|I was born in Washington, D. C. August 30, 1942. For the first almost 50 years of my life I had no knowledge of who my birth parents were or where I had come from. This haunted me all my life and was the driving force behind this book. I just “had to know who I was and where I had come from”. I had suspected from the time I was 6 or 7 years old that I was adopted. It was the little things, like no baby pictures and no stories about when I was born or anything prior to when I was three. My memories start with the small frame house on Glenview Avenue in Tacoma Park, Maryland pictured at the right. Years later when I found my birth mother, I would find out that where she and I lived when she had to give me up for adoption, was just a few blocks from the hospital where my adoptive parents worked and less than a mile from where we lived on Glenview Avenue. My birth mother and I lived on Lincoln Avenue and as you can see on the map below it just a few blocks from Columbia Union College where my parents worked in the hospital. I went to first grade in the Silgo Church school which was located right across the street from the college. I have the two locations marked with red stars. I walked to school every day which was about a mile. When I lived there the area was not nearly as grown up as it is now so there was still a farm right across Silgo Creek at the bottom of the hill where we lived. It was a favorite playground in those days along with the creek of course.|
|I have only limited memories of the time we lived here. I do remember my fourth birthday because I got one of those famous little red wagons. My little red wagon lasted me all through my growing up years even though it got a bit ragged by the time I left home. I found out many years later that the teddy bears in the "wagon" picture had been given to me before I was given up for adoption by my birth mother. The little house on Glenview Avenue was still standing in 2000 although I almost didn't recognize it because someone had added a dormer on one side. It only cost about $3,000 dollars when my adopted parents bought it sometime in the early 1940's. The tax assessor has it valued at $218,000 now! There was one funny incident at least in retrospect. Like most kids of the era I took a nap every afternoon. Of course sometimes I simply didn't feel like sleeping. If I got to playing though, mother would scold me badly and sometimes I might even feel her wrath via a willow switch, her favorite spanking tool. One day I realized how she was able to know what I was doing in spite of a closed door. I discovered the “keyhole”. In order to prevent her from seeing me I stuffed some toilet paper into the hole. Let me tell you I got in a world of trouble when she discovered what I had done. I never did that again. In those days people knew their neighbors and so did we. In fact one of our neighbors came to visit us after we moved to a farm in 1949.|
|Sometime during my fourth year we took a trip to the farm in Nova Scotia where my adoptive mother had grown up. Again my memories are limited but pictures taken at the time help to tell the story. I got to sit in the King's throne. Canada at that time was still part of the British Empire so the Royal family would visit occasionally and of course Canada had a building for them with a throne room specifically for royal visits. I got to sit in the throne. What a thrill for a four year old boy! During my research on my birth family's genealogy, I found some ancestors whose origins were in Nova Scotia. The picture to the left is of me and a cousin. Years later when I was in Germany with the US Army we would meet and take a ride on the Rhine River.|
early 1949 we moved from Tacoma Park, Maryland to a farm near
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Indoor plumbing had not yet become
widespread in rural areas so we had to use a hand pump to get water
in the house and use an outdoor privy for toilet privileges.
Mother also had to resign herself to cooking on a wood cook
stove. Taking baths was also interesting to say the least. Can
you see yourself using a three foot square metal wash tub to take a
bath in? The house we lived in was built in 1859, just before the
Civil War. Being a curious boy, I I went through the contents of the
attic that previous owners had left behind. I found some very long
rifle cartridges which at the time in my vivid imagination most
certainly belonged to a Civil War soldier. Of course our farm was on
the edge of the famous Gettysburg battlefield. Dwight Eisenhower's
farm was less than ten miles away. They closed a number of the
observation towers on the battlefield
during his tenure as President.
When we first moved to the farm there was no plumbing or modern heating system. A wood cook stove, an indoor hand water pump, several fireplaces and an outdoor toilet were meant to serve the necessities of life. That outdoor toilet was the worse. It stunk to high heaven in the summer and you felt you might freeze in the winter. Needless to say an indoor bathroom was one of the early projects that Mother insisted that Dad accomplish. He built it in stages. First he plumbed water into the house and installed an electric water heater. Now we could take hot baths! Of course taking them in a wash tub was a bit cramped but better than no hot bath. The picture to the right is of the main house and it probably was a very nice house for the era in which it was built but in the middle of the twentieth century it lacked a lot. After Dad got the plumbing including the bathroom done and installed an oil furnace between the kitchen and liveing room it turned into a fairly decent home. Now if I could have just kept the windows shut at night but mother insisted we needed fresh air even in the winter time.
Sometime after we moved to the farm I started to get really curious about whether I was adopted. I overheard a conversation that my adoptive mother was having with a member of their church and heard the word adopted. From that I was more sure than ever that I was adopted. Every time I got a chance, I would go through my parents things looking for proof of that. I even found the keys to their safe and inside I discovered my birth certificate that was re-issued after my adoption. Of course it had the names of my adoptive parents as my real parents. I had gone through absolutely everything in that house and could not find a single shred of evidence of my adoption. I gave up the search for the time being. It wouldn't be until after our move to Florida that I would get up the nerve to confront my father about the issue.
I guess my parents didn't like staying in any one place very long or so it seemed as they moved about every 5 years or so. By 1954 I guess it was that time again. Dad sold the farm for $12,000 which was $5,000 more than he paid for it in 1949. Farm land in that area is worth about $3,000 an acre according to the Adams County Farm Bureau so that would make the old farm, if indeed it is still a farm, worth close to a half million bucks! I never did really understand why he took up farming at 50 years of age. It made even less sense when I reached that age myself. There is no way my Dad was as physically able to run a farm as I would have been at 50 but he did it. I can tell you there is no way I would have taken on that big a job at 50. In looking back I suspect that the farm finally got to him and he realized it really was too much for a man of his age who had worked at much less physically demanding jobs most of his adult life.
It was February of that year when we finally got to Avon Park, Florida where both of my parents had taken jobs in the Seventh Day Adventist hospital located just 3 miles north of town on Lake Lillian. Our first home was an old World War II army barracks that had been converted into living quarters for the hospital workers. Let me tell you the hospital didn't put much money into the conversion. The room dividers were war surplus lockers from the army. The dividers between the apartments was a thin fiber board that in some cases had holes. Any disturbance next door became very obvious indeed. I was a naughty little boy because I peeked at the girls next door while they took their showers. A few months later I got up the courage to ask Dad if I was adopted. He replied that he wanted to show me something. He went to the safe and dug out the birth certificate that I had found when we lived on the farm. I told him I had already seen that but I still wanted to know if I was adopted. If he caught the implication of what I said he made no sign of it. He just launched into a story about a young unmarried girl that couldn't take care of me. He said I was supposed to have ended up as a Catholic priest. Later on I found out that all of what he told me was wrong. I don't know if he knew better or just made up a story to satisfy me. I also found out that my birth mother had been misled. She was told that when I was adopted I was going to live on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. It is true we lived on a dairy farm but that was four years after I was adopted. The tales we weave! My adoptive mother never wanted to talk about the adoption. Whenever it was brought up she would get upset so the subject would get changed real quick.
I never liked living in Avon Park. I think it was because I had been used to being able to roam the whole 112 acres of the farm in addition to being able to visit numerous neighbors in Pennsylvania that being cooped up and very limited in my permitted travels that I became bored. It didn't completely keep me from roaming but it did curtail my activities. I always wished we had stayed on the farm for the remainder of my growing up years but that was not to be. Early on I began plotting my escape. I thought of all sorts of scenarios where I would ride off on my bicycle to one of my aunt's homes. The problem was they all lived almost a thousand miles away and it would have taken a long time to get there. The thing that kept me from running away was the realization that I had no clue how I was going to be able to eat and where I would sleep. I knew once I got to one of their places this wouldn't be a problem but what about the trip? The one thing I was used to was eating three good meals a day and sleeping in a decent bed. I started on a different plan. The Seventh Day Adventist church had many private church boarding schools for high school students. I decided that I would find a way to go to one. I sent away for information on a number of such schools. I even got an application for a school in France. I guess I really was trying to get away! I finally settled on Fletcher Academy located near Henderson ville, North Carolina. After graduating from Fletcher Academy in the spring of 1960 I made my first attempt to get information about my original birth records. I was able to a copy of my birth certificate but it was with my adopted name. I was told my original birth certificate was sealed by court order. I tried again after I got out of the Army in 1964 and one more time just before our first daughter was born. By then the doctors wanted to know family medical information which of course I couldn't provide. Each and every time I was rebuffed by the fact that my records were “sealed by court order” in 1945. This policy of permanently sealing adoption records was in my opinion a misguided policy. I am glad we are finally using some common sense in this area.
In 1991 I watched a program about adoptees finding their birth parents and found out that a lot of people shared my agony of not knowing my roots. There also had grown up quite a support network of people willing to help adoptees in their search. I decided I needed to get started as my parents would be getting up in years if in fact they were still alive. I started researching how to find someone along with writing letters to anybody and everybody that I could find that might possibly help in my search. Finally my persistence paid off. A search company in south Florida had suggested that I write to Washington, D.C. asking for non-identifying information from my adoption file. They answered and said they could not find an adoption file for me. That got me to wondering where I might have been adopted if not in Washington, D.C. where I had been born. I remembered that our address was Takoma Park, Maryland so I figured out what county Takoma Park is in and contacted Montgomery County. It turned out that my adoption records were never sealed and for a small fee of about $6, I was able to get a copy of the file which gave me my birth name and my birth mother's birth place which was Minneapolis, Minnesota. I tried calling information in Minneapolis for Thireaux and found out there was a Thereaux listed but no Thireaux. Later on after not getting any new leads I decided to call the Thereaux listing and see what happened. A man answered the phone and after I asked him if he knew a Lorraine Marie Thireaux, he said “Yeah, she's my aunt, why?” I was amazed to hit pay dirt so easily but without stumbling too much I told him about being an adoptee and I was trying to find my parents. He told me to call back in about a week. A week went by and I called him back. He asked me to give him a few more days. Finally on the third call he gave me her phone number in Alexandria, Virginia where she was living at the time. Later on I would find out that he had contacted another aunt who knew about me to see if it was all right to give me the information I was seeking. She told him it was ok to tell me and I have her to thank for finding my birth mother. In short order I called my birth mother and she was tickled to hear from me. I also found out that I have two half sisters with children so the whole process of finding my roots was more than worth the effort.