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Target Delinquency - The World of Billy Joe

Gordon Wilkison


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  •  Introduction of main character, Billy Joe 
  •  Interlude with "Sharon" and her family 
  •  Interlude with "Sam," his family, and a juvenile probation officer 
  •  Concluding remarks on Billy Joe and juvenile delinquency 
  •  The city is Houston, the time is the present, the subject is juvenile delinquency. The point of attack is the delinquent’s world, seen from his eyes, experienced from his emotions, gauged by his thoughts. 
  •  This is Billy Joe’s world; his neighborhood, his friends, his house, his family, his past and present and very likely his future.  
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: Where have you been all day? 
  •  BILLY JOE: At school, right, where do you think I have been? 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: No, you haven’t, because the school called and you didn’t yesterday either. 
  •  BILLY JOE: So, I wasn’t there—so I didn’t go yesterday either, the big deal, what is the difference— 
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: Put that down there and listen to your mother. 
  •  BILLY JOE: Oh, you too--? 
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: Yeah, me too. 
  •  VIOLA: The kids at school are beginning to talk; it is not doing my reputation any good— 
  •  BILLY JOE: Who cares about your reputation? 
  •  V: Well, I care about my reputation—even if you don’t care about yours. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: All right Viola, let your father and I handle this. 
  •  BILLY JOE: He ain’t my father and he ain’t Viola’s father. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: Well, it’ is not something that I ain’t trying to be, if you just let me. Viola likes me, always has. 
  •  BILLY JOE: What Viola does is her own business. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: Don’t talk to your step father like that. Now, say you're sorry. 
  •  BILLY JOE: Sorry for what? I ain’t said nothing. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: Let it go. It's not worth gettin' upset about it. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: Billy Joe why do you skip school, don’t you ever want to amount to anything? 
  •  BILLY JOE: I'll go tomorrow. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: You never bring any books home. I never see you study. You’re sixteen years old, if you don’t go to school, how are you going to learn anything? 
  •  BILLY JOE: Aw, ma! 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: Well it's true, and if you don't learn anything, how are you going to make a living? 
  •  BILLY JOE: He didn’t go to school and he makes a living. If you call this a living. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: It was different when I was a kid. I had to quit school and go to work to help out, but you don’t. You are living off somebody else’s sweat and still complaining. 
  •  BILLY JOE: Yeah, I know. Anytime I want to live and make it on my own, I can do it. I've heard that often enough. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: Oh, well, some truth it is. 
  •  BILLY JOE: Yeah, anytime I want to leave. Anytime I want to leave I can, except I am still sixteen and I’m a juvenile and the minute I leave, she calls the cops and they're out here to pick me up like last time. Oh, forget it, can’t we even have a little chow around here without an argument all the time? 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: Sit down Billy Joe. Billy Joe! 
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: I'm sorry, Ethel. I promised myself there wouldn’t be any more of these. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: It's alright. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: I can’t just stand by and see him hurt you without saying something. 
  •  V: Excuse me. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: It is not your fault Leonard, and it is not Billy Joe’s fault really. I don’t think it is my fault. I don’t know where to put the blame.  
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: Maybe I rushed Billy Joe too fast after we married. He was eight, I thought he would welcome in a new daddy after he lost his. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: I have been thinking a lot lately, maybe we shut Billy Joe out after we married.  
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: And I don’t like these kids he’s been running with. Suppose we could move in to a new neighborhood. I could make him mine and make him stop treating you that way. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: I don’t want that, Leonard. It's better this way even if it does hurt him. Where are you going? 
  •  BILLY JOE: Out.  
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: Out where? 
  •  BILLY JOE: Just out. 
  •  NARRATOR: Billy Joe is now out of the world of his parents and into his own world. His is a world suspended between the adult and the child worlds. Too old for the child world, too young for the adults’ world, Billy Joe finds himself a stranger in both. So he enters a world in between; a world made partially by him and partially for him by others. But above all, a world in which he feels a place and which accepts or even encourages his behavior without questions. 
  •  For Billy Joe sees his parents as inquisitives. To him, their questions are prompted by snoopiness. Their interest only produces arguments. The attitude of defiance of his parents established through the years, also spills into defiance of other authority. The lines of communication that might have joined the worlds of Billy Joe and his parents long ago, were disrupted by lack of understanding. Billy Joe now withdraws tighter into his own world. 
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: I told Sharon to be in by nine o’clock. 
  •  SHARON'S FATHER: There she is now. 
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: Where the hell have you been? 
  •  SHARON: Just out with some friends. 
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: Friends? What kind of friends after eleven o’clock on a school night? 
  •  SHARON'S FATHER: Which friends have you been out with, Sharon? 
  •  SHARON: It is was just one friend really, Billy Joe Clark. We were just talking— 
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: I bet talking! Who is Billy Joe Clark? 
  •  SHARON: Oh, mother, I told you about him before; he is in my room at school.  
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: You mean he is in your room when he goes to school, which is the total opposite from what I’ve heard. 
  •  SHARON: Goodnight mother, goodnight daddy. 
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: Comeback here, we are still talking. 
  •  SHARON: Listen, I wanted to talk to you about something serious but all you ever do is argue and accuse me of things. 
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: You're the one who wants to argue about everything. You always say you want my advice but every time I try to give it, all you want to do is argue, argue, argue! Anything to get me upset. Oh, go on and go to bed. Maybe things will be better in the morning. They never are any better in the morning, or the next morning, or next week or next year 
  •  SHARON'S FATHER: You are doing pretty well. I’ve seen this hasn’t happened for almost a week and it’s certainly nothing compared to last time. 
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: Oh, it’s not just tonight, it's that—there seems to be a wall between us, almost like we were talking in two different languages. To give sixteen years of your life to somebody and then have her counting of days til t she can leave you. That is heart breaking, Frank—mighty heartbreaking. I’m just not smart enough to know what to do about it and to make it right. I’m not just smart enough. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: Hi, son. 
  •  BILLY JOE: Goodnight mom. Goodnight Leonard. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: Goodnight Billy Joe. Where is it all going to end? 
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: I don’t know, I don’t know. And I don’t know whether it is better to just to say nothing to him when he comes at home late like this or risk having a scene. Why can’t we make him believe that it’s out of love and interest when we ask him where he is been or who he has been with, or what he has been doing? 
  •  BILLY JOE: What did I do to them tonight? No questions at all. Usually, it's "give an account of yourself, where have you been, who have you been with, what trouble have you been in." They really trust me, those two. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: All that he talks about now is getting on his own. He'll be seventeen, and he'll get an apartment, and then he'll be on his own. Nobody to ask him any questions or to tell him what to do.  
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: Yeah, you heard him, hit me up for money, for starting him out with a car and a place to stay. Funny he never thinks about any of it himself. It’s always the old man will take care of it—as if I could, even if I wanted to. He will work for it. 
  •  BILLY JOE: When I get the apartment and the car, that'll be the day. I feel my old man will spring for it no matter what he says about not having the money. It’s been so long since he was a boy—if he ever was one. But, he can’t remember nothing about how anybody but him feels. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S STEP-FATHER: Of course, he is too busy to ever get a job that would amount to anything. It'd take too much of his time. He will lose touch with his friends. Keep in touch, keep in touch that’s their by-word; keep in touch about a lot of business that don’t amount to a head of beans. And why is a car so important, Ethel? I just don’t understand it. If you’ve got the money for a car, fine. If you haven’t got it, then that’s that and he’s just got to understand it that way.  
  •  NARRATOR: In a society like ours, success is revered almost above strong religious attitudes. As every child knows, to succeed is the American dream. To the teenager, this need for success and recognition has filtered down in the form of an automobile. 
  •  BILLY JOE'S MOTHER: You better hurry Viola, it is getting late. Don’t you want some breakfast Billy Jones? 
  •  No, I’ll pick up something on my way to school. See you, mom. 
  •  NARRATOR: For Billy Joe and his friends, nights and days seem to run endlessly together and one is very much like the other. The hours of each presented endless challenges to discover something different or exciting to bloat out the unpleasant things life is filled with. If such discoveries can find ways to outwit the authorities in the World be they parents, teachers, police, then the search has been doubly fruitful; for then he feels that he has been compensated partially for what he sees as the wrongs inflicted on him. 
  •  It is then said that delinquency is an act which anticipates some official reaction to the act, that is it’s a testing, so to speak, to see if an act can be carried out in defiance of the law. 
  •  The sixteen-year-old boy or girl finds satisfaction in constantly testing parents, teachers, principals, police, in fact, in testing all authorities that is imposed from above. And to Billy Joe and his friends, playing hooky is probably the most rewarding way of testing authorities that has ever been discovered.  
  •  FRIEND: Hey man, ... [cross-talk] 
  •  BILLY JOE: Yeah, we're gonna play a game. Okay. Hey, let's have a rack at this table. 
  •  MALE VOICE: Coming right up! 
  •  FRIEND: Man, I always feel like I'm gonna beat you. Say what, let's put a dollar bet on it. 
  •  MALE VOICE: Hey Sam, there is a man here to see you. 
  •  SAM: Okay, I’ll be right there. 
  •  OFFICER: Sam, I am Will Cummings from the County Probation Department. I have been looking for you for over a week. Your mother is really worried about you. Your mother called and said you left home. 
  •  SAM: That's right and I ain't going back. 
  •  OFFICER: What is the matter at home, Sam? 
  •  SAM: I just ain't going back. 
  •  OFFICER: Oh, come on here let’s sit down and talk about this. What is the trouble between you and your mother Sam?  
  •  SAM: There ain’t no trouble, but I just want to live by myself. 
  •  OFFICER: But Sam you are just fifteen, you ought to be at home, not working at a place like this. I talked with your mother she said she just can’t do anything with you. She says she tells you to come home and— 
  •  SAM'S MOTHER: He don’t pay me no more attention than if I was a raccoon sitting in a tree. I just don’t understand what’s the matter with him. I worked hard all of my life and paying for this house out of money I made working for other folks. His sister went all the way through school and graduated and went to nursing school and she is got a good job now. His two older brothers got good jobs, just as steady as time—both of them, but not him. You can’t ask him to do nothing now, he just grumbles and fools around; you get so fed up you do it yourself.  
  •  OFFICER: When did you and Sam first start having troubles, Mrs. Johnson? 
  •  SAM'S MOTHER: Ooh, my troubles with Sam started way back then. I guess he wasn’t more than six or seven years old. I used to miss a few little things around the house here, caught him stealing money once, after that I watched him pretty close. 'Course he would always lay the blame on his brothers or his sister. But, we went round and round on that stealing. I told him I would rather have anything in this house before I start to accept a thief. 
  •  OFFICER: Now, in your report to the police you said you couldn’t keep Sam in school? 
  •  SAM'S MOTHER: School, oh, he is too smart for school. I expect I’ve spent more days at that school trying to get Sam out of trouble than he ever spent in class. 
  •  OFFICER: How about his friends Mrs. Johnson? Does he play around with any of the boys he grew up with here in the neighborhood? 
  •  SAM'S MOTHER: Sam, no. They’re just little boys. Sam thinks he is a big boy; their fastest is too slow for him. 
  •  OFFICER: Do you have any idea where we might be able to find Sam? 
  •  SAM'S MOTHER: Look in one of the pool house, downtown. He was telling my oldest son about some man who is a friend of his who gambles or shoots pool or something like that. 
  •  OFFICER: Well, Mrs. Johnson, if Sam won’t go to school and won’t stay at home here, what do you think we ought to do? 
  •  SAM'S MOTHER: I can’t do nothing with him. Send him to the reformatory. 
  •  OFFICER: Do you want to go to the reformatory Sam, to the state school at Gatesville? 
  •  SAM: I don’t care, go ahead and send me. But even after I get out, I ain’t going back home. 
  •  OFFICER: But why won’t you go to school Sam? 
  •  SAM: I have had enough of this school. And I didn’t learn nothing in school. Know more now than when it came to Graduate.  
  •  OFFICER: Sam, have you been taking things around the house like your mother seems to think? 
  •  She has always thought that, since I was a little kid, didn’t make a difference if my sister did it or one of my brothers, I always got the blame. Couldn’t tell her no different, she was always picking at me, why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that, why don’t you make your bed like your brothers. Well, this is all I ever wanted to do, is working right here and living by myself, coming and go as I please, doing anything I want. I am never going home. Send me anywhere you want, I am never going at home. 
  •  OFFICER: Well, come on Sam, we are going to the probation department, we have got to work something out.  
  •  FRIEND 2: Is that the cops? 
  •  BILLY JOE: I guess so, they have been talking over there for about a half an hour. 
  •  FRIEND 1: Say, what happened to your face? 
  •  FRIEND 2: Uh, I got into a fight with that Bailor kid, you know how he has always been talking about how great his old man is, how his family has got this, that, and the other. 
  •  BILLY JOE: I hope you gave him a couple for me. 
  •  FRIEND 2: I gave him plenty for all of us. Caught me after school yesterday before he can get away in his big new convertible.  
  •  FRIEND 1: Yeah, that is a troubled lot whole rowdy crowd they think they are hot stuff just because they’ve got dough. These girls won’t even talk to you.  
  •  FRIEND 2: Yeah, I don’t know but one of them will be going crawling for a while. 
  •  BILLY JOE: But it looks like he connected for couple on you too. 
  •  FRIEND 2: I might have attacked him fairly too, imagine there is plenty of blood in his pretty convertible seat of his though. Say uh, I feel like a little excitement tonight- are you guys game? 
  •  FRIEND 1: Sure, why not. 
  •  BILLY JOE: You guys got anything in mind? 
  •  FRIEND 2: Oh, I got this new girl, I’d kind of like to show her a good time. Though maybe we’d start with a little joyride and see what comes up. Tell you what, you get some of the others and we will meet at the corner at eight thirty. 
  •  NARRATOR: Right now, Houston has active groups which shows the potential for serious crimes both as children and later as adults. What began as a group of unhappy kids meeting on a street corner, is leading into violent and predatory behavior. 
  •  The faces of the group change from time to time, there are always a few fringe members who may be swayed in or out, but for these boys and girls the group frequently serves as a substitute, a substitute for a normal family relationship. A substitute for membership in churches, clubs, scouts or rare organizations or other extra curricula efforts that attract the youngsters. 
  •  In the group the member has status often depending on his own bearing. Here, his acts are approved or even encouraged by the group. But more important, such acts of violence or rebellion are recognized as normal behavior by members of the group. Sometimes the juvenile is caught in his delinquent acts, more often he is not.  
  •  Happily, half of all first offenders are not repeat offenders.  But for those who do repeat ways to help them and us must be found.  
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: Is that you Sharon? 
  •  SHARON: Yes, mother. 
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: Billy Joe with you? 
  •  SHARON: Yes, mom 
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER:  Well, come on in both of you, the police are here. This is Officer Neal and Jackson 
  •  OFFICER JACKSON: We picked up your friends in a stolen car. 
  •  BILLY JOE: What stolen car, we don't know nothing about it. 
  •  OFFICER NEAL: It is too late for that son. Manny and Skellie told us you were with them. 
  •  SHARON: Well, we weren’t, what are you talking about? 
  •  OFFICER JACKSON: It’s all right, we know all about it. Actually, your friends did you a favor you are probably going to be charged with joy riding rather than car theft. Mrs. Murray, we now have to take them to the station.  
  •  NARRATOR: A new life must be found for Sharon, new surroundings, new interests, new friends. At the Harris County Probation Department, new approaches to these problems must be advanced. After the referee has counseled with the offenders, family, case worker and other interested parties he recommended the disposition of the case to juvenile Judge J.W. Mills, the guiding factor in any decision is always the welfare of the child. 
  •  SHARON: Well, maybe if I didn’t feel shut out all the time I wouldn’t want to do these things. 
  •  REFEREE: Your parents have said they don’t think they are shutting you out Sharon. 
  •  Sharon: Well, they do, they are in one world and I am in another. It is like I am in the house and I am on the outside, I’ve got the feeling like when I want to get in the front door it’s locked and when I want to get to the back door they got it locked too.  
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER: Sharon, I’ve told you over and over again to come to me with your problems.  
  •  SHARON: Yeah, you tell me that but when I try to talk with you about something all you do is suffer through it and say something about wanting to think it over or else you would say, “Well, things will work out.” Well, things haven’t worked out not at all.  
  •  SHARON'S MOTHER:That is because instead of talking you usually just want to argue.  
  •  REFEREE: Mrs. Murray, Sharon, this isn’t the solution to the problem. Mrs. Murray, Mr. Murray, I believe Sharon should be put into a closely supervised environment. I am going to recommend to the court that she be placed at the Convent of the Good Sheppard.  
  •  NARRATOR: At the Convent Sharon will receive the consistent discipline lacking in her own home. At all time, she will know her duties and her freedoms. The Probation Department will continue to work with her and she will make regular monthly visits to her own home. Sharon will be encouraged to find new friends and to cease this opportunity for a start of a new, useful, happy life. 
  •  SHANNON: It's the convent. 
  •  BILLY JOE: I'm sorry, Sharon. 
  •  NARRATOR: Billy Joe Clark, age sixteen, a life in crisis, a life to be saved the efforts of the parents and the boy himself must be redirected. Counselling must help correct the past and prepare the future. The energy that is channeled into wasteful lawless forms is still energy that is useful if its owner wishes it so. 
  •  REFEREE: The important question Billy Joe is, do you want to make a new start, do you want a new life? 
  •  BILLY JOE: I, I guess so—I don’t know, I guess I don’t know what I really want. 
  •  REFEREE: Well, Billy Joe it will take some real effort on your part, your parents part, and our part too. Will you give it a try? 
  •  BILLY JOE: All right, I will try. 
  •  NARRATOR: Because of Billy Joe’s past record he is returned to his home and his parents. A probation department case worker and as needed other social agencies will try to put back together the family lives that have been split apart.  
  •  This then is the world of Billy Joe Clark his neighborhood, his friends, his home, his family.  
  •  In Houston and Harris County there are at least 8000 cases of other youngsters each year who find trouble in their worlds and thousands more who are not yet recorded cases are drifting being pushed or rushing headlong into the world of delinquency. For all of these children whether it remains their only world is our challenge. 
  •  PRESENTER: As our television programs, research and planning come to an end it will be the responsibility of our Citizens’ Advisory Committee to carry out the delinquency prevention program. Now let me introduce General Robert Miles. 
  •  GENERAL: I am sure most of you know my associate with me here today is Mr. Joe Kelly Butler president of the Houston Independent District School Board. So it happens Mr. Butler is a part of our executive council and as such I think it would be very nice if he would indicate the schools position in this project.  
  •  BUTLER: Certainly, to generalize the school district stands ready to cooperate in any way that is possible in the educational field in the fight against delinquency and I feel sure that there are ways in the educational field that we can help. 
  •  GENERAL: Thank you very much Mr. Butler and thank you for watching. 
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Produced by KUHT and presented by the Greater Houston Action for Youth Project, this film was part of a juvenile delinquency prevention program in Houston and Harris County. A drama made to bring awareness to a growing delinquency problem in Houston, the film presents both sides of several families struggling with miscommunication and misunderstanding amongst the members. The film explores reasons for the teenagers' drive to test the limits of authority, which they express through truancy, defiant attitudes, and illegal behavior, and the parents' feelings of helplessness to stop it.
Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation.  At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades - during the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the president's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
A particularly notable moment is his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas. 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.