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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Only Home They Ever Knew


I could not place the Akron Children’s Home location in my mind, so I went to the library and got a book.
It’s a rather dry little book, a post graduate thesis, actually.  But the facts and statistics are excellent.  It probably always was a good place with caring and honest trustees and staff.  The people of Summit County supported its growing needs at its inception and since, with tax levies and bond issues. That’s all the way back to the beginning, in the 1880’s. The location in the post card was purchased in the mid 1880’s; the buildings in the post card were begun in the 1920’s.  Even during the depression there was food, clean beds, caring house parents.  The children had chores; the premise of their upbringing was to teach them life and living skills.  The backgrounds of the children were so similar to my Dad’s:  Appalachian coal mining or farming backgrounds, whether Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia.  Families moved to Akron to work in the rubber plants.  Poor housing, no income when a father was hurt, a mother died or became ill. 
There were doctors and nurses on staff at the Home, and a clinic.  The Home was commended for inoculating its charges against smallpox ahead of the curve and not losing a child to an epidemic that went through the county.  In addition to orphans, the Home had “half-orphans”, and deserted children.  Dad and his siblings were the latter.  The Home also boarded children for a fee while a mother was recovering from an illness and a father from an injury.  The Home was very advanced in keeping records and in initiating foster care and home visits.

So, it was a statisticy little book, an hour or two’s read.  The wading pool/fountain I remember was mentioned.  It was most satisfying to read the children were cared for with love, and made lasting relationships with other children.  There was trouble, as in any family, and some children came with too much hurt.  As many children say of their parents now, “They did the best they could.”  The home operated as a home through the 1960’s.
The buildings today are the location of Summit County Children’s Services. Foster care seems to be the current goal.  Thinking back over Dad’s stories, I truly cannot remember one that referenced the Children’s Home.  Dad never told any stories about childhood things that could have happened, like fights with other children, or getting hurt as a child. I do know from Mom that Dad was very protective of his brother at the Home.  The little bald baby in that picture, my Uncle Bill.  Uncle Bill was, in the current vernacular, mentally challenged.  Back then he was just slow.  Maybe he came that way; maybe, according to family story, it happened when he fell from the attic through to the basement of a two story home under construction.  He was never sent to school; Dad taught him to read.  I’d say Uncle Bill was the mental age of a twelve year old.  When Dad left the Home, so did Uncle Bill.  He became a ward of the state and was sent to Orient State School outside Columbus.  Uncle Bill deserves his own post some day.  So does Aunt Laura, Dad's sister at the home.  And Aunt Ruth and Aunt Helen Rita, the “babies” who grew up with an aunt and a grandmother.

I am going to try to get my Dad’s records from the Home.  According to the little book, meticulous records were kept.  How fun to read them, if they still exist.  It seems it was what it was back then. Those five children grew up and got on with it.  And I still have no opinion on the quality of children’s services today as opposed to then.  It was a different world, more than a century ago, and everyone I know of did the best they could.

3 comments:

  1. I lived there for most my childhood, I was good place

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  2. I, and my three sisters lived there most of our childhood also. We entered in 1955. Reason being our mother deserted us. We were in and out for thirteen years, being placed in and out of foster homes. And I can honestly say, we were happy to return to the Children's Home!! It is true, we had clean beds, good food, good medical care and very caring houseparents, as they were called, and social workers. I left in 1969. I have many happy memories there!
    Linda(Brown)

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  3. Yes, I lived there, its wasn't perfect but I was care for by some loving people.

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