Sunday, March 21, 2010

Orphanage: Pt 1


After I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I had been adopted from the Lake Bluff Orphanage in illinois, I received an email from a man who was doing a documentary on the orphanage, which had since closed. Iwas shocked, until he said that he had heard about my mention of the orphanage from an article in a community web newsletter, by someone who had apparently flagged the name and had told part of my story on their website! Here is that email:

Dear Linda, My name is Kraig xxx. I am forty-four years old and a lifelong resident of Lake Bluff, Illinois, where the orphanage you were adopted from was once located. If you happen to get some e-mails or posts from people in town this week, know that it’s because “The Gazebo News”, which is the official Lake Bluff web news site posted a link to your story.



My childhood home was just four doors down from the orphanage. My brother and I played with kids from the orphanage and one child (now a man) is a good friend and was in my wedding as well as my brother’s wedding. I was so touched and moved by your story. The irony and timing of reading your story is even more incredible. You see, the orphanage is no longer here. It was torn down in the 1979, much to the dismay of many disheartened community members. When the orphanage was closed, the name changed to Childserve and offices were relocated to another community about 15 mines north of here.


This year, The Vliet Historical Center in Lake Bluff received a huge box of information containing orphanage scrap books of pictures, news paper clippings, etc. from Childserve dating back to 1900 when the orphanage began. Also included were journals and photo albums from many of the superintendents that ran the orphanage. I have been “sifting through" all this stuff for the past two months because I am currently in the process of writing and producing a documentary about the orphanage with another lady in town, Cathy xxx. We are not a professional film makers, but we love to make movies on subjects we are passionate about.


So here’s what I can tell you that might fill in some blanks: The building at the top of your page is the Mackey Memorial Building. It was one of eight-red Georgian brick buildings that took up an entire block which was the orphanage. The picture of you below with your adoptive mother is taken on the front steps of the Mackey Memorial Building. The gray-haired lady to the left is Ms. Margaret Brooks, the 3rd superintendent of the orphanage in 1942. The other woman is not familiar to me.


Many of the new infants spent their first few months in the nursery at the Swift Health Care Building (located just 100 yards east of the Mackey Memorial Building) or at Mackey. The Mackey Memorial Building was the built as the primary replacement school building.The first floor contained school classrooms, a nursery and administrative offices for the staff. The second floor contained more classroom space, a library, chapel and a room for tutoring. The basement space was used primarily for industrial education space, including a print shop, wood shop, shoe repair and clothes shop and club rooms. Mrs. McIntosh & her husband, a wealthy Lake Forest couple, donated the funds for the building and requested no expense be spared to make it as attractive as possible for the children.


I have an original short 10 minute video (8 mm film) that was taken in 1931 that brings everything to life that I’ve had transferred to DVD that I’d be happy to send to you. It’s pretty rough and jumps around alot like much of the film taken at that time. There are some quick shots of the nursery that you more than likely spent the first three months of your life at. I also will keep my eyes open for pictures and the time that you were there. Because you were there for a short time, odds of a picture, other than the one you already have, may be rare. Most of the pictures seem to be of kids ages 2 to 10 years who spent many years of their lives at the facility. If you would like to send me your mailing address, please feel free and I’ll send a copy of the DVD to you. My cell number if you wish to talk is xxxx.

After the initial shock of reading this email, which came totally out of the blue, I went to the website that had apparently referenced my post, and when I read it I was momentarily confused, thinking that I was reading about someone who had a similar story to mine! Realizing they were talking about me, I left a comment about my shock and a little about how I felt about being adopted and the hole it leaves in your history.


True to his word, Kraig sent the cd, and I was so touched by seeing actual 'life' at the orphanage, knowing that but for the luck of the draw I could have been one of those children who went into toddler-hood and beyond there, but also knowing that one of those people in this 1938 footage could have been someone who actually held me all those years later in 1948.

Ok, fast forward to January 2010. I remembered that Kraig had said that he planned on presenting his documentary in December 2009, and wrote to ask him how it had gone. This was his response:

Good to hear from you. I haven't spoken to you in awhile, so some updates: This has taken me on a journey FAR more than I ever thought when I started the project. My original thought was to tell how the orphanage got started, how it ran in the early days and the important people that made that happen, and then close with the closing and destruction of the buildings - end of story.


What has happened in the process of researching and contacting countless people to tell the story has lead to a story of reuniting old friends and staff. I've been able to reunite kids who were at the orphanage for many years of their lives and who had lost track of their friends - many of which were basically their only family growing up. This has taken me to New Mexico, Denver and other places in Illinois I can drive to. I'll be going to Arizona in March.


I may even come to see you - if that's okay somewhere down the road to have you tell your story. So that being said ... I realized a few months ago that this story is not going to be finished until NEXT Christmas. I think the last time we were in contact it was over 4 or 5 months ago when I thought I could have this done by this X-Mas.


So, if you were under the assumption that my adoption story was over...you would be wrong! Because today, Sunday March 21, I have received yet another email from Kraig. More about that later. (to be continued...)

23 comments:

Alice said...

Wow! How incredible is that! It's like a big mystery with a new chapter each week or longer.

lakeviewer said...

My goodness, this is quite touching! You will have to keep us informed.

dana said...

Leave it to you, to start something with such a snowball effect. I'm proud of you!

Percy Bisque Silley said...

This will never do, it is far too long.

Cheers,
Percy

Michele R said...

This is incredible!! And what a nice human being this is who reached out to you!
I meant to tell you in your prior post that I started reading your blog when you were writing about your adoption story and your childhood and it really touched me.

Bernie said...

Looking forward to how this pans out.....I think this man is doing something wonderful for all those who was involved in the orphanage,
hope you are okay with all this sweetie, that is important as well.
.........:-) Hugs

glnroz said...

An amazing story,,so far,, and yet more to come. I listened to your advice once. My advice now...assemble all this (dont change a word) and go to "Shutter Fly) or similar and print this in a book.. for you daughter and your grand-babies.

Wine and Words said...

Our stories are never over...so many holes and pieces owned by others, some for sale, some not. Some freely given and some ripped from our own caverns. Arrows from the past, like this one, are so jolting, and then exciting....like my interaction with Kimmy. I love that we have this journey in common, that we began life abandoned, but have adopted each other in a blogdom sense :)

Timoteo said...

I'm happy that you continue to learn more and more about yourself. You are my alter-ego that succeeded in the search!

Lorna said...

Oh my gosh Linda, this is so exciting! I can't wait to hear what happens next, because this is an amazing story. I love that people are connecting and sharing experiences of their time there, all because your friend is making a documentary, and people are telling their stories, and so are you!!! You never know what good comes of your writing, do you? I'm glad you are finding out...and sharing with us. Loved this post!

ethelmaepotter! said...

Amazing!
I'm feeling a bit better today, so decided to do a bit of reading, and I am so glad I read your post. This man is incredibly kind to send you all this information, and I can't wait to find out what's next!

Ginger said...

Wow, it really is a small world isn't it? That is pretty neat that you got the dvd and have contact with Kraig.

Wendy said...

Craziness. It isn't really that it's a small world, but that the internet shrinks it down. It is so easy to search and find the specific things you're looking for. And it's a good reminder that anyone can find anything that you post here. Good to know that it's been for the best.

Oz Girl said...

How amazing... don't you just love emails out of the blue? They can change the course of your day, your week, your life sometimes. Sounds like your email could substantially add more information surrounding your adoption, and that is just so cool! :)

Nishant said...

this is quite touching! You will have to keep us informed.
data entry work from home

kobico said...

Wow, what a coincidence that someone who lived near the orphanage was working on a documentary of it when you wrote about your adoption there! I hope the project doesn't grow so large that he isn't able to finish.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Wow! Wow! We never know what will happen in our lives. To think this began from writing your blog and what a fine choice that was as now so many gathering together. I found his line about family - that these children who grew up together were the only family they knew. Just think of you have had a hand in spurring this gentlemen to pursue them. Can't wait to hear what happens next.

Donna B said...

That is soooooo awesome!! All because you sought out answers for that hole in your life. I am so happy for you...who knows where this will lead. I am anxious to hear the rest of the story...xoxo

Jerry said...

What an awesome, exciting, and meaningful twist of fate. I can't even imagine how you must be feeling. This is like tampering with all your perceptions and assumptions that you have harbored for so many years. At the same time it must be terribly exciting.

Yes -- awaiting the 'to be continued...'.

Mattenylou said...

I love reading your life's story and so look forward to the next chapter.

Our friend is just beginning to search for his birth mother in Maine... it's quite the emotional journey for him, some pieces just fall into place, others he's struggling with. So many bumps and turns he's faced in the past few months, but it'll all work out.

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

Amazing.

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