Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Sharon. You’ve brought back many memories for me. I remember taking the girls from Geneva cottage roller skating one night. Most of them could have competed in a roller derby they were so good and confident. I was like a colt finding it’s first legs – totally unsure and clumsy. To ‘help’ me two girls grabbed my arms and took me around the rink. I was terrified at first then realized I was in good hands. It was fun. I also worked as a counselor on Oak (upstairs) and Wallace when it was the Boys Annex. Oak was the same as when you were there.
You have an excellent recall for the place and all the buildings, Sharon. There was a chapel and a swimming pool there too but the pool may have been built after you left. I hope you write more for us – you have so much to share from an earlier time. I’d love to create a page for you and your experiences. Your strong sense of social justice should be shared. Thanks again, Sharon.]]>
Today, disillusioned by the injustice of the corrupt laws and the American judicial system, I have now resided in England with my 3rd husband for the past decade. I have 4 children, 14 grandchildren, and this year, my eldest grandson made me a Great-Grandmother to a beautiful baby girl. They are all back in Illinois. Although I have had much happiness in my life, it has always been over-shadowed by the nightmare of my time spent in Geneva. I was an innocent when I first arrived there. I, also, was sent there for running away from an abusive family home. Nonetheless, by the time I left Geneva behind me forever, I was almost 17, mean, angry, as tougher than nails. No longer the innocent 12 year old I was upon my first visit. I even lost two of my front teeth in my first fight there. I was working in the kitchen on my cottage, I was 13, and a black girl who worked there with me, threw an indutrial sized can of vegetable into my face. Of course, they sent me to their dentist by the despensary [med unit], and made me some very nice false teeth.
I also remember the Geneva groups/ families. We girls belonged to groups that we made up ourselves, which we called our families. They were our network. A network where the strong could protect the week. I belonged to the most infamous family. We called ourselves the Chandlers. Not many staff member or outsiders knew, as it we tried to keep our families secret. I was the Mother of my family. Thinking back now, our families were possibly equivilent to a gangs. Our families were the ones that caused the riots that other’s heard about, and during my time there I was just as infamous. Everyone in the entire instituion knew my name. 😀 In fact, some years later [already a mother of 3], I met a woman who was a matron at Geneva during my time there. I had never met her. Although I was on most of the cottages at some time or another. She worked at one of the few cottages that I was never on. However, she knew me by name, and was disturbingly visably shaken by it. Of course as we got to know one another better, I found out what it was like to be the target of my rage back then. What made it all sort of humorous, was the fact that I stood only 5’3, and weighed under 100 pounds. 😀 But when I was angry, I was akin to a little white tornado. My mom used to call me a little fire-ball because of my temper. Crazy? No. Just a very very strong sense of justice. I still have the same strong sense of justice. Especially concerning my loved ones. However, these days, my temperment is more akin to a teddy bear. 😀 After Geneva, I finally went to University, and education taught me how to use my brains instead of my temper.
Please do not misunderstand me. Geneva was not all bad, and toward the end of my last stay, Geneva had changed a lot. They had even started a outside work program, and I was the first to be asked if I wanted to participate. If that wasn’t a kick in the head. 😀 I was shocked, when the administrators asked me. Me, of all people! Of course, I said yes. 😀 It was a chance to go outside Geneva, for a few hours every weekday day. I remember that me and another girl, were dropped off in the morning, and picked up in the evening. Needless-to-say, my last couple of months there, in comparison, were almost tolerable. I used to sneak cigarettes back in for myself and the girls on my cottage [Wallace]. Of course the matrons knew, but never did anything about it. A guard we knew as fat Donna, was always the one to search me, and she always did like me, for some unknown reason. In fact, one night, I was smoking, locked in my room. Trying very hard to hold the cigarette by my window, and blow the smoke out. However, the breeze was not in my favor that night. ;-D So, the night matron came down the hall to my room, opened my door, and stepped inside. She asked me for one of my cigarettes, and told me to be more careful, because she could smell it down the hall. 😀 I remember grinning, and offering her one of my smokes. A few weeks later, I was told that I was going home.
Geneva was both my nighymare and my home for 5 years of my teenage life. So, basically, I grew into womanhood in that place. While it was hell, it was my home too. I have always been a survivor, and have always been able to make the best of bad situations. This was due, in part, to my Mother, whom died of cancer this Spring, being an exceptionally strong woman, and also my time spent in Geneva.
Again, if there is anything you wouls like to know about Geneva, please do not hesitate to ask me. You may be interested to know that Geneva had a school and library, a beauty salon, a laundry, a bakery, and meat house/ butchers out back. I worked in all of that at one time or another. In many ways it was a very self-sufficient place. We had our own medical facility, which was called “the dispensary. Mostly because that was where girls went to take any meds they had been prescribed. As I stated earlier, we also had a dentist who came there once a month. They even taught Electronics to the older girls. We also had a gym, where they would let us go roller skating and watch movies occasionally. Geneva was also were I first learned to crochet. For the most part, we were only locked in our rooms all day, if we were sick, or being punished. If you were old enough, you worked. Otherwise, you went to the school during the day.
Of course, the building would seem cold when the plave was abandoned. Most old places that have been vacated have a cold feel to them. Especially institutions of any kind. But it was quite different when it was brimming with life. Here is one instance that has been commited to memory. We did not have heaters in our rooms. There were only heaters out in the hallways. If you want to talk about cold …On Winter mornings, some of us would find that any water left in our plastic cups overnight, were frozen solid. There was no good time to be in Geneva, but Winter, was the worst.
My time spent at Geneva was bad, but the girls that were there before me had it a whole lot worse. Have you ever read the history on the place, and what the original administrator was like? She was really quite insane. If you haven’t read Geneva’s history, then you should. History is important to understand what the place was like for those whom are buried in that graveyard. By the way, some of those girls died of illness …others were died while being punished. By the way, my window on Oak cottage, overlooked that graveyard, and I looked at it everyday for 6 months. That, I will never forget, because that was actually the only times I felt the coldness of the place get into my bones.]]>
You’re way ahead of me, Brenda. I think Lincoln was one only because that one is named in the photos in the link I posted (the link that doesn’t work properly).]]>
Your neck treatment sounds scary, Deb. Did you follow the path on my last post? That will take you to some old photos – maybe the ones you found before. Be sure to let us know when the ‘filing’ is done and that you’re alright, Deb.]]>