On August 16, 1986, the Zephyrhills C.I. Jaycee chapter sponsored the Jerry Lewis M.D.A. Walkathon, as we did every year. Over 200 prisoners and close to 100 outside “free people” participated in the prison walkathon, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Two very determined and athletic prisoners logged 51 and 54 miles, walking and jogging. As part of my contribution, I provided cases of Gatorade for the walkers, as documented in the above photo.
The sign says, “Florida (Gator) Aid Station, Guaranteed to get you another 10 MILES.”
Times have changed. That’s me with the cap and sunglasses, no shirt, with my arm around the guard, who is holding up his fingers behind my head. If officials saw such a photo taken today, the guard would be fired, and I would be locked up and transferred. Officer/prisoner relations were much more relaxed in those days, with mutual respect. When we formed the first prison chapter, #195, of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), in 1985, over a dozen correctional officers signed up and attended the meetings. That would never happen today, either.
Women and children participated in the Walkathon that year, and the Zephyrhills Jaycees proudly presented $3,000 in pledges to the M.D.A.
My friend, Mike Riding, worked with me on various projects over the years. Here we are in front of a “rock garden,” a large rock with a variety of flowers and plants growing in niches in the rock, surrounded by two rows of coleus, all rooted from cuttings from two plants.
After we left, other prisoners kept the flower gardens growing until a new warden took over, who didn’t like or believe in the beneficial effects of flowers and horticulture, and ordered all the flower gardens pulled up and destroyed. So much for “enlightened corrections.”
In January, 1987, a few months before my transfer to DeSoto C.I., four friends posed in front of a palm tree beside the double-wide trailer that served as the Z.C.I. chapel. Rusty York, in the blue shirt, was released from prison shortly thereafter.
That’s me in an undated photo in my office in Graphic Arts, where I worked in many art and printing projects for the state, including “Save The Manatee” posters and business cards for then-governor, Bob Graham.
Charles Patrick Norman
November 20, 2014