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Archive for Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lawhorn’s Lawrence: A tale of an abandoned baby, a dime and a Lawrence laundromat

January 13, 2013

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On Christmas Eve, Amy Marshall got her pre-adoption birth certificate in the mail. She was a bit surprised to see where it listed her place of birth: a laundromat at 19th and Barker in Lawrence. Baby Amy, as she was dubbed by nurses at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, was front-page news in the Journal-World following her abandonment in November 1964. Her parents were never found.

On Christmas Eve, Amy Marshall got her pre-adoption birth certificate in the mail. She was a bit surprised to see where it listed her place of birth: a laundromat at 19th and Barker in Lawrence. Baby Amy, as she was dubbed by nurses at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, was front-page news in the Journal-World following her abandonment in November 1964. Her parents were never found.

Amy Marshall was born in this building at 19th and Barker. It’s now the Bungalow Laundromat but was called the Grover Bungalo Launderette in 1964.

Amy Marshall was born in this building at 19th and Barker. It’s now the Bungalow Laundromat but was called the Grover Bungalo Launderette in 1964.

Amy Marshall, photographed in November in Ireland, was born and abandoned in a Lawrence laundromat in 1964. She now lives in Craig, Alaska, and works as a librarian.

Amy Marshall, photographed in November in Ireland, was born and abandoned in a Lawrence laundromat in 1964. She now lives in Craig, Alaska, and works as a librarian.

A dime’s worth of love goes a long way.

Not that Amy Marshall has ever known of any shortage of love in her life. She’s the adopted daughter of Ken and Winnie Knowles, and love has surrounded her since she entered their home as an infant who was just a few days old.

Amy always knew she was adopted, but she never knew anything of her biological mother. On Christmas Eve, a letter arrived in the mail that was supposed to change that. It didn’t, at least not with a name.

It was her pre-adoption birth certificate, and her mother and father’s names simply were listed as “unknown.” But there was a place on the document that caught Amy’s eye.

Her place of birth was listed as: a "laundry mat," known back then as the Grover Bungalo Launderette at 19th and Barker in Lawrence.

It did not take Amy long to put two and two together. She had long sensed she had been abandoned. But now, at least, she knew where.

So on Christmas Eve she called the laundromat, which is still in operation but under different ownership, and left a message on its answering machine.

“I prefaced it by telling them this will probably be one of the oddest messages they’ve received in awhile,” Amy says.

Then, she e-mailed me. She was looking for a newspaper article from November 1964. I sent her a couple.

There she was on the front page of the Journal-World on Nov. 17, 1964. A big picture of a nurse — a Mrs. Gary Edwinson is how we identified the nurse back then — was holding an infant who earlier that day had been found at the laundromat. The baby was being referred to as “Madame X.”

By the next day, the newspaper reported the nurses at Lawrence Memorial quickly had tossed aside that name, and started calling her Amy.

“The baby is in excellent health, and she is a little dandy,” then-Lawrence Police Detective Dick Stanwix announced to the city. Stanwix, who died five years ago, later would become the police chief.

The articles, though, had lots of other details. A baby, likely no more than three hours old, was found laying unwrapped on a blanket on the bathroom floor of the Bungalo Launderette. Amniotic fluid was still fresh on the baby when A.T. and Jean House came to the laundromat at 6 a.m. to give the place its daily cleaning.

“I had terribly mixed emotions — I was concerned, wanted to cry,” Mrs. House told the Journal-World at the time. “But when I felt the baby, I knew I had to get her warm fast. She was awfully cold.”

It was 42 degrees outside that night, the paper reported.

“I’ve been thinking about her quite a bit these last couple of days,” Amy says of the woman who gave her a bit of needed warmth.

But there was one other detail in the articles: A dime. Police found that a dime had been placed on top of the laundromat’s pay phone. They surmised that it was left there so that whoever found the baby could call for help.

“When I read that, that’s when I lost it,” Amy says. “That is when I started bawling. It was devastating — in a good way.”

A baby, a dime and a mystery: That was the last Lawrence ever heard of Baby Amy. The parents were never found, and Amy’s case became another sealed adoption file.

And a lingering question, to some. Dr. Phillip Godwin was the physician on call at the emergency room that day. Godwin told me he remembers the case well. It was the only abandoned baby case he ever worked. He listened intently as I told him of what became of Baby Amy’s life.

“Just a couple of months ago, I was thinking of her,” Godwin said. “I wondered what ever became of that baby. This is good because that has sort of hung over me for a while.”

Brad House laughed when he heard that. Brad, at the time, was the 13-year old son of A.T. and Jean House. Just weeks ago, his younger sister was back for the holidays, and they asked the same question of each other.

“My mother would be jumping up and down with joy right now,” Brad said.

She should. Life has been good for Baby Amy. She lives in Craig, Alaska, where she works as the head librarian in the small town on Prince of Wales Island. Her adopted family took her from Lawrence to their home in Derby. She lived there until she was 7, when her father’s job caused the family to transfer to New York state. She grew up there, ended up getting two degrees — maritime history and nautical archeology — and has traveled the world as an underwater archeologist.

“It has been fun,” Amy says of everything that has happened since she first got a little warmth.

But still, there was the beginning on a cold bathroom floor.

Sure, even before the Christmas Eve letter, Amy had plenty of scenarios that floated around in her head.

“My absolute best-case scenario was that she had me in a hospital, and kissed me goodbye,” Amy says.

There is no way to know, but Amy suspects her mother was a young college student, who — for whatever reason — wanted to hide her pregnancy.

“My dad probably never knew a thing in the world that I exist,” she says.

But somebody does — maybe a couple of somebodies. Amy figures that if her mother was a young college student, there had to at least be a girlfriend who knew. Nobody goes through this completely alone.

But who knows? This is all coming from Baby Amy’s churning mind, a mind that has been turning for a long time.

“Until I became a mom, I didn’t have a clue what she could have been thinking,” Amy says.

Yes, Amy and her husband have two children, a 15-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter.

“Her grandkids rock, by the way,” Amy says.

Maybe that will particularly please somebody who reads this. If Amy is right, her mother probably would be approaching 70 now — approaching an ending stage, surely with the story of a beginning still on her mind.

Would Amy want to meet her?

Not a moment’s hesitation: Yes.

She remembers how she felt when she read about that dime.

“My heart broke,” she says. “It broke on several levels. I’m sorry for that — I was sorry for that girl that it happened to.

“I would love to say thank you to her. That’s the gist of it. She had choices. The mother always has choices, and she made a great choice. I hope it got better for her. I really hope she found peace. I wouldn’t want her to go through life thinking something bad happened, because it didn’t.”

A little love, indeed, goes a long way.

Comments

thefishingwidow 1 year, 3 months ago

But what many don't realize is that the "secret" hangs over your whole life like some Damoclean sword. I mean, do you really live in terror that your adopted daughter or son will someday come to call? Some do. Some adoptive parents don't tell their child he or she is adopted, sometimes with devastating and unintended consequences--that the child feels less loved or less a part of the family. My brother and I always knew and it was no big deal. My mom and I, though, had another nature vs. nurture talk yesterday afternoon and she actually told me that she never felt "competent" as a mom. Really? Seriously? I thought she's done AWESOME. I mean, not that my brother and I were or are angels by any stretch of the imagination, but the woman's going to get a high-five from St. Peter when the time comes. But, nature DOES trump nurture. The genetic component is incredibly dominant. It's why I have to correct something Chad put in the article. I was 4 months old when mom and dad got me. At that time in Kansas, the state would not put newborns up for adoption like that -- not until after 3 months of age, because they did cognitive and mental testing to ensure the infants weren't retarded (their word in 1964). Only after those tests were infants put up for adoption. So, thanks also to the foster family in Lawrence who had me for 4 months or so (after the nurses finally gave me up). If any of the nurses are still alive, I'm sure they'd get a kick out of the fact that my parents kept the name THEY gave me in the hospital.

One other happy (and slightly weird and disturbing) note. Well, it's happy in that I spent over an hour on the phone yesterday to Debbie House -- the daughter of A.T. and Jean House -- the couple in the story who found me at the laundrette. What an absolutely WONDERFUL woman and we hit it off IMMEDIATELY. What was weird and slightly disturbing, though, was when she said there was something she had to SAY to me. And it was this: I was born in the early hours of November 16, 1964 on the floor of that bathroom. On November 16, 1963 -- one year to the DAY earlier -- Wallce E. Grover, Jean's father and the owner of the laundrette, in the early morning hours, arrived at the laundrette, walked to the back, hung up his coat, and died instantly of a massive coronary no more than three feet from where I was found. So. the emotions of the House family that day a year later were already shredded because of the anniversary of Mr. Grover's death. I cannot imagine what was going through their minds when they walked in and found a crying baby ..... (I'm also an author. It's saying something when my truth becomes even more bizarre than my fiction)

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MyFatherDanced 1 year, 3 months ago

I find it so devastatingly sad that adoptees still have to go up against this secrecy "wall". The situation that George Braziller describes breaks my heart. For the birthfather to be so paralyzed by this 31 yr old "secret", for his daughter who is being robbed of the choice to meet and/or know her sister (or even know of her), for the grandparents loss of knowing they have a grandchild, etc. Secrecy in adoption is so wrong on so many levels, yet society allows it. The same old myths are promoted and well-meaning people like George feel the need to carry on these secrets. It's so damaging.

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George_Braziller 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes there are more than a few who have to know. My college roommate fathered a child in 1981. The mother's parents had her live out of state during the pregnancy and their daughter was adopted by a family in Florida.

My roommate swore me to secrecy and to this day none of his family including his mother, siblings, ex-wife, or his other daughter knows he fathered another child. Even after 32 years if his mother found out and asked me about the child and the mother's name I'm not sure I could or would reveal it. I made a promise and I don't intend to break it.

'"But somebody does — maybe a couple of somebodies. Amy figures that if her mother was a young college student, there had to at least be a girlfriend who knew. Nobody goes through this completely alone."

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 3 months ago

A friend now deceased became pregnant while at KU. The baby was adopted . The mother moved back to Lawrence , worked at KU. She scoured each and every face of every co ed on campus searching for her first born.Before her death she found her daughter as well as her own mother and the fate of who her father was. Anyway, a classmate from high was adopted and before her death several years ago connected with her mother and found she had 1/2 siblings, sisters.

Another friend now in Lawrence adopted and the bio mother is in Lawrence.

I would not be surprised if this Amy 's bio parents are not far from the area and that mother might be on a search as well.

I wonder if Amy has registered on a particular adoption registry website?

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tejasangel 1 year, 3 months ago

Many biological families are submitting DNA to databases such as 23andme.com ftdna.com and ancestry.com in efforts to reunite with relatives. 23andme.com is nice because the results show health risks as well as connect you with biological relatives. Those results can then be uploaded into ftdna and ancestry. The autosomal or "family finder" test pulls dna from both the mother and the father and will give links to recent relatives. Even if your immediate family doesn't sign up it is possible to discover which family tree you belong in..... as an older adoptee I searched and found decades ago and now help others reunite as a Search Angel. As soon as my dna was uploaded to 23andme.com I was notified I had a second cousin. I didn't recognize her name and upon contact discovered SHE was adopted out of the family. Thru lots of research we believe we have the branch and we will find her original family.

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WorldCitizen 1 year, 3 months ago

Amy, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I have lived in the Bungalow Laundromat neighborhood for about 35 years and consider it a good, benign place for you to have entered this earth.

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Jason Johnson 1 year, 3 months ago

Ugh I have to learn not to read stories like this at work. Brought tears to my eyes of the what-ifs, and so glad it turned out well.

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HawksWin 1 year, 3 months ago

Chad, Thanks for the story on celebrating life, what a beautiful story. Life is full of choices, and this mother made the right choice - look what life she gave to her daughter - what a gift. God bless that mother, and all mothers who embrace the gift of love, gift of life. Unfortunately, too many women today embrace self-love. A society that kills unborn is the society that throws away love and motherhood. Since 1973, 50M+ babies have been aborted in the US. Just think these babies would have their grand babies by now, and how that would have shaped our demographics. The baby boom was the largest generation, and it was the engine for our country's economic growth creating the largest middle class consumers in the world. 50M+ aborted babies would have created a second wave of baby boom generation that would have been another economic force to be reckon with in the world, and also likely be paying into social security benefits for decades to come unlike what we see today. A society has choices and with each come with consequences; it starts with each one of us, and with each mother. God bless our mothers, and their love for life.

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David Klamet 1 year, 3 months ago

Very good story.

I would like to formalize what blue73harley said.

Give Chad a raise.

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none2 1 year, 3 months ago

I hope all continues to be well with Amy regardless if she ever finds her biological parents.
Likewise, I hope all is well with the relationship and the story that Ron shared about another baby.

Just keep in mind that there are so many permutations on human reactions including on the topic of adoption. So you have to always remember that if someone rejects your love, that is their limitation not yours.

I've done a lot of genealogy, and one story I ran into was so very sad...

I check out all my branches including one branch that is not easy to talk about. I will just say that they were never part of my life, so my interest is simply curiosity more than anything else.

Anyway, while investigating that branch there was a woman who was basically dumped by BOTH her husband and her own parents. (FYI: I'm related to the husband.) Anyway, she hitchhiked from Nebraska down to Arkansas and was living in abandoned buildings with a two boys: a baby and a toddler. She and the baby got sick and eventually died; the boy toddler lived. Neither his father nor grandparents came back to claim the toddler, so he was eventually adopted out.

He loved his adopt parents. He only had one lingering wish in regards to his biological family. He had a lifelong wish just to have a photo of his biological mother. She was about 19 when she and his baby brother died. My guess is that since this happened during the Great Depression, she may not have ever had a photo.

Nevertheless, I haven't gotten to the really sad part. He started researching about his biological past AFTER his adopted mother died. His adopted siblings found out about it and told their dad. Not only was he no longer welcome in their family, but the adopted father cut him out of his will.

I hope this is one of those rare one of a kind stories, but I was so sad for him. His only crime was wanting a photo. It is bad enough that some are rejected by their biological parents, but when you read about adopted parents who reject them that seems doubly horrible. Yes he was an older man when his father and siblings rejected him, but even adults have hearts that can be broken.

Unfortunately, this man died a few years ago. I really hope that over all he had a great life. It is just that when I heard that story, I felt so sorry for him. I would not have known about this story except that his widow shared it with me.

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Laus_Deo 1 year, 3 months ago

“My absolute best-case scenario was that she had me in a hospital, and kissed me goodbye,” Amy says.

There is no way to know, but Amy suspects her mother was a young college student, who — for whatever reason — wanted to hide her pregnancy.

1964 was before Roe v Wade?

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bearded_gnome 1 year, 3 months ago

Misplaced-cheesehead, on Dad being naughty.

once, when I was age 12, I visited Dad at work, and we went to lunch. his job was about 20 miles away from home.

I still have a vivid memory of being introduced to a woman who just happened by, and feeling in my gut that there was some electricity there but at that age I didn't know what to make of it.
this would've been something like 1973.

I still don't know if there was or not. just a few years later my father died a drunken driver vastly overworked (trying to keep two jobs) with a wife who might not have been as supportive as she ought to have been.

I too have wondered was there a relationship? ought I to post his photo/name in that community's paper?

at his funeral, there was a huge turnout and he was quite well missed, he had carried a badge, though he wasn't a lawman in the traditional sense.

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bearded_gnome 1 year, 3 months ago

BTW, Old Hometown Sarah's column's have been missing for a couple days. guess she's on a fact finding tour.

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Christine Anderson 1 year, 3 months ago

My heart still hurts for Ron. I hope that in his contact with Baby John Doe, there has been a relationship of some meaning formed. So sorry the police did not canvas thoroughly then.

I often wonder if I have additional half-siblings out there, as my father was a very naugty boy in the '60's. Time would be running out to find them. Have thought of placing an ad in the Fort Riley newspaper with my dad's photo from back then, saying, "Attention, older ladies. Did you sleep with this man?"

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bearded_gnome 1 year, 3 months ago

^^The-big-B wrote:

btw ... It is rumored that I was conceived in a laundry mat, and it has been confirmed that I am a little dandy.

---if you sprang from a laundromat, so, does that really mean you're just an upright agitator in hot water blowing bubbles?

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LJ Whirled 1 year, 3 months ago

It is nice to see someone looking around them and writing real stories. Maybe the Topeka CJ will pick it up on the wire. ;-)

Thanks for the story, Chad.

btw ... It is rumored that I was conceived in a laundry mat, and it has been confirmed that I am a little dandy.

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FlintlockRifle 1 year, 3 months ago

Hey Chad, keep digging up these good ole news stories, you and Miss Sarah are the top story detectives there at LJW

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bornon7 1 year, 3 months ago

Good story, Chad! There really is more to Lawrence than the sports!

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Starbrite 1 year, 3 months ago

What a wonderful story!

If adoptees [or the public in general] want to find genetic relatives, it is easier now than ever to do that with DNA testing. There are several companies that specialize in DNA testing for recent as well as "deep" ancestry. For example:

One company, FamilyTreeDNA, has what is called "Family Finder" that checks thousands of points in the autosomal DNA and matches them to others who have done the test and are in the database. One can potentially connect to genetic parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even cousins up to 5 or 6 generations back across all lines. One can choose to be notified when there are matches and then contact those matches to see how they connect and determine who the common ancestor is that they share..

Another company, 23andMe also offers a similar test, "Relative Finder," for autosomal DNA, matching genetic relatives, who have also taken the test, up to 5 or 6 generations, as well as giving ethnic percentages and testing for health risks for many conditions. Again, one can choose to be notified when there are matches with genetic relatives.

These are just a couple of examples of DNA tests that are now available.

Of course male adoptees, can take the Y-DNA test that will trace from father to father to father back thousands of years. Sometimes this can help to determine the surname [during the recent past] of the birth father.

Both females and males can take the MtDNA test (mitochondrial DNA test) that goes from daughter [or son] back many generations on the maternal line though this is not as helpful for determining surnames.

I am no expert on DNA or DNA testing and am not endorsing any company, but I find it exciting that so much can be learned about our ancestry these days with just a simple saliva test.

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blue73harley 1 year, 3 months ago

Chad, what ever the LJW pays you isn't enough. Great story.

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amy3602 1 year, 3 months ago

Hope Amy will find the answers she deserves about her abandonment. I hope she will keep searching. There are many search angels now that more states in the U.S. are allowing adults adopted as children to obtain the original birth certificates. Most single mothers during the Baby Scoop Era had no choice except to give up their newborns. That dime was heart breaker. No mother forgets their first born. Many single mothers from this era never received any support to keep their babies. The Girls Who Went Away is a good book by Prof. Ann Fessler, an adoptee herself.

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Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 3 months ago

I am really surprised - in the newspaper coverage of Baby John Doe, who was found in an apartment stairwell at 2400 Alabama on January 19, 1986, none of the SRS workers could recall any other cases of abandoned infants found in Lawrence.

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bearded_gnome 1 year, 3 months ago

Thanks Chad.

“It has been fun,” Amy says of everything that has happened since she first got a little warmth.

---yes, we all need a little warmth.
thanks for this wonderful story. hope that Amy's mom or even dad sees this. her mom did make some right choices indeed.

the power of a dime. the power to reach out to contact. ...

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