A Chat with an Inmate

Excerpted from the Chaplain's Report,
August 1947

The subject of this interview is most likely John Eklund, 775-Az.

This interview was held in the chaplain's office in the library. The inmate was contacted as he waited to go to the yard on a weekday afternoon and asked what would be a convenient time for him to come to the Chaplain's office for an interview. It developed that the present time was the most suitable and the chaplain and the inmate went together to the chaplain's office.
Chaplain: Have a seat, please.
Inmate: Here? (Indicating one of two chairs.)
Chaplain: Yes, right over there.
You go out into the yard every afternoon?
Inmate: Yes, I go out with the kitchen detail nearly every day.
Chaplain: Do you play bridge?
Inmate: Yes, I play bridge. I like chess, too.
Chaplain: Can you play chess pretty well?
Inmate: I can play pretty well. There are about three other fellows who are better than I am. A------ is about the best, then K------ and B------.
Chaplain: I see you play quite a bit of baseball, too.
Inmate: I like hard ball, but since we don't have that here I play soft ball as a substitute for hard ball. I like to play all right.
Chaplain: Did you ever play any football?
Inmate: Yes, I played at Atlanta. It wasn't tackle football, but the blocking was about the same as in tackle. I got my shoulder hurt playing there.
Chaplain: Did you take part in athletics in school?
Inmate: The high school I attended has such a large enrollment, about 3,000 boys and 5,000 girls, that it was almost impossible to make the teams. So I didn't play on any school teams.
Chaplain: Didn't they have intramural sports?
Inmate: They had gym classes, but that was about all.
Chaplain: Where was your home town?
Inmate: I lived in Indianapolis. I was born there and went to school there.
Chaplain: What kind of work did your father do?
Inmate: He was a mail clerk for the railroad.
Chaplain: Did your parents get along well together?
Inmate: My folks were divorced when I was 12 years old.
Chaplain: You lived with your mother?
Inmate: I lived with my mother, although I would stay over-night with my father occassionally.
Chaplain: How did your mother support you?
Inmate: While my father was living she got $60 a month alimony. Sixty dollars then was quite a bit of money compared to what it is now and then in Indianapolis it went farther than in some other places. This helped quite a bit and my mother worked, too.
Chaplain: Who took care of you while your mother worked?
Inmate: (Inmate paused a second or two while maintaining a steady gaze at the chaplain. This reaction was quite frequent from this point in response to some questions. After the pause he would look away and begin his answer in a quiet manner.) Well, I was twelve years old and during the day I could look after myself and she was home at night.
Chaplain: Did you have any jobs when you were a boy?
Inmate: Yes, I had a paper delivery, and I worked at odd jobs. I mowed yards and worked in a store.
Chaplain: I believe you told me you had attended one semester of college, isn't that right?
Inmate: Yes, I attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. for just a month over one semester.
Chaplain: How did you happen to go there to school?
Inmate: Well, my mother took a civil service exam and received an appointment to a job in Washington. I was in the Indiana Reformatory and when I came up for parole it was necessary for me to have some employment. That was back in 1937 and jobs were not easy to find. My mother was unable to find any work for me to do but she made arrangement for me to enroll at George Washington University and this was acceptable to the parole board. So I went to school there.