Ken Schwartz's "Settling in at Lark Ellen Home" - Page 2

From the top of the main stairway, the Big Boys were to the right and the Little Boys were to the left. Matrons' bedrooms separated the two. There were gang bathrooms across from the Little Boys and the Big Boys' dorms. The Middle Boys used the Little Boys' facilities. A linen room was adjacent to the bathroom and all clothing was numbered. My number was to be "33". It would be a lucky number for me the rest of my life. About that time, a door at the rear of the dorm burst open and a flood of boys entered the dorm. Mrs. Cassidy began introductions. When she was finished, I could not remember a single name. It would take some time to get acquainted. Mother helped me "store" my things and I walked down the stairs with her to the entrance lobby. We hugged, she gave me a kiss, opened the door, and, puff, she was gone. I was on my own in this strange new place unlike any home I had ever lived in.

Later in life, I came to realize how very difficult this parting was for mother. Mrs. Cassidy returned, took my hand and led me to a table in the dining room. I think there were eight boys to a table plus one adult. Food was on the plates but no one started eating until Mrs. Cassidy sat down and lifted her fork. That was the signal. Everybody started eating. I was impressed. The food was good and there was milk and dessert to boot. Table by table each boy picked up his dishes and walked to the dish washing side of the kitchen, scraped the scraps off his plate and exited back to the main hallway.

There was some type of program that evening in the big parlor, but I don't remember a thing about it. Bedtime came and I fell into my bed exhausted, sad and somewhat fearful of tomorrow. To myself I recited a little prayer I remembered from a Sunday School long past. The prayer ended: "May angels guard over my slumbers and when, the morning is dawning, awake me. Amen."

A buzz of activities woke me. The boy in the bed next to me had wet his bed and the matron was helping him change his bedding. The boy on the other side of me said that this boy always wet his bed and explained that was why his bed was closest to the hallway leading to the bathroom. However, he never woke up in time to get to the toilet. We each had to make our own beds. I was taught how to make those "hospital corners." I continue to make hospital corners to this day. After washing up and dressing we lined up for breakfast and when finished, boys started leaving for school. Mrs. Cassidy had told me that she would drive me to school this first day to see that I got properly registered. Sawtelle Elementary School was four blocks distant fronting on Sawtelle Avenue. I was enrolled into the fifth grade. I soon learned that teachers and staff referred to Lark Ellen boys as Home Boys. I wasn't sure whether to be proud or unhappy with that distinction.