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Orphans' Lament

March 26, 1995

Regarding Patt Morrison's "Going Home Alone" (On the Town, Feb. 19): One of my greatest fears as a kid without parents, being raised by a series of relatives, was that of being sent to an orphanage. I wasn't happy, but I worried that it could be worse. At least I knew what the deal was: Be quiet, inconspicuous and inexpensive, and maybe I wouldn't be booted out. Orphanages, I heard, gave you walking papers on your 16th birthday, ready or not.

I dodged the orphanage threat of one aunt by moving in with another, who presented the 16th-birthday threat on her own, so I moved on to yet another relative. But they finally got me: On my 18th birthday, the summer before my senior year of high school, my few effects were packed into a small cardboard box, and I was sent into the world, ready or not--naive, unprepared and penniless.

Some may argue that an orphanage could not have been worse and might have been better. Who knows? Our system screams for improvement, but we're stuck with the unfortunate reality of our economy and our overproduction of babies. I see no evidence that orphanages could provide in the future anything better than what our system has to offer at present.

Linda Modisett

San Pedro

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My father, physically and emotionally damaged in World War II, frequently brought the violence of war home to my mother and her four children. Eventually, we kids wound up in a Riverside County orphanage.

One day, the four of us were taken on a one-way ride without a word of explanation and without any of our belongings. That sent the message that we didn't need or deserve anything. They put me in the "nursery" for the three weeks before my seventh birthday. I remember trying to sing myself to sleep so I wouldn't be so frightened, but that just brought a counselor to beat my bare backside with a wooden ruler. In the daytime, during "playtime," I never played but stood at the back of the building, hour after hour, scouting possible avenues of escape.

They kept the four of us separated, and I seldom got a chance to see my brother and sisters (I was the oldest girl). It was a world of stern counselors assisted by mean older teen-agers who had already been hardened by life and had little sympathy for us smaller kids. Finally, a year later, we were taken to a foster home, where I was sexually molested by my "kindly" foster father.

Hey, Newt: Read me that fairy-tale again, will you?

Mary Ellen Cresswell

Tarzana

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