"It was terrible, the backgrounds of these poor children," sighs Nancy Scalera, a former cottage supervisor; her son, the part-time mayor of Hudson, works as a guard at the men's prison, where one inmate claims to be serving time in the room where he was born."Their home life - you could almost see why they had to run away." No home Shirley Wilder had known in Harlem came close to middle class ideals of domestic order, comfort or security.In the rhetoric of the institution, her cottage was supposed to fill that gap.But the descent from rhetoric to reality was a precipice.Lily of the valley grows wild here; the small, shapely green leaves push through rough grass and disappear into the dark underbrush of the steep drop.There are no dates on the weathered gravestones, and no epitaphs; only girls' names, fading from bare limestone.
The first inmates to enter the gates were two local women convicted of prostitution - "the very lowest lewd women to be named," the Hudson Daily Evening Register reported.(Knock on door.)" There were 33 other basic rules on the list, some broad, some oddly specific."Do not be disrespectful to any staff;" "Do not talk unnecessarily after prayers are said;" "Do not use profanity at any time;" "Do not wash personals in A."There were stories, if you ran away, the dogs'd get you in the woods," remembers Tom Tunney, who was the last superintendent of the training school before it closed it 1976."You know," adds Gale Smith, his former assistant, who still works for the state Division for Youth, "If kids misbehave, things happen to them and they get buried here." It seems only right that babies and bad girls should converge in the mythology of the lost graveyard.