On July 23, 1963, I was surrendered to the Mass. Division of Youth Services by the dishonorable Judge Joseph M. De Marco.
Dishonorable, because he squeezed a $250 dollar bribe from my mother to keep my brother from rightfully going away…again.
It took three years to pay that Household Finance bill off.
I was already on probation for breaking into parking meters and owed the commissioner of lights and wires $300.00.
I knew I would go away at some point, because I could never pay that money back.
What I ultimately went away for, was accepting a ride in a 1955 Chevy Impala that was stolen by my next door neighbor, Johnny Silva, a rat of notorious distinction.
When Johnny was finally caught with the car, he negotiated the ultimate prize to the Somerville Police…an O’Hearn. Oh, they drooled with delight to get one of us.
They arrested me coming out of my house. While they were locking me up, they told me Johnny spilled the beans on me about stealing the car.
I laughed because I knew that was total bullshit. Even at 16, I had been arrested so many times, I knew how the game was played.
At the police station, they told me they had Johnny downstairs and they would bring him up to confront me if they had to.
I called their bluff and sure enough, they brought that sniveling weasel in, cuffed up with his head hanging down.
I was shocked when he said, “C’mon Bobby, tell them the truth, you stole that car.”
They had to pull me off him. It was no use, they had their prize. He walked, and I went away.
By this time, the family dynamic was such, that when a court summons came, my mother would put it on my father’s chest just before he was to get up for work.
On the very day of the proceeding. Not good.
They could go years without talking. It was Irish Alzheimer’s, they forgot everything but the grudge.
I would usually show up at the court house just in time, to avoid a needles trip to the hospital.
Of course, this tactic only served to further enrage this extremely violent man.
When I showed up late for the sentencing, my father caught me between the first and second floor of the Somerville Court house.
For once, I could have used a cop.
He dispatched me with his usual, brutal efficiency, only this time he used the conveniently located radiator to show his displeasure… with my head.
When I finally managed to hobble into the packed court room, everyone in attendance gasped.
I looked like I was hit by a bus and dragged for miles.
When the judge was comfortable that it wasn’t police brutality, he finally sentenced me.
I was a juvenile, so all sentences were indefinite.
I was handcuffed and brought to a holding cell the size of a water closet.
While I was licking my wounds and tending to my injuries, my peripheral vision picked up a fist coming through the bars towards my left eye, I quickly moved my head to discover it was him…..again.
Seems Dad wasn’t through with me. But he wouldn’t get another chance…..that day.
He would have to wait a whole year. When he almost took my head off with a door knob he had concealed in his fist.
I spent the next few months in maximum security while the state gathered a home report to add to the sentencing guidelines the Mass Parole Board would use.
When I was formally sentenced, I was told I would be assigned as a “mess boy” at the State Police Barracks in Middleboro, Massachusetts.
I was thrilled. I had heard good things about these barracks gigs. I heard the food was great and they even paid you $50.00 a month. But you worked. Did you ever.
You cooked, cleaned, shined shoes, washed police cruisers and mowed the lawn. You washed the kitchen floors with ammonia twice a day.
You waited on troopers while they ate and cleaned up after them when they were done.
I could have been sentenced to Bridgewater Maximum Security, or Shirley Industrial School for Boys. No, thanks.
On October 4, 1963, my parole officer, Robert Fitzgerald, picked me up, took me to Robert Hall’s to get a white shirt, a tie and a sports coat. Then we headed off to Middleboro.
Once there, I was presented to Captain George Luciano, an impeccably groomed and well spoken professional.
He was bigger than life. He could have been in the movies.
This was the happiest day of my life…I thought.
My joy would soon be obliterated, because little did I know, someone was laying in wait for me.
His name was Trooper Marvin Pratt. He looked Scandinavian with a blonde crew cut, rosy cheeks and a soft, harmless looking face.
We would have labelled him a “fink” on the street.
My sleeping quarters were on the top floor of the barracks. It was a wide open space and empty. Probably meant for storage.
It had a bathroom and a locker to put my belongings in. It was sparse but clean, and to me, a whole lot better than home.
On my second night, while laying in bed after an exhausting day, I heard the door creak open and I saw a trooper in a t-shirt and those funny riding pants they all wear with his suspenders dangling at his sides.
The trooper’s off duty sleeping quarters were right below me.
As he walked toward me, he was eating a bowl of Cole slaw and had a magazine under his arm.
He casually sat down at the edge of the bed, introduced himself and flipped the magazine onto my chest.
It was pornography the likes we never saw back in those days.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Within seconds, his hand went up under the sheets and my heart began to break.
Oh no, I thought, here we go again. I was always getting approached at that time in my life by priests, teachers, softball coaches and Larry Mortell’s perverted uncle Bud.
I begged him to stop and told him I was very uncomfortable. He just waved me off and told me “all men do this.”
He described it as a man’s rite of passage.
I got away that night, but the chase was on. He would be relentless.
One bad word from him and I would immediately end up back where I came from for another re-sentencing.
And at least another year added on.
He did everything to get me. One time, in frustration, I broke down crying. It infuriated him and he would storm off.
Now I had a weapon…tears. My tears were like garlic to a vampire. After that, I could cry on cue.
Didn’t stop him. He would stick his finger up my ass while I was cooking or washing dishes. He had no fear or trepidation.
Toward the end of my sentence, I was allowed to go home once a week to look for a job, so I would have something to go to.
They wouldn’t release me with out a job.
In my time there, I saw President Kennedy go out, and the Beatles come in.
On a day off, as I walking toward my house in Somerville, I saw him sitting on my front porch with my mother. There was no level he wouldn’t sink to.
She was thrilled that I was doing so well, even the cops liked me. She thought. If she only knew.
You can’t tell your mother stuff like that. It would have broken her heart.
Then, on my way back to Middleboro on Tuesday nights, if he was on duty, he would lay in wait on Route 44, and officially pull my Trailways bus over.
He would stomp to the back of the bus where I usually sat, pull me out of my seat, handcuff my hands behind my back and take me off the bus.
Then he would put me in the cruiser, still handcuffed, and drive 120 mph while grabbing my crotch and telling me no one would ever believe me.
He did that half a dozen times and no one ever reported it. I will never get over that.
By the time of my release date, he was my frustrated sworn enemy and made no bones about it.
On that release day, without me knowing, he asked the desk sergeant if he could drive me to Middleboro Center to catch my final Trailways bus ride home.
We didn’t speak all the way into town. We got there just as the bus was ready to leave. After my stuff was stowed in the belly of the bus, he followed me on.
With a booming voice he said “And don’t ever come back. If I ever see your ass anywhere in the vicinity you’ll go back to jail where you belong.”
I was stared at all the way back to Park Square.
Years later, when I was working on the dock for Dupont in Billerica, I had a conversation with a “spare” driver who retired from the Mass. State Police due to a back injury.
There were about a dozen of us in the break room when I asked if he knew Marvin Pratt.
His whole demeanor suddenly changed and he asked me why I wanted to know.
When I told him, he told me Marvin went to prison for abducting a 9 year old boy and was abusing him at a motel in the area.
He told me his own guys at the the State Police surrounded the motel and took him at gun point.
Marvin was gone forever. He had a wife and three children.
I called Mass. Public Safety in 2008 inquiring about him but they wouldn’t release any information.
That was almost 60 years ago and I still have dreams about him.
And Marvin, if you are still alive and reading this in your prison cell……fuck you!