St. Dominick’s Group Home on Colden Ave

It didn’t take more than a week to be placed in a group home after telling my social worker I wanted out of the foster home where I lived for almost 8 years…I had enough. At 15 years of age, I  wanted  to be placed either back in an orphanage home or any group home anywhere on Staten Island. I never told my social worker of the beatings I received over the years. I figure if  they place me back to the orphanage or group home, there would be no reason too. 

Unfortunately, there was no group home openings on Staten Island where I been living since 1967  when placed at St. Michael’s Home..sad to say, the only available one was located in the Bronx. I did have an opportunity too be placed in an orphanage home called St. Dominick’s Orphanage located in Ramapo, New Jersey which borders New York , but after looking at the place, reality set in that I was only going backwards after just coming out of a foster home.

I was very adamant being placed in a group home regardless where it was located. I just didn’t want to end up in a place where I started when I was five years old. I was finally placed in a home located in the Bronx called St. Dominick’s Group home for boys  which was part of the orphanage home in New Jersey. It was a two-story apartment building set between homes located on a tree line street called Colden Ave. The picture below is the actual group home where I lived back in 1978 and 79.

There were eight other boys living there and a few of them were waiting to be placed in a juvenile detention called Spofford (a real shit hole for delinquents located in Hunts Points) for crimes they committed in the neighborhood. I ended up living with some pretty hardcore teens who not only came from broken homes, but they didn’t give a shit just about anything or anyone. These boys had some real issues of their own, and some of them had far worst stories than what I have experienced.  

The sad part is, the longer I lived there, I started picking up their attitude towards life. I’m not going to get into a lot of details or stories about my experience in that the group home, but lets just say that I left a foster home a scared young 15-year-old with the looks of a young Glen Campbell holding onto what was left of my innocence. At first I had short hair pushed back looking like John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever and acting like I was a little tough.

But than, after living with these troubled boys with lived worst than mine, I let my hair grow long with a  trimmed beard and mustache to make myself look older than I was, and no longer was acting…Slowly, I was becoming like the rest of them. I was no longer innocent. I always smoked, but was a sneak about it before. Living in the group home, I just lit up anywhere…I didn’t give a shit anymore about anything or anyone. I was becoming like the others who I was sharing that home with. I

had one big ass chip on my shoulders and the only one I have to thank is my foster father who I learn to hate more than anything in my life. I would sit on a shitty sunken bed that smelled like puke, sharing this run down bed room with another teen who was waiting to be placed in Spofford detention, and began asking myself what the fuck was I doing here? I knew deep inside this group home wasn’t the place for me and yet I refused to ask to be placed in another foster home…I wasn’t taking any chances after what I went through.

As far as I was concern, this was my new home and I was going to suck it up and deal whatever came my way. I ended up going to one of the toughest high schools in New York City called Evander Child H.S. and I learn one thing…mind your business and just get educated. But that wasn’t going to be the case with me. Between living in that group home and now going to this high school, I was heading in the wrong direction. There was a kid in the group home who was breaking into my room all the time and stealing from me.

I was getting a reputation not only being a wimp but what they considered…a pussy. Even my counselors would bring me into their room, close the door and tell me that I needed to stand up to some of these boys or I was going to have a real tough time living here.I found out who was stealing from me, and had the courage to wait for him upstairs to confront him. But I wasn’t going to just talk to him and ask him to stop.

His bedroom was on the same floor as mine, so I was waiting for him inside the kitchen on the second floor next to the doorway with a broom stick. Just as he walked up the stairs and entered I hit him across the forehead and watch him fall backwards. As he laid there in shock, I hit him again til a gash on his head opened up. Just as he was trying to get up, I pulled him by his collar and dragged him into the kitchen where I continued to beat him with now a broken broom handle till the counselors ran up stairs to break it up.

When this was finally over, this kid apologized to me and gave back my stuff. The counselors looked at me with a smile and told me to go to my room. After they cleaned up the mess we made in the kitchen, they both came into my room to let me know that when this spreads, I shouldn’t have any trouble with anyone else….Why? Because the kid I beat up stood over 6 ft. and came off as one of the toughest ones in the group home.

He had to explain to the others boys what happened, and the counselors had no problem telling the others what they had witnessed. From that day on, no one fucked with me. But I will say this…I would sit on my bed smoking my Kool’s  wondering if I was going to end up like some of these kids I was living with here in St. Dominick’s. I wasn’t sure anymore the direction I was heading and  had doubts that I was ever going to leave this place alive. I was becoming something I never thought I be.

I was turning into a tame-less animal with no fear and not a care in the world. I was walking around with a chip on my shoulder  waiting for anyone to look at me the wrong way so I can take out my aggression’s onto them. I could only blame one person for the life that I was now living….my foster father. Not only did I hate him, but wishing one day that I would find out from my friends on Staten Island that he died from a heart attack while driving from work, or worse, fell down the stairs inside his house and broke his fucking neck right in front of his kids.

But of course that never came to be. But I will share with you all a strange moment I had. It was the summer of  1979 while I was over at my friend’s house right across the street from the foster home where I lived for eight years. For some reason I went across the street to say hello to my foster-mother. I kissed her on the cheek and gave her a hug. Following that, I was invited inside to see everyone, Sandy, Linda, Barry and my foster father all standing inside the living room…and I wasn’t ready for what was to take place.

 

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