Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Bethel Beach Children's Home

We had such sweet but needy children in the children's home--several sets of siblings. Alcoholism was rampant in Juneau. One father who worked on one of the islands came home to discover his alcoholic wife had tied their two little girls in kitchen chairs and gone off drinking for several days. He found the house cold and his girls crying and hungry. Heartbroken, he brought them to the Bethel Beach Home and paid for their care until his job was completed.

Another set of siblings came to us mere hours after their mother had thrown the younger brother and sister off the dock and drowned them. She was diagnosed as a classic schizophrenic and sent to a prison for the criminally insane. The children stayed with us until they were adopted. We kept in touch with them, and I met up with them again when I attended the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

Most of the children came to us through the Bureau of Indian Affairs or welfare. My parents received a small amount for their care. My dad worked at the Alaska Coastal Airlines full time to support us and the home. My mother usually ran the home single-handed. One time, she had thirteen children, nine of us under five, and two babies in cribs, with no help. My parents treated us all the same, whether we were their birth children or not.

We children slept in huge rooms set up dormitory-style, beds set up in rows--one for the girls and one for the boys. Every morning before a home-cooked breakfast, we made our beds and did chores. Each of us had a job to do--dust mop the floors, dust, clean the bathroom, et cetera, depending on our age and ability. Working together, we got them done in no time.

I will continue my memories of the Bethel Beach Children's Home in my next post.

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