Last May 2009, I did a post giving a brief history of having been adopted, and how every year on my birthday I wonder anew what it was like for my mother to give up a baby, and what those three months I spent in the orphanage were like.
Here it is almost a year later, and I'm once again talking about Lake Bluff Orphanage. Only this time I have answers to many of the questions I've asked myself over the years. Thanks to that original post, a door was opened, and a kind man named Kraig xxx walked thru with a map of sorts, of the journey my mother took toward my birth and relinquishment to the orphanage, a record of the mysterious three months I was in the orphanage, and the beginning of my journey with the new adoptive parents. A greater gift has never been received.
Coming to Georgia from Lake Bluff, Illinois to interview me for a documentary he's doing on the orphanage, Kraig sweetened the deal with the delivery of two sets of records: (1) four typewritten pages of a letter written by Women's Service Division, Family Service Bureau, United Charities of Chicago in April 1948 to Lake Bluff Orphanage, and (2) twelve typewritten pages of records kept by Lake Bluff Orphanage beginning April 1948 and ending in August 1949.
The information in this post is taken from the letter from United Charities, who were acting as a liason between the unwed mother's home and the orphanage. It's waaay too long to tell every word, so I'm going to chose only those areas that were the most important or interesting, though it's still long. Seriously, both sets of records are so detailed, stating every occasion and what was said or done. I could paraphrase certain areas, but really - these are 61 year old records, and I think it's kind of cool to see what was said and done back then! Also, I think you could replace Lillian's name with any unwed mother's name, and it could be their story.
Remember the version of the story I've had for over 30 years? That Lillian hitchhiked to Chicago to find Don Miner, my supposed dad who was from there, and she either couldn't find him or was rejected by him, ended up living with a policewoman until the neighbors complained about an unwed mother in the neighborhood? And she was putting me up for adoption because her dad said if she brought the baby home he would kill the both of them? True and False. Here's a summary of what is reported in their records: (In the reprint of the original records, all names are blacked out with marker, but some can be assumed as I already knew many of the names I was dealing with. Every 'Miss Crawley was marked out!)
"Miss Crawley was referred to us through the Municipal Court, Court of Domestic Relations, when they learned that one of their policewomen had taken her into her home. This policewoman had met Miss Crawley when she walked into the police station, and rather than reporting her request to her supervisor, with whom there have been frequent quarrels, the policewoman extended her hospitality, and Miss Crawley went home with her. During her ten days stay, the policewoman telephoned Miss Crawley's parents in order to identify her, and at the same time gave them the information that Miss Crawley was pregnant. Miss Crawley had not wanted to notify her parents of her condition and claims that she ran away from Texas in order to prevent them from learning of her pregnancy."
"When the police department learned of the policewoman's action, they sent two policewomen out to the home to pick Miss Crawley up, and, unfortunately, kept her overnight in a police lockup, referring her the following morning to us for help in planning. By this time, Miss Crawley was thoroughly confused, wondering why the police were in on the situation at all. Also, the policewoman who had taken her in had arranged for private medical care, and Miss Crawley was perfectly content to continue with these arrangements. It was not until after we explained to her that the policewoman who befriended her had violated the rules of her job, and therefore had gotten both of them into trouble, was Miss Crawley able to express her desire to live with other girls where she would be free from interference."
"Once Miss Crawley was moved into Sarah Hackett Stevenson Memorial Home, she was quite relieved and was willing to break off the private medical arrangements planned for her by the policewoman. We talked to the doctor at one point when we needed the results for the Wasserman and Kahn tests so that Miss Crawley could be admitted to Sarah Hackett Stevenson Memorial Home. Our own impression of the doctor was that he had been too willing to offer her free medical care, so that we suspected that he might have been interested in the adoption of Miss Crawley's baby. Arangements were made for Miss Crawley to be delivered at Illinois Research Hospital and she has kept her appointments regularly." (In case you haven't figured it out yourself, the assumption is that the doctor and the policewoman were probably in cahoots in 'private' child adoptions.)
"Miss Crawley impresses us as being an extremely naive and unsophisticated girl who is quite gullible. She was extremely bewildered by the amount of controversy she stirred up in the police department when she hadn't done anything wrong. In our planning with her, she has assumed responsibility for appointments, and has been very adequate in finding her way around Chicago, and in carrying through her responsibilities. She also has a very good sense of reality and her common sense usually produces good judgement on her part."
(Next is a long listing of family information regarding her mother, father, grandparents, family history, etc., some of which I knew, some not, but very detailed about her family and the various relationships. Apparently her maternal grandfather lived with them and was very strict, and they did not get along, and that is why she left home at sixteen to live in the YWCA.)
"Miss Crawley could give very little information about the putative father. The name he gave her was (name blacked out), and he was twenty-three years old. Because she observed that he wore a high school graduation ring, she assumed that he had finished high school. He talked of being the only child and said that he was spoiled because of this."
"Last July, Miss Crawley met the putative father at a roller skating rink in Houston, Texas, and claims that on August first had intercourse with him at a hotel in Houston. In the morning he left saying that he would return and that they would go to Galveston to be married. When he did not show up, she began to wonder, and soon learned that he was not returning to her. She made several return trips to Houston to find him, and finally decided to hitch hike to Chicago with the hope of finding a cousin here who could take care of her." (So, not there to look for my father, as I had been told by Aunt Helen, who would have been eleven at the time.)
"The putative father's complexion was quite a contrast to her family. He had black hair, dark eyes, and an olive tan skin. She thinks that he was about five feet eleven inches tall, and weighed about one-hundred and seventy-five pounds. She said that he was built very well and had wide, broad shoulders."
"As we considered how Miss Crawley got into this pregnancy at this time, she felt it was because she was completely overwhelmed by his attention, and very unprotected being away from home in a strange hotel."
"We have arranged with Illinois Research Hospital that Miss Crawley is not to be given her baby at any time. We will let you know as soon as we hear that she is in the hospital so that you can begin planning to move the baby to your nursery." (Not to be given her baby at any time? Then how could she make an informed decision about what to do? Of course I know that they were trying to take the 'sentiment' out of the equation and have her make the decision with her 'brain', but this also means that my romanticized version of her having held me lovingly and having a mother to child soliliquy before making the decision was not a reality.)
Next post, the difficult decision by Lillian to relinquish her baby for adoption. Most babies at the orphanage were adopted within the first two weeks, a month at the most. I was there for almost three months before Lillian signed the final papers to relinguish for adoption. (to be continued...)