In keeping with the commitment to authenticity set forth in We Were Not Orphans, the letters and stories posted below are in the writers' original voices; they have not been edited except for length or to protect the privacy of others.

Ted Ehrhardt
La Valle, WI

Our father was an abusive alcoholic who beat on me and my mother for no good reason. Finally, my mother had to run away and our father was left to take care of us.

My brother and I were taken from Bay City, Texas to live in the Waco State Home in 1949, during a time that our so-called father, Walter, was very sick. He couldn't pay the lady who was taking care of us. We were 9 and 6. I stayed in the Home 8 years and my brother stayed 10 years, until I got him out.

At first I hated the Home for the way they treated us but my brother and I were more fortunate than others because our father was brought up in the Catholic religion and we were baptized at St. Mary's Catholic Church. We had no one to stand up for us as Godparents but the Lord blessed us with avery wealthy couple who treated us as good as their own children. The Home let me and my brother go to church with them and stay at their beautiful mansion in the park, on occasion. They were very kind and suportive of us but my younger brother wasn't happy with the Home and ran away twice.

I will say this about our time in the Home; it wasn't always bad and there were lots of good times. I too remember Farmer as a decent person who cared about us and I worked hard for him. It gave us an education and keep us off the street and safe from real trouble. We both had anger, bitterness, and tempers from our German heritage. I for one know if we had been left on the street; we would be in trouble with the law or kill someone.

One of your commentors, Earl Tyree, tells the truth about what happened in the big boys dornitory about abusive Whigham who we all came to hate at one time or another. The twins in question fought a lot and hated Whigham.

I, too was in the Soap Box Derby in 1954/55 and won my heat but blacked out from the excitement of my mother being there and the hot heat. I still have my trophy gift of a Wagner paint sprayer which I donated to Houston's Soap Box Derby group, which I help start and sponsor. My Car was black with a yellow lightin' bolt and shark's teeth.

My whole world turned upside down in 56/57 and I began to start trouble and nearly killed a man I hated. Some buddies from the Home drug me off him before I choked him to death. They kept me from going to Gatesville. I went to Waco Catholic High thru the wealthy couple's sponsorship and then transfered to Waco High School. What a vacation!! I played all sports for the Home and both schools, especially football which I was very good at.

My father hid the fact from our mother about where we were but she finally found us in the Home and tried to get us out, but she had to be married and prove her stability. She married, but he wasn't much help or caring for us. Our father visited us once in a while but Mom came as often as she could and loved on us a lot.

I had a scholarship offered to me but I chose to leave the Home and get married and start my own family, which I needed at the time.

I made the wrong choices and went against my wealthy sponsor's wishes, the Home, and St. Mary. I gave up my college education, car, and scholarship. History will later prove me wrong and I lost my trust in GOD because I prayed every day for the LORD to take my life and save my Mom.

Dr. Larry Canning, a counselor from the Home, took a liking to me and I was able to stay with his parents off Shepherd and 41st St. in Houston, while I watched my Mom die from cancer for 1 and 1/2 years at M. D. Anderson.

I worked at Bird-Kultgen Ford on weekends and summers since 1954 in the Parts Dept. I fell in desparate love with Janice Booker in the Home, and we got married and moved to the Dallas area where we had 2 kids.

I could go on and on about all the things I have done and been through, but if not for us being put in the Home, we might not have had the opportunity to become a strong and self reliant person who had the guts and fortitude to become a better person. You only make life through your choices and they only come at you once and then they are gone.

Now I have this to say; I'm 71 and the Good Lord saved my life more than once and I wasted 50 years of my life away from HIM but HE had to take me out of Texas and bring me North in order to save me from myself. Thank you JESUS!! In 1998, I found my lost family, after 58 years, and my German heritage. My father had run away from an abusive, mean uncle in Ohio and left my half brother and half sister with their mother in Boston, Mass. I have a cousin to thank for our great reunion and it brought closure to an empty spot in my life.

You have to be tough to live in this world and the Home helped us become that.

Love in Christ. God Bless, Ted

Elaine Rhoades
Onalaska, TX

I have always heard God watches after fools. Well, He sure watched after this one here because I didn't have a clue any bad was going on at the Home. When I was there I would have been so scared they wouldn't have had to worry about me getting out of there on my own because I would have died.

Tulia, TX

I was in Corsicana State Home after it became Corsicana Residential Treatment Center. I was released Jan 28, 2001. I was placed in TYC by court order in 1997 for running away from home. I was first sent to MOAU for assessment then was placed in CRTC for depression. I was labeled as "emotionally disturbed".

Jan Waddell
Carbondale, IL

I try hard to let my past go because it wasn't a very happy time for me or my other seven siblings. When I do sit down and think about it, I thank God that he saw me through the abuse and loneliness.

One story I did tell my daughter, which she cried about, was when I was in the "Baby" Dorm. That's the first dorm I was put in when I got there. They split all of us up and took Helen away because she was too young to be there. I told my daughter of a little girl who was scared of the dark and afraid of what would happen if she had an "accident" in bed. I had to go to the bathroom sometimes at night because I was afraid I would pee on myself. When lights were out, you weren't allowed to get up. I would lie in that bed and tell myself not to think about having to go to the bathroom because I would make myself have to go. I laid awake one night thinking this to the point I was about to wet the bed, so I got out of bed real quiet so as not to make any noise the other girls or the mean scary lady down the hall could hear, for she would beat me. She heard me anyway and pulled my hair and hit me where she could. I tucked into a ball so it wouldn't hurt as bad. She made me stay up all night scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush.

It broke my daughter's heart to hear this story. I told her because I don't sleep well now, a result of staying awake most of the night so I didn't wet my bed. If I wet my bed, the dorm mother made me hang my wet sheets outside so everyone could see, and they would make fun.

I am scared of the dark even now, and I don't sleep but maybe a couple of hours a night. I seldom ever talk about the home. It hurts my daughter, so I don't tell her much!

God blesses his children, I believe in that! I'm alive and don't have some of the nightmares some of the other girls and boys have. I do still feel anger, with my parents "even now," and with the lack of sense that was used in hiring people without their passing some type of background check. I didn't think it was right "even at my young age" to have a "husband and wife" as dorm parents of little girls and allow the man to discipline the little girls. I knew something wasn't right about any of that situation. I think there was something wrong with the way he made us position ourselves and the way he hit us.

I live in Southern Illinois with my husband, two dogs, and two cats. I have five grandchildren, and I love them all with my life. I have been ashamed of my background and rarely let anyone know my childhood. I know this sounds silly, but the only good thing I can remember about the Home was that they loaded us up on a bus and took us to Sears twice a year to pick out new clothes. I am still a clothes horse.

All eight of us came away scarred a little and have personal issues we struggle with. Myself, I don't sleep well at all. I can't seem to have enough clothes or shoes. My little sister was hungry a lot, and she keeps two freezers and two fridges full and her cabinets stocked. She has a canned ham under her bed at all times. My four sisters and I have Fibromyalgia, and none of us sleep well and are in constant pain. I read that stress as a child can cause this. No surprise there. It is what it is and life goes on.

I don't think I could ever go to one of the Reunions. I have left that part of my life behind.

Jan Waddell

Clifford Smith II
Kelliher, MN

I was at the Waco State Home from 1961-1973. Age 6-17.

I am disabled and part of my disability was caused by the damage done to me in the Waco State Home.

I don't know what else to say . . .

Craig Johnson
Indianapolis, IN

I remember a lot of the kids in that home: Joe Smith, Josephine Smith, Tommy Miller, "Fog" Roy Robinson, Robert, Jack, the twins, Sandra Johnson, Mike and Charlotte Charles. I have penty of pictures of everyone: Harold Smith, Ruben Trammel, Bill Smith, Jim and Joe Buster.

Dorm parents: Mrs. Lewis . . . nice lady.

My counselor was a mean person. He used to call me out of my race all the time.

I was beaten very bad by Mr. and Mrs Whigham.

I played on the championhip football team at North Junior High for three years, me and Joe Smith . . . we both started.

He was a good friend . . . most of the time. I was one of the faster kids there in the Home. We also ran track on the All-City track team.

I played basketball a the Home in the longest basketball game.

We use to go fishing, camping, shopping - but I had to fight a lot all the time, because the dorm parents did not care what happened to most of the kids, especially the black kids . . . unless you were able to take care of yourself.