Friday, January 8, 2010

Hope Cottage History

One of the best things about being new to an organization, especially for a history buff, is that everything is a new discovery. I was going through a stack of pictures and found this darling photo of a young girl with what we used to call a Buster Brown haircut. Maybe because I spent most of my youth with the same haircut, or for another reason, but the photo intrigued me. There was no name on the back, no date and no one here knew anything about the photo's subject. The picture stayed in my office and every now and then I would wonder about the young girl. I knew for sure if her photo was in our agency, she was probably a Hope Baby (what we call children adopted through Hope Cottage), but that was all.

In the development field, old newsletters can be a treasure trove of information about the organization, so I set myself on the task of organizing into one central file copies of old Hope Cottage newsletters. And guess what - there was the girl! It seems in 1983, as part of the the 65th Birthday Celebration of Hope Cottage, oral histories were recorded of people whose lives had been touched by Hope Cottage. (I am determined to locate those also!)

So here, in her own words, is a little about our mystery girl, Hope Watson Rohr, one of the first children adopted from Hope Cottage in 1918. And by the way, Hope Cottage is on a search to find the oldest living Hope Baby, so help spread the word!

"I was born June 16, 1918 and lived in a foundling home operated by Mrs. Ballard until I was six months old. On December 18, 1918, I was adopted by Luke and Ethel Watson."

Mrs. Rohr said her dad told her she was the only one of the 18 babies who wasn't crying when he visited the cottage. From the start, she felt she was "chosen". She was quite small when she was born and weighed only six pounds at six months. Mrs. Ballard told Hope's father that she had two white elephants on her hands - Hope and Hope Cottage - and she "hoped" both would survive and flourish.

In the early 1920's, Hope was playing with a neighbor named Rose..."One day we were quarreling over a piece of lace for our dolls, and she told me I didn't belong to my parents. I was shocked and hurt. I ran into the house to ask my mother if I was adopted and she said , 'Yes, you are adopted. Your dad and I wanted a child very much and we chose you because we wanted you. Your little friend's parents are STUCK with her.' That made my day - and you know what I said to Rose!"

Hope married Kirby C. Rohr on Valentine's Day 44 years ago (circa 1939) and she still "wouldn't trade him for anything." They have three grown children and two grandchildren, one of whom is adopted. Through legal documents, she was able to locate her only relatives, an aunt and uncle. "We went to Dallas and visited with them because the children asked so many questions about my side of the house." She learned that her birth mother, grandmother and great-grandmother had been victims of the influenza epidemic of 1918. Her relatives gave her photographs of her birth family. "There is a strong resemblance between my oldest son and my grandfather, and I look exactly like my mother and grandmother."

"I'm glad I found them because they are both gone, so there is absolutely no way or no one living who can prove anything. If it had not been for Betty Rushing, Betty Clinkinbeard, and Rose Katz of Hope Cottage, I would not have been able to prove anything in order to draw my Social Security. These lovely ladies bent over backwards trying to help me get things straightened out and they did. I will be forever grateful to them. I have referred several people to Hope Cottage."

She still firmly believes, "All adopted people are very special - we are chosen."

But that is not all to the story. It seems that Hope didn't always sport a Buster Brown Cut. The picture in my office and at the top of this article was actually the second picture I found of Hope. At left is another picture I found of Hope. Notice the long hair. It seems that Hope's mom would roll her hair every night on old stockings so that it would look pretty the next day. Her father thought that was just too much work, so one day he dressed her up in her fur collar and muff and took her to the photo shop and had this picture made. Next stop was the barber shop. The result was the Buster Brown. And then he took her home for her mother to see. Needless to say, her mother was quite shocked. I think we can assume at some point her mother got over the shock. Keep watching the blog for more Hope Baby stories - if you have one of your own, give us a call at 214.526.8721, ext. 242 or e-mail We want to hear from you!

1 comment:

  1. Leslie -- this is precious. God Bless Hope Cottage!