Is it gay? Is it sad? Would you be interested to read the answer from one who spent her first Christmas Day there at the age of nine and the last at the age of twenty? During those years just one was spent in a private home.
My first Christmas after my mother's death was with an aunt and several relatives. It was lonesome because she had been gone just a few weeks. Everyone tried to help by saying kind things about her but they each hurt deeper. By the next Christmas I was in the Orphans' Home and very happy. May I tell you what happened?
On Christmas Eve some kind people came out with Santa to entertain. Of course, there was candy and a lot of fun from Santa himself.
Ready for a Big Day
That night we said our prayers with anxious voices. Then about 2 o'clock Christmas morning we were up, made our beds, cleaned our part of the house and were ready for a big day. Then we went into the upstairs hall and sang carols. We were just a little early but no one was angry. In fact, our matron and superintendent were well pleased. The boys were up and ready for a big day, too. Soon it was breakfast time, but who could eat at such a time? Then it happened. We left our dining room and went into the reception hall. There was a big tree with lovely, gay decorations. The room was just one big toy shop.
I expected some little remembrance but instead it was the grandest doll and cart, candy, oranges, games, books and little toys all girls like. Everyone had his arms just loaded. There were buckets of candy, boxes of books and games from clubs and organizations in town, and from people who were interested. Then there were hours of ohs and ahs! in the different playrooms. If there were any disappointments, they were well covered with surprises.
Then there was the dinner. We always had nice tables, but this was a banquet. And after dinner there was pop and ice cream because someone had remembered us. I forgot to say, (sic) that, before we ate our meal we returned thanks, because we were taught the beautiful story of The Christ Child by our Sunday school teacher.
I remember each Christmas day as being just as gay in spirit and greatfulness (sic). Sometimes we girls gave our talent in a program and used the funds to purchase a gift for our matron and superintendent. We didn't have time to feel sorry for ourselves.
My last Christmas there I was nursery governess. I had graduated from high school and preferred working in the Home. I enjoyed it, I believe, most of all because I could help. It was such fun to see them make a big fuss over so many things all at once.
The next year, I was married and in my own home. But something was missing. Just like you want to go home to mother and the family, I wanted to go back to the Orphans' Home just long enough at least to see their tree and say: "Merry Christmas," to the boys and girls that seemed part of a family.
Will Never Forget
Within every tree we have decorated, there has been a picture of another tree. Four years ago, my brother graduated and left the Home. He was with us. One day he looked at the tree and said: "Sis, do you ever want to go back?" A lump in my throat kept me from answering. Later he said, "Gee, I wish I could see the boys today." He is in the Navy now. He will spend this Christmas many miles from the United States, but I know that somewhere the lights of Christmas trees and smiling happy youngsters will reflect across his memory, because someone remembered him when he was a youngster. Perhaps somewhere he will hear the echo of the Salvation Army chorus singing carols just like we used to hear them on Christmas Eve.
I have two boys now, seven and five. Busy as I am with them, I can't forget the ones who made me happy after the absence of my parents, with their kindness and thoughtfulness.
Perhaps you have thought your efforts were in vain. If it means anything to get a lot of thanks, here is one from the heart of an orphan who is thankful for each one who has added a ray of sunshine to one lonesome girl in an orphans' home, and also to each and every employe (sic) in all the homes. There (sic) task is no pleasant one.
To all of you a very Merry Christmas and may your life be full of the blessings of God thorough the New Year.
Mrs. Lucille Carpenter
1606 South Jefferson street
THE STRUGGLE TO GET THE HOME LICENSED BY THE STATE Summary by Shirley Pearson
I am unsure how or when the Delaware County United Way got involved with the Orphans' Home but in September of 1978, the United Way board of directors were moving to have the Home licensed by the state. This would provide that 75% of the money spent to operate the home be reimbursed by the federal government. Delaware County would have been reimbursed $150,000 to $235,000 annually.
County commissioners were not in favor of doing this because one of the stipulations stated that the director had to have a college degree. At that time the director, Mrs. Felton, had been at the Home nineteen years and they had no desire to let her go or replace her. They talked of filing for a variance in this rule.
The state of Indiana had already passed a law requiring these institutions be licensed by October 1979. The United Way Board decided to ignore the request for a variance.
An article in October of 1978 talks of improvements being made in the Home to meet state standards for licensing. In this article there is an indication that the county is still trying to retain Mrs. Dora Mae Felton as director who, at this point, is only a few years from qualifying for retirement.
An article dated December 12, 1978 describes state ordered inspections aimed at licensing. Letters collected from community members and organizations supporting Mrs. Felton were presented to the state officials in case they should consider waiving the rule for a college degree. The Childrens' Home passed all inspections with few adjustments to code.
As of January 22, 1979, the Home was granted a license. It was presumed at that time that the state waived the rule regarding Mrs. Felton's lack of a degree. Federal funding would be forthcoming.
A February 6, 1979 article confirmed the state had waived the rule for Mrs. Felton in consideration of her nineteen years as director.