WE WERE NOT ORPHANS: Stories from the Waco State Home
By Sherry Matthews
Foreword by Robert Draper
Oral histories edited by Jesse Sublett
Published by University of Texas Press
"The Waco State Home was the de facto safety net for children who had committed no crime other than the offense of being born poor. Some of them were left on the street by parents who then sped off and were never seen again. Many were badly malnourished; for some, their most recent meal had been, literally, a handful of dirt. These were children as young as three years old, and already their fate was sealed—or would have been, were it not for the Waco State Home."
–Robert Draper, from the Foreword
"We were not orphans. Our parents were living; they just couldn't take care of us." This poignant remark captures the heartbreaking reality faced by thousands of "dependent and neglected" children from the 1920s through the 1970s who grew up at The Waco State Home.
WE WERE NOT ORPHANS gathers riveting recollections from nearly sixty alumni who share their memories of childhood and their triumphs of spirit. Many recall only the positive—bountiful food, caring teachers, victorious sports teams, and friendships and values that have lasted a lifetime. Others recount bloody beatings and sexual molestation that have left physical and emotional scars.
Their intriguing stories of a cloistered world draw laughter and tears. Their memories are vivid and compelling, placing the reader right into the shoes of a child being beaten for the high crime of waving to a sibling or a teen arriving at high school to the humiliating greeting of "here come the homers."
The oral histories are a treasure trove of historical information. And the all-important Epilogue provides documented evidence never before made public that validates the stories of the alumni.
The memories captured here have been kept quietly alive for decades in the hearts and minds of the alumni, many of them now past seventy. Matthews rescued their stories from the scrapheap of history just in time.