Film documenting Lake Bluff Children’s Home debuts Saturday
Updated: October 28, 2011 10:54AM
Although the Lake Bluff Children’s Home was razed in 1979, memories retained by those who worked or lived there, and written records in the archives, have lingered long after its door closed permanently.
Memories, written records, scrapbooks, interviews and re-creations, newspaper clippings, correspondence and period photographs have now made manifest the life of the Home in a documentary created by Lake Bluff resident Kraig Moreland. The film will have its premiere showing as a benefit for the Lake Bluff Historical Museum Sept. 24.
The event highlights the importance of a 75-year old institution in the lives of children who lived there, staff and neighbors, and the community itself. Expected to engage the emotions of everyone involved, the documentary is the result of reaction to a 10-minute vignette prepared for the Museum’s 2008 Ghost Walk.
“It started off as a small film to be shared in the classrooms,” said Vliet Center President Catherine McKechney. “The emotional impact on the audience was huge. We realized it was a story we wanted to tell.”
“People are looking forward to (seeing) it,” said Museum volunteer Pam Russell. “It is an excellent film targeted to adults. It’s very emotional. I have seen the beginning, which is fabulous. It’s going to be great.”
“A Childhood Lost & Found: A Journey Back to the Lake Bluff Children’s Home” will have its public debut at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 at Lake Forest High School’s Raymond Moore Auditorium. Tickets may be ordered online at the Museum’s web site, www.lakebluffhistory.org, or at the Museum, 127 East Scranton Ave., Lake Bluff. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. The telephone number is (847) 482-1571.
“This whole project has taken on a life of its own,” McKechney said.
Moreland’s original work expanded into a two-year effort to make the documentary. Children from the Home independently expressed how important it was for them to know more about their years there. The impact of children on the community has become more evident over the years, such as those listed on the war memorial and the Raymond Moore Auditorium itself.
“Raymond Moore grew up in the Children’s Home and was the first superintendent of Lake Forest High School,” McKechney said.
She said one resident of the home, who attended local schools, came back to Lake Bluff 10 years ago to discover the Children’s Home had been torn down. While touring Lake Bluff, he discovered his name was not on the town’s war memorial to honor those who served in the Korean conflict. His name has been added.
Part of community
“We were his home,” McKechney said. “The children who grew up here are part of the community and always will be.”
Many former residents return to the community. Museum volunteer Russell met a mother and daughter after the July 4th parade who had ties to the Children’s Home. The next day Russell met others who also had lived there.
“Those were just chance encounters of people coming back to town,” Russell said.
Wanted to take on
“Kraig Moreland wanted to take this on,” McKechney said. “It became bigger and bigger and more and more stories came in that had to be included.”
One story in the documentary is that of the former baby Linda Irene Crawley, now 62, married, and living in Georgia.
Crawley was a baby at the Children’s Home in 1948, prior to her adoption and move to Texas with her adopting parents. In her online blog, www.WandertotheWayside.blogspot.com, she discusses her ties to the Home and search for early details of her life. She appears in the film, discusses the experience of looking into her past, mentions the help Moreland and others provided to obtain information about her life in the months prior to her adoption. Through the blog, she has connected with others who also had lived and worked at the Lake Bluff Children’s Home.
She wrote May 24, 2010: “My main goal was to get all this written down for my grandkids to be able to read someday, but I hope one of the side perks will be that someone will read my story and see that anything is possible, at any age! Whether you’re 16, 26, or 62, being adopted comes with built-in frustration of not knowing facts and faces.”
Moreland told Crawley her mother had delayed signing adoption papers because she must have been very conflicted about giving up a child she cared for. He believed the Children’s Home had provided care and love for her during her months there awaiting adoption.
Crawley quoted some comments Moreland sent her based on his work on the documentary. He wrote: “. . . I hope you know how much the people at the Lake Bluff Orphanage, in particular Katy Patterson and her staff, cared for you. I’m sure based on the fact that Katy’s daughter said ‘you couldn’t help to get attached to the babies, especially the ones that were there for a month or longer.’ When she said that, I knew that you were well received and probably talked about on a daily basis by them in trying to find the right home for you. And it was obvious the case worker, Miss Fox, truly cared about your mother, and you too.”
Crawley’s blog offers a detailed perspective about her personal experience as a baby awaiting adoption at the Children’s Home, her participation with Moreland on the documentary, and her subsequent life.
Additional information, photographs and Children’s Home records for others who were cared for at the Children’s Home are posted online at the Museum website.
“We’re always adding to it. You can do a keyword search and see all the materials that are up there,” Russell said.
A DVD of the documentary eventually will be for sale at the Museum, although no specific release date has been set.
“A lot of (documentary production cost) has been out-of-pocket,” she said. “We’re totally funded by donations and staffed by volunteers.”
Therefore, proceeds from the documentary will be used to pay expenses of its production and to support the Museum.
McKechney said the primary intention behind the documentary is “the good work of others. I think people will want to see this story.”