Boy sur­vived bru­tal train­ing school beat­ing 55 years ago

The Daily Courier - - CANADA -

TORONTO — The mys­tery that has haunted Rick Brown since he watched the bru­tal beat­ing of a young friend at an On­tario train­ing school 55 years ago was fi­nally solved this week: James Forbes sur­vived that night.

In fact, at 68 years old, Forbes is liv­ing not far from Brown and do­ing well — is still get­ting over the shock of a call from an of­fi­cer in­quir­ing af­ter him.

“Yeah, I’m alive,” Forbes said he told the of­fi­cer, his voice crack­ing up. “It brought tears to my eyes.”

Af­ter the call, Forbes said he sat his wife down and told her about his train­ing school days.

“She didn’t know any­thing about it — be­cause my past was my past,” Forbes said. “I just wanted to put this all be­hind me, eh? be­cause when I men­tioned it, no­body be­lieved me.”

In Fe­bru­ary, The Cana­dian Press re­counted Brown’s har­row­ing tale of how, as a 10-year-old in­car­cer­ated in 1963 at the now-de­funct Brook­side train­ing school in Cobourg, Ont., he watched a su­per­vi­sor beat Forbes to a pulp in a dorm one night.

Brown, now 65, de­scribed how the crack­ing sound and al­most black blood had haunted him ever since. It also left him won­der­ing whether Forbes, whom he never saw again, had ac­tu­ally died that night af­ter be­ing car­ried away a blood­ied mess.

The orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle turned up a few leads but finding Forbes proved elu­sive un­til Cobourg po­lice re­cently de­cided to see if they could de­ter­mine his fate.

The pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion led to Lon­don, Ont., where Forbes and Dolores, his wife of three decades, live. Nei­ther were aware of Brown’s fu­tile search or of a pend­ing law­suit against the train­ing schools.

“Alive? What the hell you talk­ing about,” Forbes said he re­sponded to the of­fi­cer. “Then he ex­plained it and I go, ‘Wow! You gotta be kid­ding me.’ And he says no.”

The fa­ther of 18 nat­u­ral and adopted chil­dren, Forbes re­mem­bers the night of the beat­ing only too well. The su­per­vi­sor, he said, was a “to­tal night­mare.”

“If your bed ain’t made right and he can’t bounce a quar­ter off of it, you’d do it over again. He made me do my bed about three or four times. I fi­nally got tired of it and said, ‘I ain’t do­ing it again.’ And he gave me a back­hand,” Forbes re­calls. “I’m only 13 years old, so I kicked him be­tween the legs. He went crazy on me. He put his boots and all that to me. All I can do was roll up in a ball, eh? They car­ried me out on a stretcher. I woke up three days later.”

Forbes, who spent three years at the re­form school from aged 12 to 15, was then sent to a dif­fer­ent part of the fa­cil­ity, which ex­plains why Brown never saw him again. Forbes said he re­mem­bers Brown as one of the younger guys he tried to pro­tect.

Brown, of Kitch­ener, Ont., could barely con­tain his hap­pi­ness at learn­ing his pal had sur­vived.

The two men spoke at length by phone this week and plan to meet soon.

The Cana­dian Press

James Forbes, 68, stands in his kitchen in Lon­don, Ont.

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