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Everyday History: Adoptions brought many names

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  • Everyday History: Adoptions brought many names

    http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_np=...&u_sid=1137802

    Everyday History: Adoptions brought many names

    BY DAVID HARDING


    By the time she was 18 years old, she'd been called a lot of names - Alice,
    Thelma, Mary, Louise. It happens when you get adopted, not once, but several
    times.

    Alice's mother was in the midst of her eighth pregnancy when she died of kidney
    disease in 1927. A previous child had died at birth, and her husband decided he
    couldn't handle the remaining six, so he adopted them out. The oldest boy was
    sent to the Omaha Home for Boys.

    "My sister Hazel went to Dad's relatives," said Alice, now 86 years old and
    living in Omaha. "He told them if they took her, they could have my mother's
    sewing machine."

    The remaining four children came from their hometown of Harvard, Neb., to the
    Child Saving Institute (CSI) in Omaha. Within a year, all of them were placed
    with families. Nine-year-old Alice and her younger brother Albert went to a
    Missouri couple. The two children were close in age, and institute officials
    felt they should stay together, so it was made a condition of their adoption.

    Alice liked her new family. Her new parents gave her a new name - Thelma
    Knobel- and they let her choose between two middle names, which they wrote on a
    sheet of paper. She chose "Doris" because she didn't like the sound of the
    other name, which she thought was pronounced like the two words it contains -
    "Beat-rice."

    Her new life was interrupted when the Missouri couple decided they wanted only
    Alice and sent her brother back to the agency, which responded by filing a
    lawsuit over the separation of the two children. The case made headlines as it
    went all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court before Alice was returned to the
    Child Saving Institute.

    She took back her original name of Alice Pollard for a year, then was adopted
    by a teacher from Scribner, who named her "Mary Alice Lillie." When her
    adoptive mother developed serious health problems a year or two later, Alice
    found herself back at the agency home, reunited once more with her original
    name.

    Alice loved "the home," as she refers to the agency. It was situated just east
    of what is now the Nebraska Medical Center in the posh Gold Coast neighborhood.
    Her playmates included privileged girls who shared toys with her.

    "I felt like I had money when I lived at the home," Alice recalled.

    Adopted again the following year, she went to live with a family near Guide
    Rock in the Republican River valley. She arrived during the bleakest part of
    the mid-1930s drought. Alice remembers little from that time, except for
    crouching in a cave while waiting for a blinding dust storm to pass.

    She can't recall if they gave her a different name, but she does remember
    writing a letter to the superintendent at the Child Saving Institute, saying
    that if they didn't come to get her, she'd run away and return to the agency on
    her own.

    Before long, she received a letter asking her to come back to the agency for a
    visit. She never left the home again until she married. The agency gave her an
    apartment, and after her graduation from Technical High School she got a job
    and paid rent.

    The Child Saving Institute traditionally took in young children and had to
    place them only once, so Alice's case was unusual. She feels lucky for all the
    kindness she received from her adoptive families and at the agency home.

    Alice kept in touch with her first adoptive family in Missouri and visited
    there as a young adult.

    When her bus arrived, family members weren't there to meet her. A flat tire had
    delayed them, so they sent a nephew instead. His name was Joe Combs.

    One thing led to another and before long Alice changed her name again. She
    became Alice Louise Combs, and this time the name stuck.



    -------------------------
    A good friend will come and bail you out of jail . . . but, a true friend will
    be sitting next to you saying, "**** . . . that was fun!"
    -----Unknown
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