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Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas


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New Dormitory Nearly Finished.

The new substantial and roomy dormitory will be finished and ready for occupation by the children before Christmas. This is one of the best buildings on the campus. At the same time Superintendent Minatra and the local representatives secured this building from the Legislature they also asked for and received an appropriation to enlarge the Home hospital giving it wards for contagious and convalescent children. It is expected that the contract for this will be let soon.

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Ex-State Home Boy Visits In Corsicana

Jack D. Lillie was in Corsicana yesterday renewing old acquaintances. Mr. Lillie left this city eighteen years ago when he graduated from the State Orphans Home here and this is his first trip to Corsicana in fourteen years. He is married and with his wife is now making Los Angeles, Cal., his home. He was in Texas on a business trip.

Mr. Lillie is one of the many boys and girls turned out by the State Home who has made good. He is a printer by trade besides owning a business which pays him a handsome return. He saw active service during the world war with the 495th Aero Squadron and was in all the Argonne fighting and was gassed at Verdun. He is an interesting talker and during his visit to the Home yesterday made a talk to the boys and girls there telling some of his experiences while at the front, and also talked to them about other lines. That his talk was enjoyed was evidenced by the close attention given.

Mr. Lillie left on the return trip to his home in Los Angeles last night.

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6/13/2003 Hundreds to gather at State Home reunion

 


Larry and Mary Dean Redding were once residents at the Corsicana State Home and usually attend the annual reunion. They are pictured in their family museum where Larry displays a kite made of a 1930's newspaper and toys like a wooden skooter mounted on roller skates like boys at the home used to make. Daily Sun photo/Joan Sherrouse

 

By JOAN SHERROUSE/Daily Sun Staff

Back then, they were little children with no parents, or a family too poor to raise them.

Now, many are like Larry and Mary Dean Redding, well-adjusted adults strong in the belief that spending their childhood in the Corsicana State Home was a blessing.

Saturday, they will join hundreds of others for a weekend-long reunion in Corsicana, an event they said is preceded by tingling anticipation and filled with hilarious stories.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Mary Dean's graduation from the State Home; Larry's first day there was June 12, 65 years ago, yet for both, fond memories still ring clear.

"Early in the morning, the boys had to get up and go to the barn to milk the cows," Mary Dean said. "When they got even with the dormitory where the big girls were, they'd start hollering, "Is the water warm?'

"Just because they had to wake up, they wanted us to wake up, too."

That same barn is where many of Larry's memories were made, like raiding the cold storage bin and eating fresh fruit or just "doing the things boys do."

"We were sitting on the fence, and there was a big old bull out there," he said. "One of the boys went out there and fed that bull some grass, but when he turned around and started laughing, that bull started pawing the ground."

Larry said the boy made it to the fence, but a second boy who tried the same thing ended up with a broken shoulder and a sore bottom.

As World War II dragged on, plenty of families found themselves with too many mouths to feed and either the breadwinner or the homemaker absent.

"My father died when I was about six months old, and there were nine children," Larry said. "Three of us were put in the state orphan's home."

Mary Dean and her brother took up residence there four days after Christmas in 1944, despite the fact they had grown siblings with families of their own.

"I had lost my mother in September that year, and that was one of her wishes," she said. "My sister lived and Wortham and she said she'd take us and raise us, but (my mother) said she wanted us to go there."

Both said it was the best decision their families could have made.

"We had a lot of structure in our lives," Mary Dean said. "We had a good Christian foundation, too."

The rhythm of each child's life flowed around a morning wake-up whistle and bells that called them to meals, classes and chores, yet the Reddings remember it as a time of fullness. Brief Christmas and summer visits home left them longing to return to the surroundings they were used to.

"Before my two weeks were up in the summer, I was ready to go back," Mary Dean said. "I missed it that much."

Now, the annual reunions bring it all back and alumni like the Reddings flock to them, anxious to reclaim the sense of love and security that made up the framework their childhood.

"We look forward to this every year," Mary Dean said.

"We're almost prisoners of the past," Larry added. "I'll tell you how we feel about the State Home: Take off your shoes, because the ground you're walking on is holy ground."

xxx

Joan Sherrouse may be contacted via e-mail at[email protected].

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11/9/2003 CHARLIE JOHNSON: Corporal punishment at the Orphanage

Corporal punishment was the prescribed action for infractions of the rules at the State orphans Home at Corsicana when I arrived there in December of 1929. "The Home," as we affectionately called our home, was totally funded by the State of Texas, during the 14 years that I was educated and cared for from age 4 1/2 to age 18.

Apparently corporal punishment was the literal interpretation of book of Proverbs in my Southern Bible Belt State of Texas as follows: Proverbs 22:15: Foolishness in bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 23:14: Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

State Home discipline began in the Horqe hospital because that was were I was confined for the first two weeks in December of 1929. It was total confinement and the nurses and their assistants exercised such compassion for those in their charge that we were no trouble to them in a disciplinary manner.

It was in the Little Boys building where I learned the technique of dealing with matron's style of discipline. After the hospital I had 80 to 100 other little boys to live with. With that many little boys, Mrs. Tucker, with her stern husband and Mrs. Hawkins, a widow, devised what is referred to today as the "big brother" system of care. But, that system wasn't practical when it came to discipline, because the orphan boys wouldn't "squeal" on each other as to violation of the rules. If Mrs. Tucker or Mrs. Hawkins caught the boys fighting in the building or out on the playground she would instruct us to spank each other's palms and would hand us a foot long ruler. That wasn't very effective punishment because we had agreed that if we got caught fighting we really wouldn't hit each other's palms very hard. Looking back to those 65 to 70 years ago I don't think that we were fooling the matrons. One of Mrs. Hawkins' favorite method of punishment was to have us stand on one foot until we became totally exhausted. Now that was effective punishment.

Mrs. Ira Hurt's dormitory was located in the basement level of the Administration building and served as a transitional dormitory between the Little Boys building and the Big Boys building. Mrs. Hurt's husband, Ira, was the stern, ill-tempered man in charge of the dairy barn where we milked our cows every morning and evening. "Ike Hurt", as we disrespectfully referred to him, wanted to assume the responsibility for our whippings, which we called "beatings," when we got caught misbehaving, but fortunately Mrs. Hurt refused to defer to him that privilege, to assuage his anger. Mrs. Hurt was the first matron to use a wooden paddle on me when she whipped me -- usually for my smart mouth. I'll have to admit, I usually had a whipping coming.

Mrs. Theresa H. Archibald, widow, whom we called "Napoleon," was the Elementary School principal. She insisted on taking charge of the corporal punishment in "her school." The teachers reported misbehaving students to "Napoleon" and she would apply, with fervor, her wooden paddle to the students' rumps. "Napoleon" welded a tough whipping, but not as severe as that to come in the Big Boys building by "Hoss" Ross, the Boys' Director.

"Hoss" Ross's office was on the second floor of the Big Boys building where he kept a barrel stave paddle made from a soap flakes barrel from our large laundry. That paddle had holes drilled the length of it. It was carved and padded to protect his hand at the handle. There was a sign above his desk listing the infractions of the rules and the number of strikes by his barrel stave paddle for each violation. However we schemed to soften those blows against our buttocks. Those whippings, which we usually referred to as "beatings," were administered after the noon time dinner or evening supper. That way, "Hoss" could remind us at the dining hall of our appointment with him.

"O.K. Charlie Wayne, drop your BVDs (a trademark for our one piece cotton summer underwear) or if during the winter, longjohns (a cotton knit long underwear). Let me see how much cardboard you've placed in the seat of your underwear."

As I leaned over his desk, looking up at that infractions list on the wall, he would remove the cardboard that I had securely placed in the seat of my underwear. After I had pulled up my overalls, he would then apply the designated strokes, telling me:

"It hurts me more than it does you."

At one of our annual homecomings at the orphanage in the 1970s, we invited "Hoss" Ross to-speak at our homecoming banquet. By then, Mr. Ross had become Chief Judge of the Tarrant County, Texas Juvenile Justice Courts. We got a barrel stave and created a facsimile of that paddle that he applied to our buttocks. Many of the men there at the banquet signed their names on it in memory of those whippings that he had applied to us back in the late 1930s.

The superintendent of the State Home appeared to be a good administrator and all of the employees and teachers were dedicated to their jobs. Discipline was thoroughly enforced by the Dean of Girls, Amanda Fearis and by the Boys Director, L.W. Ross. The two school principals had absolute control of their respective domains. But, then there began to be questions about the Superintendent's integrity. As the gossip increased about the Superintendent's sexual escapades, much more was heard about the trysting places of the older boys and girls.

The boys were becoming more brazen about their peccadilloes. The Superintendent appeared to be losing control of discipline. When the Superintendent started threatening the boys with expulsion to the reformatory at Gatesville, Texas, they reported what they knew of his activities to the State Board of Control. The Superintendent was asked to resign. He did.

A new Superintendent was hired and he replaced corporal punishment in 1942 with a system of merits and demerits for behavior of the students.

The combination of discipline and love was administered with thoughtfulness by 99% of those responsible for doing so. In spite of the memories of harsh corporal punishment in the 1930s, my gratitude isn't diminished for the education, love, care and training that I received for my adult life by the State of Texas. Note: From the Ocala Star-Banner, Ocala, Florida on Aug. 25, 2001:

"Occasional, mild spankings of young children are OK and do not cause any lasting harm that carries into adolescence. Such discipline does not hurt youngsters' social or emotional development. A lot of people out there advocate that any spanking at all is detrimental, and that's not what we found. We're not advocating this is a strategy that should be used with kids, but we object to people wanting to ban it when we see no evidence that it's harmful."

The study was being presented at a meeting in San Francisco of the American Psychological Association.

Corsicana Daily Sun - All Right Reserved

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Clyde Johnson is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears Sundays. He may be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

Send Email to: Charlie Johnson


12/14/2003 CHARLIE JOHNSON: State Home boys 'raid' bakery

As I prepare to order my world famous DeLuxe Fruit Cakes from Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana this holiday season I'm recalling a happening at the State Home in the late 1930s. The State Orphans Home was only three miles west of Collin Street Bakery.

During my 14 years, 1929-1943, in the State Home it was my good fortune to have "duty" in the State Home bakery, which was at the rear of the State Home kitchen. After first experiencing duty milking cows in the dairy barn in the cold morning, "duty" in the warm bakery under supervision of Mr. Cunningham was "duty" sought after by many of the orphan boys.

Mr. Cunningham, a very capable baker, reportedly had worked for Collin Street Bakery prior to his position at the State Home bakery. Mr. Cunningham always baked special fruit cakes for the "Officials Dining Room" and had ordered the glazed fruit and pecans.

On the morning we boys were to start baking the fruit cakes, we went to the storage cabinet and discovered at least half of the glazed fruit and Texas pecans were missing. It was understandable Mr. Cunningham suspected some of us workers had eaten some of the fruit and pecans, so we wanted to find the thieves who had taken the goodies.

As I was cleaning up after baking bread for about 1,000 students and staff that morning I noticed there were distinctive work shoe prints in the dust on top of the large commercial oven. Just above the oven in the ceiling was a large exhaust vent covered by a metal hood on the roof. Looking closely we could see the metal hood had been removed and had not been properly replaced.

The next night Mr. Cunningham, the night watchman and the boys' director, along with bakery workers, hid in the shadows of an adjacent building and waited for the "glazed fruit and pecan thieves" to return to the scene.

As we quietly watched, several of the big boys climbed up the "Corsicana Red" brick wall of the bakery and onto the roof. They quickly lifted the loose vent hood of the opening and dropped down onto the top of the oven. In their woolen knit caps, heavy mackinaw jackets, faded blue overalls, "overhawls," blue chambray shirts and prison-made work shoes (the ones with the distinctive soles), they proceeded to empty the cabinet of the remaining glazed fruit and pecans.

One of the State Home graduates of the class of 1946 writes on page 39 in his 65-page single-spaced autobiography the following: "Some of the boys would cook parched corn to have something to eat during the movies later in the day. Other than corn, the only ingredient required was grease. This was usually obtained by 'raiding' the kitchen or bakery late at night. A night watchman made rounds of all the buildings throughout the night.

He carried a bulky recording clock on a shoulder strap. Each building or station on his assigned route had a different key for the clock. When the key was inserted into the clock, punch marks would be made on a paper disk. The punch marks indicated the time he had checked each station."

It didn't take the older boys, me included, too long to figure out his route. The bakery or kitchen would be entered through a skylight shortly after he had checked it. Of course, the cooks or baker would discover the shortage the following morning and word would get out they had been "raided."

I never knew what punishment was administered to those big boys, all members of the senior class. But, Mr. Cunningham did reorder some more glazed fruit and pecans for those fruit cakes and they were served in the Officials' Dining Room to the teachers and other supervisors, but not to the orphans.

Perry Bruce Holley, Leroy Bell, James Hardin and Harlin Howard were my mentors during my "duty" in the bakery in the late '30s and early '40s.

My first job in Dallas in 1943 was at Mrs. Baird's Bakery on Bryan Avenue for 40 cents an hour, baking bread.

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Charlie Wayne Johnson, State Home graduate of class of 1943, is now 78, and has lived in Florida for 18 years.

Send Email to: Charlie Johnson


12/21/2003 CHARLIE JOHNSON: A Christmas with future governor

It was in the fall of 1938 during the heat of the governor's race that candidate W. Lee "Pappy" 0'Daniel came out to the State Orphans Home in Corsicana.

"Pappy" 0'Daniel was the founder and owner of the Light Crust Flour Company in Fort Worth and he was on the radio with his country western band (hillbilly) in those days. He had a beautiful daughter, Molly, who sang with the band, and handsome twin sons, Pat and Mike. "Pappy" wrote the lyrics and music for many of the songs used on his radio show, especially songs extolling the virtues of the state of Texas, such as "Beautiful Texas," which we orphans memorized and sang. They called themselves "The Light Crust Doughboys." On that Friday they set themselves up on the midway landing of those many concrete steps up to the second floor of our handsome Corsicana red brick, three-storied administration building with Ionic columns, which served as an elegant backdrop for the band's performance.

"Pappy" introduced all the members of his band and the first one to sing was daughter Molly; long black hair, big brown eyes and vivacious smile. We boys fell in love with her and her sweet voice.

"Pappy" then told us, all 1,000 orphans and the employees, who were gathered at the base of the concrete steps, "I am so happy to be here among all of you State Home orphans. I feel like one of you as my mother died when I was very young and we lived in a log cabin." We immediately connected with "Pappy" 0'Daniel.

"Pappy" waged a vigorous campaign that fall for assistance to widows, children and old folks. My grandmother Nina Johnson was so sure if he got elected he would get her a $23 a month State pension. He did. She had lost all of her money when the Purdon bank collapsed in 1929. Grandmother had placed his photograph from the newspaper under the glass of her mantel clock in her Pursley farmhouse on the Waco highway. She was life-long "yeller-dog Democrat." She would vote for a yellow dog before ever voting for one of those darn Republicans.

On the following Saturday, after performing for the State Home orphans and employees, "Pappy" O'Daniel was broadcasting his usual Light Crust Doughboys hillbilly music and he made an announcement as follows:

"My band and family members were at the State Orphans Home in Corsicana last Friday and we really enjoyed playing for those sweet, appreciative little orphans. My wife and I are going to take one of those orphans into our home for Christmas. Why don't you loyal radio listeners out there in radio land consider sharing your Christmas with one of those orphans. Let's don't leave one single orphan on the State Home campus at Christmas time."

Troy Dale Allison (now a resident of Corsicana), age 14, was the boy the future governor and his family chose to have in their home for Christmas, 1938. Troy Dale related, "They let me have both of the large turkey drumsticks." Was Troy Dale chosen by pretty daughter Molly? He was a tall good-looking youngster and Molly was beautiful and outgoing. My sister, Amalene, age 15, the one with the green eyes, was selected by a lovely young couple in Corsicana, to spend Christmas with. That developed into a long-time friendship.

I was not chosen by any family to spend Christmas with. I had Christmas dinner and Christmas tree with the hundreds of other orphans on campus of the State Orphans Home. But, I always envied Troy Dale Allison getting to spend Christmas with "Pappy" W. Lee O'Daniel, "pass the biscuits, Pappy," who was inaugurated as governor of the State of Texas in Austin in January 1939.

"The Light Crust Doughboys," the western swing band -- one of the genre's originators that's been active for the seven decades since -- performed at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, on April 14, 2003.

The quintet, bassist Art Greenhaw, keyboardist Bill Simmons, guitarist Jerry Elliot, and fiddlers John Walden and Jim Baker ran through the 1938 W. Lee 0'Daniel gubernatorial campaign song "Beautiful Texas." I wish that I could have been there.

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2/29/2004 CHARLES JOHNSON: State Home was good to many of us

"This place is real good to me" -- State Home student

That is exactly what one of the students at the State Home wrote to me thanking me for speaking to her special education class in June 1987. Pearl Hampton, class of 1940, and I, class of 1943, were invited to speak to that class by their teacher at the "100 Years of Child Care" homecoming June 13, 1987. The very capable superintendent, Sandy Burnam, and her staff were responsible for that successful homecoming back to my childhood home of 1929 to 1943.

The female student's neat blue ink cursive writing note follows:

"Dear Charlie Wayne Johnson,

I want to thank you for taking your time to come down here and talking to the class. I hope you enjoyed coming down, and I bet you were surprised on how much this place has changed. I hope you enjoyed the Homecoming and the banquet, and hope to see you next year. I know I don't have to spend such a long time like some of ya'll did. And I know I've been here 5 months, and this place is real good to me. I have fallen in love with this place. I want to thank you again.

Sincerely,

C.S."

In my day the State Home was an orphanage and I simply grew up there from age 4 to 18 years of age. During C.S.'s time there the program of care and education was scheduled for a period of 18 months. But, I too fell in "love" and that place was "real good" to me.

The most poignant letter among that packet of 14 was the following:

"Dear Pearl Hampton, Charlie Wayne Johnson,

Thank you for coming to visit us and the State Home. We enjoyed you telling us some of the things it was like when you were here, it's a lot different now than it was then. Oh, by the way my name is J.M.C. I was born in Dallas, Texas, I was born in Parkland County Hospital. I'm 16 going on 17 on December 8, 1970. I have 2 brothers and 5 sisters and more I don't know. I have 3 moms and 5 fathers and most of my life I have been either in Homes, on my own, or on the run. Oh well, it was nice meeting you. I hope to see you again. Please write me and tell me some more about this place. Thanks for coming."

Love always,

J.M.C."

I was placed in the State Home in December 1929 by my birth mother after my father had died in January 1929. I had many loving mothers and capable fathers in the State Home. I was never on "the run," always knew where "Home" was.

A short note from one of the boys:

"Dear Charlie Wayne Johnson,

I would like to thank you for coming to Homecoming to speak with us. I hope to see you next year. Well, I'll let you go for now.

B.J."

A brief note beautifully illustrated in color by one of the boys:

"Mr. Johnson please write me: A.S. P.O. Box 610, Corsicana, TX 75110. P.S. Mr. Johnson, please call me, 214/874-9018.

A.S."

While in the State Home I never got any phone calls, but my mother and relatives would write occasionally; my mail was censored by my State Home matrons.

An unsigned note:

"Charlie Wayne Johnson

Thank you Texas for 100 years of child care. A pal a day will keep the doctor away."

Was signed by the drawing of two hearts.

In the State Home I had hundreds of "pals" for 14 years. And at homecoming for 50 years I visited with some of those "pals" the second weekend of June.

The neatest folded note with a colored drawing of Mickey Mouse:

"Dear Mr. Johnson,

I thank you for coming to talk about the State Home. I learned a lot of stuff about the Corsicana State Home I didn't know.

M.M."

The devoted teachers in the State Home encouraged all of the orphans' talents, whatever it may have been, music, drawing, acting, writing, singing, debating, animal husbandry and all kinds of sports. I still enjoy writing and drawing. The Corsicana State Home was created by the 20th Legislature in 1887 and was originally called "The State Orphan Asylum." Was located in Corsicana after local citizens donated over 200 acres at the present site. By 1897 the State Home had an Independent School District. We received academic and vocational instruction. Had extensive farmlands to supply food and provide agricultural training. I recall that during the Depression there were 800 to 1,000 students crowded into the dormitories.

Currently known as the "Corsicana Residential Treatment Center" and is enclosed by a tall secured fence with guard.

But, we State Home Ex-Students are still welcomed "back home" each year the second weekend of June.

A grateful State Home ex-student
 

Charlie Wayne Johnson, State Home graduate of class of 1943, is now 78, and has lived in Florida for 18 years.

Send Email to: Charlie Johnson


Former State Home Student Figures In “Believe It or Not”

Carl Green, former State Home lad and later student in West Point, appears in the famous “Believe It Or Not,” feature conducted by Ripley.

Cadet Green won the first place in the hop, step and jump in the Penn Relays the first time he ever tried it and this is chronicled by Ripley in releases for Thursday.

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