When I was 12 my mother filed for divorce. My father was an alcoholic and my mother was a faithful church attender. My sister and I were pretty tired and bored with church so we decided we wanted to live with our Dad, he would let us listen to music and he was the "fun" parent. So my Dad was either working or drinking leaving us with a lot of freedom.
I started drinking and smoking and one week decided to skip school, stay at a friends and listen to a new album. My Mom found out I was missing and called in child services to find me and bring me home. Then my parents dropped the bomb on me-they couldn’t control me so they had found a school for me where they would "control" me. So in 1981 my parents dropped me off at Hephzibah House.
I was only there for a day or so when I rolled my eyes during exercise time from exhaustion and earned myself a trip to the “Blue Room.” Bad attitude was my crime and they forced me to lay face down on the blue carpet and they sat on me and held my arms and paddled me with a wooden paddle. Every week for months, I would do something wrong and would get paddled. I had deep purple bruises from the paddle. Walking, sitting, and especially running at exercise time was excruciating. Once the beating was so severe that I soiled myself. I believe in spanking and I have spanked my children but never so violently.
Due to hard work and exercise program I kept losing weight even though I ate what they fed us. The cow tongue that was like chewing shoe leather. The pickled herring, the free eggs that were donated- it was food but it was terrible. When I finally got to see my parents they were shocked at how thin I was and how plump the Williams were. So three of us girls were put on extra portions. Once while weeding the garden I pulled up a tiny potato, I dusted it off and looked around and hung my head down while I chewed that tiny little vegetable, I was always so hungry.
The staff were often moody and short tempered with us. I tried to please them but was never really able to do that.
During my 9 month stay I never had my period, I don’t know if it was the stress or if they fed us something to stop it. As an adult I eat when and what I want. My weight goes up and down.
I do not attend church, to many hypocrites. I believe in a forgiving God and I believe God is everywhere and I don’t need to go to church to be near God. I am an honest and responsible citizen. Hephzibah House did not fix me. It made me leary of religion that was so strict and so cruel.
My Mother cried when I told her the things that happened to me. She apologized and I accepted. Now I pray that other parents can read what really happened there and make a better choice for their child.
Renee Showers (Bowles)
Former student of Hephzibah House 1981-1982