the bed, the whole thing would repeat from the beginning. I slowly pulled myself up off the floor and got back onto the bed. Again, I grabbed the rail and waited; everything became quiet, except for the two men breathing really hard. Once again, I tightened up my buttocks and waited.
Then all of a sudden, it happened. I thought my head would explode. The thing came down on me over and over. I screamed and kicked and yelled as much as I could, but it did no good. He just kept beating me over and over. However, I never let go of that bed rail. Then there was nothing. The next thing I remember, I was sitting on another wooden bench in the one-armed man’s office. I remember wiping the slobber and blood from my mouth. My body felt like it was on fire. I stood and found that I hardly could.
God, God, God, it hurt badly. I will never forget that until the day I die.
One of the men in the office yelled at me to sit down. I told him that I had to go to the bathroom really bad. He pointed at a doorway and said that it was the bathroom; he told me to “make it quick.”
“I’m gonna tell somebody about this here stuff when I get out of here one day,” I told the man.
“Saying things like that around here is a good way to wake up dead, sonny boy,” stated the man, as he squinted his eyes and pointed his finger at me.
I slowly walked into the bathroom and closed the door. I looked in the mirror. There was dried blood all over my black and blue face, my hair and in my mouth. I took my torn shirt off, which was hanging from the waistband of my pants and then I turned around and looked into the mirror. My back was black and blue, and also bloody. I almost panicked out of my mind when I saw my reflection. I looked like a monster. I started to cry, but I covered my mouth with both hands so no other boys would hear me. I loosened my belt buckle to get my pants down. It was very painful, but the worst was yet to come. Once they were down, I noticed that my legs were all bloody and my skin was black in color.
I stood over the toilet and tried to urinate, but it just would not come out. I decided to take my underwear down and sit on the toilet until I could go, but the underwear would not come off; it was stuck to my rear end and legs. The cotton material had been beaten into the skin of my buttocks and was dried with blood. I pulled my pants back up and washed my face, mainly because I did not want the other boys to see that I had been crying. I was so scared that I could not stop shaking.
Finally, I walked back into the outer office and saw Mr. Sealander, my cottage house parent, standing by the doorway. He took me back to my cottage. He called the office to complain about what happened to me. Then he took me to the hospital where the old nurse, Ms. Womack, soaked me in Epsom salts and Doctor Wexler sutured up the wounds to my buttockx. With tweezers, she pulled the underwear from my skin. Then she petted that big, ugly cat of hers and sent me away.
Why was this done to me?
I never knew until years later, why I was beaten like that. They did it because I said ‘shit’ when I slipped on the diving board at the pool. I do not even remember saying that kind of word. I never was a boy who cursed.
I will never forget for as long as I will live, that vicious beating done to me without even knowing why. I will never forget the monster that I saw in the mirror that day. I will never forget what adults are capable of doing to a child. I will never forget that the State of Florida was behind what happened to me and to many, many other boys – just for running away from an abusive orphanage.
I do not hold any grudges against those men. If Mr. Hatton had not beaten me, another man would have done the job. Those were the rules. To them, it was a job they were paid to do. However, I have always wondered if Mr. Hatton was ever troubled the least little bit by that beating. I have always wondered if Mr. Robert Curry, the psychologist, got a thrill out of putting a 12 or 13-year-old boy in his place in that manner.
I spoke with Mr. Troy Tidwell, the one-armed man, on the telephone on February 11, 1999. He is now 72 years old and still lives in Marianna, Florida. I asked him if he could locate Mr. SeaLander. I’m sure he had no idea who I was. He may not even remember that far back, although I think it is more likely that he does. How could someone not remember beating little boys like that?
I thank you for caring, Mr. Sealander. Wherever you are, I want to thank you for your kindness and understanding. Because of that one kind deed, I have learned to trust, respect and take the word of my fellow man. Thank you for being kind to me and making me feel that I was worth something to someone. I will always remember, respect and love you for that kindness.
Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.