And so...picking up where I left off...my father was shipped off to Hershey Orphanage for boys. He said he really cannot remember the details of how he got there but, he thinks his uncle may have drove him. An interesting detail...my Dad was 13, about to turn 14 in one or two weeks...once a child turned 14, they could not get into the orphanage...my dad got in just under the wire. Once a child got into the home, they could stay there until they graduated high school. At that time, they were given a brand new suit and $100 dollars.
The orphanage at Hershey was started by Milton S. Hershey in 1909. We are all familiar with Hershey chocolate, and this is the Hershey I am talking about. Milton Hershey and his wife Catherine were not able to have children of their own, so they started a school and orphanage for boys.
Here is a picture of the original homestead that housed the first orphans. Later there was a whole building and school for the orphans. My father did not come to this school until 1949. I have searched the internet for old photos of the orphanage or school and cannot find any photos from back then. The school is still there today and helps underprivileged boys and girls get a good education. It is no longer an orphanage.
The orphanage was on a dairy farm and daily life included chores. The children woke early every day at 5 am and worked the farm before school.
They milked the cows and cleaned out the barn before they even had breakfast. After breakfast they would clean up, change clothes and go to school. As soon as they came home from school, they returned to the barn to milk the cows again. At last after milking and other chores they went in to eat dinner. After dinner they had one hour to do their homework, and then would have an hour of free time to themselves to do what they wanted. Bedtime followed free time and then it would start all over again in the morning. It was a very structured life. Everything was scheduled by time.
On Sundays, the orphans children rode a school bus into town and were permitted to wander around for one hour. They each received an allowance of 40 cents per week, and were able to spend their money as the wanted. My father told me, "you know, you could get an ice cream cone or whatever." I can only imagine how much that time meant to them. Can you imagine, 40 cents and 1 hour of free time? It's definitely a strict life and I wish that kids today would have such an experience.
When I think about the over abundance children today receive compared to what children received back then...it is no wonder this generation feels entitled to everything! It's really astounding when you really think about it! Older generations are more thrifty and conservative...they save everything and make the most of everything they have. It's the more recent generations that have dumped every possession they have into the landfills because they were just bored with it, or it wasn't the right color, or they just deserved a new one. As I write this, I am incredibly humbled and ashamed. Even now, I am learning from my Dad.
My Dad did not like living at the orphanage at all. He said he felt very lonely. It was hard work, but it was honest work, and they were compensated for their labor with a roof over their head, food, an allowance and an education. He never said he was mistreated there, just that he did not like it...and I can undertand! My father was there for about three or four months before his Grandmother sent him money for a train ticket back to Pittsburgh. He took his money and ran away! He did not tell anyone he was leaving! He stole away to the train station, and for $5.24 he bought a one way ticket to Pittsburgh. re-creation--not actual ticket
From the train station in Pittsburgh, he proceeded to take a street car (trolley) the rest of the way home. The street car cost 10 cents to ride, and you paid when you got off. All my father had left in his pocket was a penny! But here's the best part...it was an old silver penny! He was hoping to pass off the silver penny as a dime because that's all he had! When the street car stopped, he put the silver penny in the machine and ran like the wind! He doesn't know if it worked, and he didn't stick around to find out. He just laughs when he tells this story, and I love it!
Anyhow, the orphanage did call the next day to say that he was gone. His Grandmother informed them he would not be coming back. My father told me they didn't have a phone until he was 17 years old, so I am assuming the call must have been made to his uncle's home.
At this time, my father went back to school and life continued on as usual. Living on welfare, my Dad's grandmother received only $30 dollars a month to live on. In my Dad words, "We had zero...nothing". He remembers going to the welfare office for his clothes. He would go up to the counter and they would hand him 2 pair of pants, 2 shirts and underwear. He describes the pants as something like "Dickies" work pants. I asked if he got shoes from them as well...he doesn't remember...but he assumed he did, because there wouldn't have been any other way for him to get shoes. His memories of the clothes are not good memories. He really despised those clothes! As he told me the other night, the clothes were "plain jane garbage". He said they were made of very cheap fabric and very poorly made. The pants and shirts were navy blue. He said he kinda feels like his clothes caused some of the problems he had in school with the other kids. He was very self conscious about his clothes while the other kids had "nice stuff like blue jeans". He said his clothes stuck out like a sore thumb! Now let me tell you, for my Dad to open up about feelings like this is astounding in itself. I am so glad that he shared being self conscious about his welfare clothes. It just makes me love him all the more. And to think when I was a teenager, I complained about not having expensive designer jeans such as Gloria Vanderbilt and Jordache! I had no idea of what it meant to have nothing!
As I write this, I'm getting choked up a little and tears are forming in my eyes. We grow up thinking our parents are this tough brick wall and cannot be crumbled...strong and sturdy...and they are...but we don't really think about who they were and what they felt like as a child...that they had hurts and wants as well.
end of part 2...stay tuned for part 3 of My father's story