Cherie Livett Bombell

Kids Behind Bars, Geneva Illinois

Browsing Posts tagged reform school

Tweet Brenda and I will be visiting the site of the former Geneva Girls School in August 2012. If you’d like to join us, please contact me via ‘Contact Me’ on this site. We’ll spend some time at the cemetery and pay our respects to the children buried there as well as those that spent […]

Tweet Imagine living in this much space. A tiny cell. Other areas of your ‘home’ are shared with at least 20 other people. There is no where to ‘get away’ except to your room and you can’t necessarily escape to your own space without permission. Prior to the early ’70, all activities were strictly controlled […]

Tweet The following information and photograph was kindly provided by the Geneva History Center. “Beginning July 23, 2011, the Geneva History Center museum will host Who Was Sadie Cooksey?, a photographic traveling exhibition developed by Maine photographer Maggie Foskett. The genesis of this exhibition reaches back to 1979, when Foskett stumbled onto an isolated cemetery […]

Tweet In July, the Geneva History Center will host an exhibition titled Who Was Sadie Cooksey?. This is a traveling photo exhibition developed by Maine photographer, Maggie Foskett. With the genesis in 1979 when Ms Foskett took pictures of the cemetery at Geneva Training School, the exhibition focuses on a single individual whose tombstone caught […]

Aerial view of Illinois State Training School, Geneva, Illinois 1974

The inmates were only a few years younger than me. Most were smart though not educated; most came from inner city Chicago – ‘the ghetto’. Most were born into poverty and I into security. They’re black; I’m white. My color and social standing bestowed ‘privilege’ on me – a valuable commodity that those kids didn’t have access to.

Before boys, the girls would ‘go steady’ with each other. Couples were evident by their dress – slips or petticoats hung a few inches below the hem of the state issue dresses. Socks were mixed and matched between couples. A red sock on the right foot, yellow on the left matched the mirror reverse on the other half of the couple.

I couldn’t understand the African American accent and expressions like “jive time’, ‘dozens’, ‘your momma’ and ‘square’ (cigarettes), left me bewildered. And I missed the verbs – ‘You ok, Miss Livett’ confounded my grammatically correct ear. Although the roots of rap were already there, the music didn’t exist to educate the masses to the rich and vibrant culture of black Americans. I was middle-class-stupid and was in the classroom of my life.

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