My Little Orphan Annie story

Jan 06 2020
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My Little Orphan Annie story

By: Mary B.

This story goes back 81 years during the Depression in Kansas City, Mo., where four siblings were left to fend for themselves: Three girls ages 13, 7 and 4 and one boy age 10. Their father was in a V.A. Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo. Their mother worked for ONE DOLLAR A DAY. (One dollar a day! I can’t even begin to imagine working all day for one dollar.) One day their mother just up and left them. She wasn’t making enough to keep her head out of the water. In her mind she knew the children deserved better than what she was giving them. For days the children tried to stay hidden from the landlord. They knew if the landlord saw them they wouldn’t have a place to stay. Eventually, the landlord found the children all alone so he put the children out on the streets. By the luck of God someone saw these children on the streets and asked where their parents were. They called the police who took them to the 1930’s version of what we call the juvenile detention center today. Once they got there and the judge knew the situation with the children he asked, “Where do y’all want to go?” And since the oldest was 13 she had to make the decision. Her choices were the state orphanage or St Joseph’s Catholic Orphan- age. She chose St. Joseph. She knew if she chose the state orphanage they would be separated. The girls would stay together, but their brother would be placed in the boys state orphanage. Little did she know they would be separated anyway. They still got to see their brother but only a couple times. While they were there they also saw their mother a couple of times. My new friend Doris was the youngest sister. I asked her to tell me about the orphanage and she replied, “Awesome!” She said it was a lot of fun even though she stayed in a lot of trouble. Not big trouble. I would say she was just curious. There were several floors to the orphanage and she just wanted to know what was on the other floors. The floors were separated into age groups, so one day she went to the next floor to see what was different about it. Well once she got there she noticed the older girls were make things out of cloth. So she asked, “What are y’all making?’’ They replied, “Bandages for the soldiers in the war.” Little did she know they were making Kotex. They thought she was way too young to understand what they were making. She was only four or five then. Well she began to place them all over body like she was a wounded soldier. I can only imagine how had they were laughing because I was laughing so hard when she told me I almost fell out of my chair. Then I asked, “What was your favorite subject in school?” She said, “Recess!” I should have known that by the way she was telling me her story. Well believe it or not that class clown graduated at the age of 16. After she graduated she went to California and stayed with her mother’s aunt where she tried modeling. I have seen pictures of her when she was younger. She was beautiful and would have made a great model. She is still beautiful today inside and outside. Well modeling wasn’t paying her bills, she said, so she signed up for the Air Force. Because she was still a minor, St Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage was still her guardian and the Mother Superior had to give her permission to go into the Air Force. While she was in the Air Force she was a magician’s assistant. She didn’t do that long — she said a year. While she was there she met Adrian Collins, AKA Pete. You see Pete was engaged when they met, then something happened and the engagement was called off . That was a plus for Doris because she was the lucky lady that eventually became his wife. She was 19 and Pete was 25 when they were married, if I remember correctly. I asked Doris about the places they lived before they moved into the house they are in now. She replied, “We lived in the projects and we only paid $25 a month.” She went on to tell me that Fran, their oldest (she was 5 at the time), got lost one day coming home from school. When she didn’t come home Doris got worried and went to look for her. You see, all the apartment buildings looked alike and Doris found her sitting on someone’s porch crying her eyes out. And from that day Doris tied a scarf on her porch so Fran could find her home. They lived there for about five years. Pete, Doris and their three kids were living in the projects while he was going to medical school. What you don’t know is that Pete previously got kicked out of two colleges because he made bad grades and didn’t go to class. He would pretty much goof off. You see, Pete was smarter than the teachers so he would get bored and do crazy things. One day he bit the bullet and went to the dean of the college and asked if he could come back to school. He really wanted to become a doctor. He promised he would behave and not goof off. The dean agreed to let him back in school, but if Pete messed up he was out. Well Pete agreed, made straight A’s for two years, graduated and became a doctor — Dr. Collins. Sure enough he moved his family out of the projects and into a big house that was close to a school so the children could walk to school because Doris didn’t drive. While they were there Doris became pregnant with their fourth child. When the time came for the baby to be born, the doctor that was supposed to deliver the baby didn’t make it there in time and Pete had to deliver the baby. The house they lived in then was the oldest house in South Shore, Ky. They lived in that house for about eight years. After Dr. Collins had his office up and running in 1969, he had a house built from the ground up for Doris. That’s when they hired Mr. Murphy to do the yard work, fix things, take Doris to the store and run other errands. Mr. Murphy was just like family. He worked for the Collins for 25 years until he retired. I know the Collins family had to miss him with him being with the family for as long as he was. With Mr. Murphy being gone, Doris had no choice but to learn how to drive. Yes, she was 70 years old when she learned to drive. She only drives local though. Dr. Collins’ wasn’t your average everyday doc- tor. He made house calls and if his patient didn’t have the money to pay their bill he would take whatever they had to offer him. He even took chickens for payment one time. Dr. Collins was the only doctor in their town until their oldest daughter Fran married her high school sweet- heart and he became a doctor and joined her dad’s practice. Dr. Collins did woodwork and worked on cars, and his best friend was the garbage man. At one time when they were older, both of them were in the hospital at the same time. Doris had broken her hip and Pete had a heart attack. From what Doris told me, Pete was the worst patient ever. I have to say I do believe that. A brick mason will complain on someone else’s work, the same for carpenter, plumber, etc. Pete and Doris would have celebrated 65 years in December of 2018, however Pete passed away a couple days shy of their anniversary. Doris still resides in the house he had built for her. At the age of 85 she gets around better than most people I know who are 60. I had the pleasure to meet Mrs. Doris Collins recently at her home in Kentucky. I already knew her daughter Fran. She is a regular customer of mine out here in Bellevue. We talk a lot and she had told her mother about me. A month or so back I had mentioned to Fran that I wanted to have my front teeth fixed. They had been fixed a while ago after I’d been in a domestic violence situation, but they had started to break again. One day Fran came and picked me up and told me that her and her mother wanted to pay to have my teeth fixed. I cried like a baby. Her mother has never even met me and wanted to help me. I asked myself, why would this lady want to help someone she has never met? I had to meet this lady so when Fran asked if I would like to go to Kentucky, I said yes. I have to admit I was a little nervous about meeting her. She is a doctor’s wife and our lifestyles are so different. Her house would be all fancy and stuff like that. And me I sell a homeless street paper. I’m sure you can do the math. Boy was I shocked! She is so down to earth. Humble and just a simple lady I guess are the words that I’m looking for. She will keep you laughing. I know she had me laughing from the time we got up until the time we went to bed, and what I really liked about her was she never forgot where she came from. She was raised in an orphanage and never forgot that. When I heard her story I had to ask if I could share her story with others. What I’m hoping is that when people read her story it will remind them of their past. So when they see someone homeless, selling The Contributor or any other street paper they will look at them different. Some of them may have had homes, cars, jobs, business, etc. When she married her husband, Doris took his last name: Collins. If you remember in the first part of her story her dad was in a V.A. Hospital in Fort Collins, Mo., where he passed away. It’s almost like he was giving her his blessing. 

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