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Grass and wind music. They were just good guys far. As i knew i have have to say honestly they were happy in atalissa.
We never had any reason to even though they were adult men. They were boys to us they were like our boys music continues. Its just hard to realize how old they were as they didnt seem that old im sure some of us a lot of us maybe had second thoughts that we should have looked into it a little deeper.
But again when youd ask the boys hows it going and none of them ever said well this happened to me or this happened to me or whatever. I never heard them complain you know it didnt cross my mind that they were being abused music routine can be a dangerous thing for all of us because we stop looking outside of our to do list for the day. So things that are happening around us sometimes.
We miss them because we just werent looking grab them by the two legs i. Go. Sound of turkey call and.
Theyd go sound of turkey call and theyd talk right back to me. Narrator nr for more than 30 years. Willie levi.
Belonged to a crew of men working. Some of the worst jobs at the turkey plant reaching into crates. Grabbing live.
40. Pound. Birds and sending them to be slaughtered then.
Theyd eviscerate the. Carcasses and pull out the guts sound takes three fingers. You gotta pull it this way.
And you gotta take and pull it all down at the same time all that nr the men have never publicly spoken at length about their experiences nr now most of them are in their sixties retired. But without any pension or in many cases. Any savings back in the early 1970s.
The men were part of an experimental work program in texas that at the time was seen as. Progressive it would also benefit the two ranchers behind the program th johnson. And.
Kenneth henry music sound of train passing. a little bit amazing. When you think about all the boys you know we had very few that went through the program that i would call lazy.
They didnt mind getting up after theyd been here awhile and kind of knew the routine get up and go do whatever we had to do they were getting better and they were taking pride in that i can do this for what reason. What reason were they so positive when they came here they wanted out of that place they were in they didnt want to be there anymore they didnt want somebody filling their plate. They didnt want to set in front of the tv.
All day every day and do nothing nr these men many without family some as young as 11 years old had been living in texas institutions for the developmentally disabled or state schools as they were known music meanwhile in the texas town of goldthwaite rancher th. Johnson saw opportunity for years he had benefited from a controversial government arrangement called the bracero program in which mexicans were allowed to cross the border for farm work when that program was shut down in 1964. Mr.
Johnson and mr. Henry devised a new program. One that would take in the men from the state schools and train them in job and life skills music this way the ranchers business.
Henrys turkey service would receive cheap labor while also helping the men to avoid being warehoused in an institution. They could work and they could pay their own way. Thats what the program was nr eventually henrys turkey service began to subcontract crews of these men to poultry businesses in other states.
Including a turkey processing plant in iowa. So in 1974. A dozen or so men from the ranch in goldthwaite were trucked north to work in the plant and to live in the town of atalissa in an old schoolhouse converted into a dormitory music voice from inside big thank you for a delicious meal and an enjoyable time a special thanks for the generous fruit basket.
She told me that she was in nebraska with her daughter crosstalk daughter in law sarah gets into those kind of things yes she did she does nr for twenty five years. The ladies of the atalissa betterment committee have gathered to organize holiday parties and bake sales all in the hope of instilling community pride. But this may be the last meeting for the abcs yeah.
Theres not that many of us left. And the younger crowd are busy raising their families and working well. I think that crosstalk they try.
But they dont put in the effort originally atalissa was a booming town yeah we had an opera house crosstalk you know we had banks we had schools you know nr. But with expansion of the interstate highways in the 1960s drivers. Bypassed atalissa.
One by one the towns businesses began to close up. I mean were down to a post office feed mill and a fertilizer plant you know it was a thriving little town music. But from the time.
I was old enough to remember we were reduced down to what you see now and it hasnt changed in 40 years music nr atalissa is a close knit community. But in 1974. Its demographics changed when the town leased an old schoolhouse to henrys turkey service and dozens of men from texas moved in music and wind.
We just knew that they were contract workers for louis rich foods at first the town kept their distance from these new neighbors whod be seen tending to the flowers on the schoolhouse lawn or walking down the hill to the minimart gradually. The men came to be known as the henrys boys or just the boys music. Im not gonna say there was never a problem between some of the townspeople and mabye some of those gentlemen.
But they were accepted they went to church here well cuz.
They had sunday school at 9 30. And they were the only sunday school class. Because we didnt have any little ones nr.
The men had trouble reciting. The lords prayer. So they would hum instead theyd line up here by dwight that i.
Remember and theyd theyd line. Up here and dwight would go ok. You know hed cue them and start playing and theyd just start singing music.
They would do it the best they could and they loved to dance the thing of it is if you danced with one of em you danced with all ofem dennis hepker. Wed have an atalissa day celebration and we always had a parade and a dunk stand at the fair and those guys would come up and wanna throw balls. You know i dont wanna say our game was rigged.
But we could trip it whether you hit the little dot or not so wed make sure that each one of them got to dunk us at least once music denny spilger. I remember some of the pictures. They were dressed up as clowns.
They loved that going to the fair and stuff in another they were dressed up as the shepherds and the we three kings. They loved like acting. I guess they all did good playing parts and stuff like that music nr.
Several towns people remember visiting the schoolhouse in the early days. The men had caretakers exercise equipment and even a pool table they used to have open houses and things and id been in the building back when it was nice. I remember going over there for a christmas party mm hm and theyd come in and they showed us the gym.
And i mean they were proud of that gym nr. They knew that the men worked hard in the turkey plant often taking on the jobs that no one else wanted in my mind. That was a good thing mm hm.
Because it offered financial support for the mentally challenged people right gave them a place to live. I dont know if they loved it but they crosstalk they did have their own money to spend. Yeah yeah nr.
But few in atalissa. Understood the harsh economics behind the operation that despite the decades. The grueling full time work.
The take home pay for these men was kept at 65 a month or that the care takers punished the men if they thought them to not be working hard enough access to television was denied trips to the minimart or church were forbidden for many the bbqs and christmas parties early on seemed proof enough that life inside the schoolhouse was all right music. The boys never indicated otherwise sound nr. An early warning of the trouble inside the bunkhouse came in the winter of 1987.
When one of the men alford busby apparently tried to run away sound of train. Nr local enforcement agencies searched for days. But could not locate alford busby months past winter gave way to the spring thaw and that is when a local farmer.
Noticed something in his fields music nr. The body of alford busby was found less than a half mile from the bunkhouse and today. Were here to rejoice in and celebrate another independence day.
With todays signing of the landmark americans for disabilities act every man woman and child with a disability can now pass through once closed doors into a bright new era of equality independence nr over the last quarter of the 20th century much had changed in the nation for people with disability. But not for the henrys boys in atalissa. Many of them had come to iowa in their twenties and were now nearing middle age denny spilger.
Some of them were 60 and 65. You know im thinking high thirties or mid forties. So i underestimated their age like by 20 years.
They had little to show for years of hard work. Now. They didnt really understand that they were working to help pay for in kind care and their clothes.
And all that stuff nr in a company manual titled the magic of simplicity. Henrys turkey service outlined a typical financial arrangement for its workers. The company deducted nearly all of their pay to cover lodging and care this odd.
But legal arrangement. Caught the attention of both labor regulators and the des moines register as early as 1979. But nothing changed by 2000.
The men were still taking home just 65 a month as little as 44 cents. An hour the same amount they had been receiving for the last 25 years. But things were changing around the bunkhouse in the mid 1990s.
A local couple randy and dru neubauer were hired to help supervise the men like all supervisors inside the schoolhouse. They had no experience or training in caring for people with disability. They put up the do not enter and private property signs and when randy and dru kind of took over when you have a rental property.
If its immaculate and the lawn is well kept you assume. Its that way on the inside music nr. But one day.
Mr. Hepker drove onto the schoolhouse property to do some maintenance work. And thats when i first noticed that the doors were chained and locked from the outside hangem hangem nr the men say that randy neubauer harassed them at the plant withholding bathroom breaks urging them to work faster on the line nr the men say that they often punished by the bunkhouse staff hit kicked forced to stand in place with their hands on a pole.
One man was even handcuffed to his bed at one point.
Gene berg underwent chemotherapy for throat cancer in 2007. The turkey plant notified henrys turkey service that its employees had seen randy neubauer physically and verbally abusing the men neubauer was eventually banned from the plant they wouldnt let him go into louis rich any more because he went in there. An and was being a complete idiot and they banned him from going in and so if he acted that way there.
Its hard telling how he was acting in there i know they were definitely afraid of him nr for dennis hepker. Those padlocked doors at the schoolhouse were troubling music. He called iowas department of human services.
I said i just think you need to look into it thats all music just like if you saw your neighbor with a real skinny dog in the yard. Youd call and say maybe you ought to go check that dog out they probably would do that quicker than these guys did that and as i look back on it. Maybe.
I should have been a more responsible citizen and looked into it. But i dont know how they did it. But theyd still always have this big smile on their face.
And you never heard them complain never they were always clean. They always had nice clothes and they always seemed happy nr. These residents of atalissa would soon receive a fuller.
More disturbing picture of the conditions inside the schoolhouse music. I couldnt believe what i was hearing. 21 men.
Where they were describing to me a report that had been received in a small town called atalissa. There are 21 residing in a bunkhouse being abused and neglected and that was the allegation nr by the winter of 2008. The turkey plant had changed hands and was now being operated by west liberty.
Foods kenneth henrys partner th. Johnson. Had died and henrys turkey service began winding down its operations in atalissa.
They were gonna get four wheelers they were gonna live on a big farm crosstalk mm hm crosstalk mm hm blah blah blah nr for years henrys turkey service had promised the men a nice retirement on the ranch back in goldthwaite texas music. I dont think that ever happened crosstalk no they came and took them away no. But i think that what they were told was not true is what im thinking nr in fact that retirement plan had fallen apart.
The company had begun sending some of the men to a nursing home in texas. I honestly thought that they were all going home i. Had no clue no well nobody knew crosstalk because didnt the feds come during the night and take them away nr.
A sister of one of the men had called state authorities and the des moines register after discovering that her brothers life savings. Totaled. A mere 80 local authorities descended upon the schoolhouse in early 2009.
Other than the snow. This is exactly what it was in february of 2009. Same color same windows.
This is a bit misleading. Because you we really couldnt come out this door. It was blocked denise gonzales was a supervisor for the iowa department of human services.
But her 20 year career in social work had not prepared her for what she saw inside music denise gonzales. The rodent feces was everywhere in the kitchen area in the bedrooms on the stairs music and the roaches. I mean you could see them they would fall off the ceiling.
A lot of them and they had like a an open bathroom area and you could see the mold on the walls. Their blankets had you know mold in them that you couldnt get out music and the smell you you cant ill never forget that smell you could see their filthy stained clothing and this they were arthritic and their hands were like this their fingernails were long and embedded with now. I know turkey blood it its hard to talk about there are 21 men here that need to be rescued nr.
When the state fire marshal declared. The schoolhouse to be uninhabitable all eyes turned to mrs. Gonzales find them shelter clothing nutrition.
I looked at the men and i said were going on vacation. Were going on vacation nr that night the men were taken to a super 8 motel. In musketine 15 mi away.
I was so glad to get out of there pleased to death to get out of that bunkhouse. You know i would pleased to death. You know an iowa social worker.
Captured this footage in the days after the rescue crosstalk pardon. Glad you all came up here. I enjoy these people they protect me.
And i and i and i like them and they take care of me real well and who was your social worker. And she told me she went swimming with the dolphins and shorts. Uh uh and i miss her thank you nr back in atalissa residents were gradually.
Discovering the disturbing truth about the conditions. Inside the schoolhouse. Oh god through the newspapers.
Yes crosstalk through the newspapers. I never realized that there was no windows that there was no air conditioning that there was no crosstalk about it i felt ashamed. I felt angry all these affiliations all these government institutes.
You know the sheriffs department police department whatever they all knew that these boys were there you know i think we were all i was in shock kind of in denial like shock somebodys all screwed up here crosstalk.
The bad reputation that we got was the worst as far as the city was concerned we had nothing to do with what was going on. I was told by one of them that i had blood on my hands. Because i didnt that we treated them like slaves when that all came out we were just devastated and then they took em away and they wouldnt let any of us.
See em they wouldnt let anybody go up and visit them nr waterloo. Iowa population 68000 is a two hour drive northwest of atalissa music nr about a dozen of the men from henrys turkey service live there now instead of age theyve recaptured. Some youth.
They have a lot of life and a lot of things that they want to experience feeling okay to voice their wants needs and desires took awhile for folks to feel comfortable. With that susan seehase is a program supervisor at exceptional persons. Incorporated.
This non profit organization helped the men adjust to living with much greater independence deciding where they wanted to live and that they were going get to choose whether they continued to work or not trying out different types of opportunities for work sound nr. This was a process unlike anything she had experienced the records are still incomplete. Some of the men found out that the name that they had been using for a number of years wasnt actually their name music and sound in distance not having to participate in major group hobbies was very refreshing to a lot of the men.
The most predominant thing that we spent time teaching music was its okay to be an individual and like the things you like music nr choice means different things to each man it might mean riding your john deere. Tractor gardening relaxing in retirement or going out on a date music laughs nr. It is a much different life than the one that.
Kenneth henry. Says. He envisioned for the men on the ranch in texas to begin with construction on the retirement bunkhouse remains half finished.
Kenneth henry. We didnt make it to the end. We didnt get there.
But i know the boys pretty well music somebody has got to help em cant do it on their own. Nothing would be better for me than for those little boys to be right here today nr in the spring of 2013. The equal employment opportunity commission tried its case against henrys turkey service in federal court.
It charged that the company had forced the men to live in squalor subjected them to neglect and abuse and financially exploited them let me let me say this about the boys. The boys would be truthful. But if one of the boys did make up a story say and he told another boy that other boy would believe it.
And i think it got into a little bit of that nr the jury awarded 75. Million to each of the men but in keeping with the federal cap on penalties against small. Businesses the amount was later reduced to 50000.
Each music the men have yet to receive any money they missed choice. They missed choice of their life. I dont understand how 30 40 years.
This had been occurring. I dont understand that nr in the end kenneth henry blames. The mismanagement on his employees.
Randy and dru newbauer who declined to be interviewed. But he defends the programs social benefit. The guys iq run from 35 to 70 these lower iq boys.
The you know the 65 and 70s they can find places. But when you go below 60. Then youre thats a big step for you any individual to decide im going to take this individual and im gonna try to take care of him im gonna train him to do a job music the boys will complain some but not much it goes back to the pride thing theyre prideful because these are the ones that nobody wanted thats why they ended up there for so long music five years after leaving the turkey plant.
The men of waterloo. Rarely discuss atalissa nr in atalissa. The departure of the men has left a void.
Its lonely its empty. Its empty crosstalk. Its they were part of the community.
You know when you drove down on main street cherry street. Theyd wave at you and you dont see that anymore it just went downhill. Its almost like a ghost town crosstalk yeah.
It is yeah nr the minimart the men frequented is now shuttered and the church is nearly empty on sundays. It was like silence. We wed sing our songs and stuff.
But it wasnt the same cuz. Theyd been here for so long and you wondered where the tambourine and the guy keeping the beat and stuff was music nr after the men were evacuated from the schoolhouse. The town of atalissa found itself overrun with reporters yes we got so sick of them calling.
It the bunkhouse and you know the way they were describing it and just taking pictures of the outside nr residents are tired of defending themselves. They wished the men the very best and they plan to knock down the schoolhouse and remove it from the atalissa landscape. Were working with a contractor to try and get it demolished.
He said actually the building is structurally sound. But we just want it gone sound music background conversation. They remember lance do they really aw voices of atalissa betterment committee in distance.
They remember voices in distance. They had an uncanny way of remembering things better than. I did laugh.
Voices recede music music sound sound noise. .
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