After I returned from Michigan, my mom had Janice, Paul, David, and Donna and I to take care of and work a job at the same time. I am sure that anyone with just a little common sense must know how difficult that had to be, and my mom felt the pressure enough to make a decision she did not want to make. She decided to send David, Donna and I to an orphanage in Lewisburg, PA. It was about 20 to 25 miles away, but far enough away that my mother would not be able to see us unless she could find someone to drive her there. Those visits came far too few times! I was there from the time I was 11 years old until I was 16.
The orphanage was an experience that was a mixture of sweet events and sour. The home was run by three older ladies who should never have been given the responsibility of raising little children in the first place. They didn't know how to handle us, and the lady in charge of the whole operation was a good organizer but I don't remember her as being wise in working with children our age. The lady in charge of the boy's side was very short, and the one thing that I remember most about her was the morning I had a severe headache and was on the schedule to mop the dorm. I was lying on the bench in the recreation room holding my head in pain and she thought I was avoiding mopping the dorm. She took the mop handle and hit me over the head with it. One other time she threatened me with a stick, and I took the stick away from her and told her to never hit me with it again. She never did.
There was one lady that worked there that was kind to all the children and she would have us sit at her feet at night and tell us stories. The last night that she was alive she told us that she had a dream the night before. She saw herself in Heaven in a beautiful white robe that was so white she had never seen anything like it. She said there was a pool or lake there that she dove into with her gown on, and she swam around in it and when she got out her robe was totally dry and she was too. The next day she went to be with the Lord.
Some other quick memories of the orphanage include meeting my first girlfriend there, and her name was Beverly just like my wife, but they are not the same person. The orphanage was situated on a large property which included a farm, an old folks home, and a school for us to go to. I loved the farm work and driving the tractors, one of which I almost wrecked. We also had a band and I was in it and played a B-flat tenor saxophone and my sister, Donna played the trumpet and drums. We would go places and play for people. The man in charge of the band was a gruff older man whose name was Luther Albert, and I didn't like being in the band. I had a high voice range and, on the holidays I was asked to sing for the old people who live in the Old Folks home.
We had a big field in front of the house, and the boys would play football. I was good at it and I was sometimes receiver and other times quarterback. When I was being a receiver one timeI got a broken leg after pulling down a pass. When I was quarterback one time I had my arm broken at the elbow when a boy trying to tackle me grabbed my free arm and twisted it to bring me down.
At butchering time a farmer there made home made potato chips and home made ice cream. We loved that! We also had rat smacks at night in the chicken house. We would sneak down to the chicken house at night with baseball bats or sticks and go inside and turn on the light. The floor was covered with rats and we would start whacking them until they disappeared. On one occasion I remember the farmer finding a rat behind one of the chickens nests and he put a gun to his shoulder and shot it.
I almost drowned in the Susquehanna River at the age of eleven but a sixteen year old son of a farmer saved me. So many more things happened in that place during my stay, and there are too many to write here. There are also many I can't recall because that happened over 56 years ago.
In the end, my mom remarried and we were taken home by her new husband. Sadly, that marriage didn't last very long, but it did produce a new step-sister. Mom's new husband, Bill was drinking alcohol one night, and he began to hit my mother. My sister and I ran down the steps to see what was going on and when my sister Janice saw Bill hitting mom, she grabbed a metal lunch bucket and hit him in the head with it. He ripped off the top of her pajamas trying to grab her, and she ran outside yelling. I don't know who called the police, but they soon arrived and took Bill away and that marriage was over.
My mom retained the custody of our step-sister, June, and once again my mom was alone with children to raise. This time there was six of us, and things were even tougher. I don't know how she did it, but my mom was a strong, pioneer type woman.
The next move in my life was to finish high school and then I decided to
enter the military hoping that I could find a better life and help my mom too.