Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

 
James Browning

stories from the book
by James V. Browning


It All Started the Day I Was Born

Larry McCauley


Being born on February 29 should have been the first clue that things were destined to always be just a little different. As you will see throughout this discourse, if you stay awake, things haven’t always been “normal.” Nonetheless, I have enjoyed most of what has transpired over my lifespan of “13 years.” Perhaps 13 birthdays would be more accurate.

Come with me as I take you through an interesting journey exploring some of my memories of the Baptist Children’s Home. You do know that it was originally known as the Baptist Orphanage, didn’t you? Well, now you know. When I begin to talk with my friends, I always milk the “orphanage” aspect as much as possible. Although that conversation is getting less and less mileage with my friends today.

As I understand it, per James V. Browning, I hold the record for staying at BCH longer than anyone else. At times, I felt I was there longer than most and often wished that I could have had a normal family. As I read some of the stories about others who came to live at the Home, I felt lucky that I didn’t have to go through a lot of what they experienced. Lucky, you say, how can anyone feel lucky being raised in a children’s home? I didn’t have to live in squalor, eat from a dog dish, run around with a dirty diaper all day that would eventually cause rash and burns and require medical attention....yes, I was lucky.

I REMEMBER...

.....playing in the nursery (the old Phillips building, the infirmary was on the top floor) with other children.

.....sneaking up late at night, hiding in the bathroom reading comic books and drinking hot water.

....having my tonsils out at Mercy Hospital and throwing up all the way home. (Little did I know that someday I would have hospital privileges at Mercy to admit and discharge my patients.)

.....being moved up from the nursery to the “little boys’ cottage.” Whew! Did I feel big or what!

.....I was given my own rabbit to have and hold while napping. Also, was told not to take the buttons off. Guess what? That is exactly what I did. Where were those laws that govern safe toys in those days??

.....Ah, yes, and then it was kindergarten time. Remember walking to and from school on N.W. 63rd? I sure do. We would wait for the bell to ring. Because we were smaller, we got a head start. Friends and family still don’t want to believe we walked almost a mile each way to school. Mrs. Gilbrieth was my kindergarten teacher....almost flunked. When the weather was good, we could go outside and play, but when it was bad, we were expected to stay in the gym and square dance. Of course, I’m in a much higher grade by now, maybe the second grade. I told the teacher, “I can’t dance because I live at the Baptist Children’s Home and we are Christians.” So much for witnessing at such an early age.

.....there was a tree between Scott Cottage and N. W. 63rd that I remember being huge. Often we would climb it, jump off and think that we were some jungle heroes. Years later when seeing the tree, I couldn’t believe it was so small. Interesting how time seems to change how we see things. Things from trees to God seem to take on new and exciting qualities with the passing of time.

.....Hey!!! Who was that rich man that would always show up at Homecoming and throw handfuls of coins into the swimming pool? I thought that man was crazy. He’d bring several bags of money (coins of nickels, dimes, quarters and half-dollars) and literally throw them into the pool for us kids to retrieve and keep. Where is Dr. Worten today when I could really use those bags of money??!! He was crazy--crazy for kids and for the betterment of them and their lives.

.....Mr. & Mrs. Gowdy were the people in charge of the kitchen and commissary. I was bewildered when sitting on the stairs waiting for supper, and Mr. Gowdy came out with his hand on fire. We all freaked out. It scared all of us to see this grown man, running around screaming for help. All to find out that it was lighter fluid on his hand that made it so spectacular. Weird what we remember in those early years, yes?

  • Continued...

    .....when it was visitation time for family on Sundays, most of the boys’ families would go into the living room at Scott Cottage and visit there. I was so angry that no one would ever come to see me that I was bound and determined to share some of those visits with other guys. I would start from the stairs and run full-speed to the center of the living room, stop suddenly, leap high into the air and land flat on my butt. Of course, everyone though it cute and would laugh. Naturally with such attention, the performance was repeated ad nauseaum. Needless to say, I was strongly encouraged to stay out of the living room during Sunday visits thereafter.

    .....somewhere between the Scott (little boys) Cottage and the Hodge (junior boys) Cottage, I was introduced to the strange and awful concept of “work.” Mrs. Davidson ran the kitchen and dining room. She ran it with affection and strict accountability. This is where my work ethic really began. She expected excellence and she got it. She had a way of making you want to please her as well as getting the rewards she gave. Then there was her husband, Mr. Davidson, but most of us called him “Pete.” NO!!! We didn’t do it to his face, because we knew we’d be in big trouble.

    .....one morning, early, I woke up in the back of his pickup. It seems as though I had a dream and went night-walking, crawling into the back of his pick-up. That, in and of itself, wasn’t so bad. However, what was embarrassing was having to walk back into the cottage while only in my underwear.

    .....how could one not remember Ms. Millie Armstrong, who was the housemother at Hodge? Her days off were on Wednesday and we would anticipate her arrival each Wednesday evening, because we knew she had a surprise for us. We waited at the window impatiently for the sight of her.

    .....what about those trips down the laundry shoot, from the second floor, landing on a pile of sheets? We may have been daring and risk-taking, but we weren’t mean by removing the “soft landing.” But--it did enter our minds.

    .....then there was the time when, on Saturdays, we would have to go and pick up trash with those old metal trash cans. BORING. So to get some excitement, we would stage a fight along N. W. 63rd for those who drove by. We would put our trash cans down, act like two or three guys were beating up on another kid and, of course someone would inevitably stop to lend a helping hand. When they stopped, we disappeared somewhere into the weeds, never to be found, and laughing all the way. Again, that wasn’t me, you understand, that was those other guys.

    .....how can I ever forget those Saturdays when we boiled water all night on Friday, pulled chickens from the crates, next to the laundry, cut their heads off (the brave ones “rung” the heads), watched the chickens flop until they died; placed them in the boiling water, pulled the feathers, then cut them up for Sunday dinner?

    .....during specific times of the season, a handful of us kids were rounded up, taken to the basement of the office and stuffed envelopes which were asking for contributions to the Children’s Home. I never got so tired of stuffing envelopes. I guess that’s why my kids don’t get too many letters from me. Also, after finishing licking all day, my tongue felt like a piece of gum!!

    .....music was a great tradition of the BCH. The “Tri-Tones” and the ???? (I can’t remember what the boys’ quartet was called) traveled the state, singing in churches. Piano lessons, choirs and singing groups were important, but I had to make that awful decision....music or jock? I opted for athletics. Glad I did--it got me through college.

    .....Christmas and the Christmas pageant on top of the old dining room. What memories! The room was packed full of anticipating children. We sang to the top of our lungs, watched the Christmas story and then on queue, Santa arrived with presents for each and everyone of us. No, regardless of what one might think, we did not go wanting at Christmas time. We were blessed with many Baptist churches giving of their time and presents. Likewise, there were many businesses and organizations who invited the entire campus to Christmas parties, feeding us and giving everyone a nice present. Many, many good memories of Christmas time at the BCH.

    .....remember when we were quarantined for two or so weeks over Christmas time back in the mid-1950s? It was because one of our boys had spinal meningitis. No school, but no Christmas vacation for kids or staff. And they came from the hospital and made everyone take shots. We were ecstatic about not having to go to school, but were not too pleased with the additional chores around the Martin (big boys’) Cottage.

    .....Ms. Bruton was the housemother of Martin Cottage. The most prominent memory was the aroma of the sweet rolls she would make about once a month. We may not have had the most up-to-date food at BCH, nor the most fresh, but one thing is for sure, you couldn’t find any group of cooks better than those hired by BCH. We never went hungry.

    .....then there was the time I was sending flashlight signals to my girlfriend (Bonnie Mathis) from across the campus. We had our own code we devised. One day on the way to school, she asked why the flashlight message stopped. Yes, you’re ahead of me. I got caught and to this day, don’t remember what happened. Knowing me, I was probably right back at it the next night. NO, not me!!

    .....church was a place where we were allowed a certain amount of freedom. We were divided up into four different church groups. How they divided us up is beyond me. I was raised under the sermons of H. H. Hobbs, at First Baptist Church. I could never understand all those big words he used and I was forever nodding off and getting thumped on the head. To stay awake, we’d write letters of the alphabet in the hand of the person next to us as a way of sending messages. During Sunday School, I remember taking a break to go to the bathroom. It is simply amazing how a handful of wet paper towels look on the top of new cars parked in the Morris Chevrolet Company’s lot. WHAT, me, no--it was those other guys who did it, I was simply a spectator.

    .....Mrs. Stinson had to deal with a severe problem of mine. (It is confession time.) Not being able to have money of my own, I devised a way to meet that need. (This is embarrassing.) I volunteered to help take up the Sunday School offering one Sunday. I thought if I could only get 25 or 50 cents, I would be set for the week. As I took the offering up front, I quickly slipped an envelope from the plate, stuck it into my pocket, very surreptitiously, and then went to the bathroom to see my booty. NO!!! I ended up getting my teacher’s offering. If memory serves me right, there was about $30 in the envelope. My first feeling of being rich, and the last feeling of being rich, all in one day. I was caught, sent to Mrs. Stinson’s office and questioned at length. I talked my way out of it, even though she and the Sunday School teacher knew I was the culprit. The following week, my Sunday School teacher called and requested that I work for him on Saturday. He had a lot of yard work and house cleaning that needed to be done. He called specifically for me. When I arrive at his house, it was beautiful, well-decorated and landscaped. I have never been worked so hard in all my life. We worked half a day, took a lunch break and then he had to run some errands. “Larry,” he said, “I’m putting you in charge of the house while I am gone. Don’t let anyone in and make sure that everything in the house is safe and secure. Do you understand?” “Yes, Sir,” I responded. When he walked out the door, I was the most confused person in the world. As I reasoned with myself, I couldn’t understand why he would put such a responsibility on my shoulders. I knew he knew that I knew I was the one who stole his offering money. (Little did I know offering records were kept.) There I was--in charge of this man’s house; anything I wanted was in arms’ length. I took nothing and even felt guilty that he would even consider hiring me, to say nothing of bringing me to his house and putting me in charge of it.

    The rest of the story: Years later, while working on a Master’s in Theology from Wheaton College, I was studying a passage in Ephesians. More specifically, Ephesians 4:28, in the NIV, says: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” Tears rolled down my cheeks as I pondered this Scripture. What a witness to Scripture! It certainly has impacted my view of things ever since. What is that old adage? Actions speak louder than words.

    .....then there was Ms. Mildred Gillam...what can I say? She was the “tough ole (not OLD) lady” who transported us kids all over the place. I have so many fond memories of her. Perhaps the two that stand out and that need to be made public are: (1) one day three of us had to get to high school early one morning. It was I and the Parrish twins, Terry and Jerry. Mildred was in a bit of a hurry and accidentally hit one of the dogs on campus. She stopped, looked back, couldn’t see the dog, backed up and hit it again. One of the Parrish twins said something to the effect: “Geez, Mildred, you hit him once and now you hit him again, do you want to make sure he’s really dead?” The car got really quiet all the way to school; (2) as a track runner in high school, I spent many hours practicing after school. Many days it was not uncommon for me to run in excess of 10 miles. I would call Mildred to see if she would come to get me. She’d ask me how far I had run that day, and then would say, “If you can run 10 miles, then for you to walk home three miles is no big deal!!!” Most days, she’d be free to come get me, but on those other days, I would hoof it to the campus.

    There were sooo many happenings and memories that time and space don’t allow me to elaborate. For example: to tell you of the houseparent who came to listen to one of my lectures, approached me with tears in her eyes, asking my forgiveness for the way (as she remembered) she treated me. I didn’t remember it quite the same way. In any event, it was a good healing process for her and something she said she had carried all these years. Houseparents are/were human, too; to tell of how rude I was to Mr. & Mrs. Scantlan and they “put me in my place” in an ever so gentle and firm way. What a lesson I learned from them on how to handle the “tough” guy in the cottage, without humiliating me in front of my peers; to discuss those Homecoming days when there seemed to be literally hundreds of alumni returning and then to see it all on video later, Mom Maxey still has that tablecloth with all the names on it. What an event Homecoming was with so many returnees; and time doesn’t permit me to detail the peeling of a bizillion potatoes for Sunday dinner every week, which took all afternoon on Saturdays--and later having to wash dishes for more than 100 people who came to the dining hall to eat on Sunday. Now, that was not fun. To this day, I challenge any of our spouses to a “who has washed the most dishes” contest. I win hands down. Speaking of hands, you should have seen my withered up, prune-like replicas of hands; countless shirts and jeans were ironed by this guy. I’m here to tell you, there wasn’t a thing I didn’t do in that laundry. Before school and after school, there were shirts, pants, sheets and a plethora of other things to be done. The summer of my freshman year in high school, I got permission to miss lunch so I could walk up to the corner of N.W. 63rd and Penn, take off my outer shirt, and run from that point to N.W. 63rd and Western (one mile there and one mile back). I had on jeans and my regular shoes. My intent was to get in shape for cross-country. When I got back to the laundry, everyone was finished with lunch and we started working again. It didn’t take me long to figure out why many of the guys didn’t want to work with me. Would you want to work alongside a guy who had just run more than two miles, put his shirt back on without bathing and work the rest of the day in a hot and sweltering laundry? I don’t think so.

    My senior year, I was able to get a car, keep it off campus and thought that no one knew I was driving it to and from school. Well, upon graduation, Mr. Browning told me he prayed for me often, that I wouldn’t get into any trouble with the car. No insurance, no driver’s license, and most of all, no sense!!! It was an uneventful year.

    One area I cannot leave out is what we called “going to visit our society.” My society was Grandfield. Society was a Baptist church somewhere in the state of Oklahoma. The church would take one child during the summer for two weeks of vacation. Grandfield has been my society/sponsor even to this day. There was a couple in Grandfield who decided to use their home as the focal point of my visits. Usually we were passed around from house to house on a daily basis. I was forever getting into trouble once I returned, because my dirty clothes still hadn’t caught up with me. My dirty clothes chased me for two weeks and would finally be mailed to BCH. Fran and R. L. Lindsey have been the parents I never had. Had it not been for their involvement in the First Baptist Church, I am sure I would have never met them. They provided me with a “home” to go to for vacations and during the summer. Many summers, I worked on the farm with them and they were instrumental in encouraging me in my pursuit of higher education.

    This is a good reflection of the type of people who showed interest in children at the Home. Baptists throughout the state have been responsive to the needs of children since 1903. I, for one, have been blessed for having been taken care of and given the opportunity to go beyond my wildest dreams.

    Somewhere during this time line, Mom and Pop Maxey vacated the house on the corner of 63rd and Pennsylvania. Their replacement was the Browning family fresh from Texas. Three things stick in my mind: (1) Mrs. Browning was always smiling and ready to help me with whatever I wanted. I would die to go to their house to deliver and pick up their laundry; (2) Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact that they had the most gorgeous daughter with the name of Carol; (3) Mr. Browning, though towering in height, also was towering in caring, concern, compassion and character.

    Running track was my ticket to college. I was not the brightest student in high school. In fact, if the truth be made known, I was probably in the learning-disabled classes for the most part. In any event, it was Mr. Browning who constantly followed my track career. He was forever asking me about the “school record” in the mile. When I finally obtained that, he continued to challenge me to get the conference and/or city record. After getting a full scholarship to attend college, he continued to try and stay in touch with me. I had really rebelled and was ready to throw away a lot of the past. Perhaps it is better to say that I tried to “run” from my past. I remember getting upset with Mr. Browning for coming to the university to see and talk with me. I got so upset that I cursed him, told him to leave me alone and to not come back and bother me. He obliged my wishes. Years later, when I was needing help, he was there with no mention of the total disrespect to him and no outward manifestations of resentment on his part toward me for such treatment. He took it a step further; he hired me as a consultant for the Children’s Home. I was in that position for approximately for 14 more years.

    He may have been the administrator of the Baptist Children’s Home, but he and his family have been very much a part of my life ever since their arrival at N.W. 63rd and Penn. Mickie Browning and I share a bond that is very special and extremely personal, at least to me. She was born on February 28, just missing the 29th. We have done extremely well over the past years to remember each other on this special day. She’s even better at making sure we stay in touch. I do feel a special part of their family.

    And yes, Mr. Browning still comes around to my office and asks how thing are going, what’s happening and continues to care above and beyond all expectations.

    So, for a guy who was born on February 29th, it wasn’t so abnormal. I feel fortunate to have had these experiences and opportunities in life. To some degree, the Home was the conduit to allow for such events. I shiver to think what life would have been like if I were to have stayed in the family environment which I left at 3 years of age. One portion of Scripture stands out for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you (Larry), declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  I have been prosperous these many years in that I have enjoyed good health, a fine family and a satisfying vocation.

    Finally, I can’t stop without paying tribute to Mamma Betty. I was honored, along with her, to unveil the historical marker that stands outside the Waterford complex. It is an Oklahoma Historical marker that symbolizes the work of the Baptist Children’s home and its dedicated personnel to the growth and development of children. Mamma Betty was raised there, as well as having worked there for many years. She was the first person to take care of me. Believe it or not, I do remember some of the happenings at that very young age of 3 years plus.

    I know there are many things that have been left out. I have given Mr. Browning the latitude to add and/or delete, as he wishes.


    Editor’s Note:

    Dr. Larry McCauley entered Baptist Children’s Home on Feb. 5, 1948. After graduating from high school, he earned four degrees (B.A., M.A., M.Ed., Ed.D.) all on his own, with no assistance from the Home. Following completion of his doctorate in Educational Psychology and Child Development at Loyola University in Chicago, he returned to the Baptist Children’s Home campus in 1979 and became the first Post Doctoral Fellow at the OU Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, in Pediatric Psychology.

    Dr. McCauley became a licensed psychologist in 1980. He has led numerous workshops over the nation; he has presented more than 20 papers at conventions, etc. He was the first Oklahoma licensed psychologist to become certified in American Sign Language and has served as psychological consultant at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf for seven years. He served as consultant to BCH, Oklahoma City for 18 years.

    As a member of the Oklahoma Psychological Association, Dr. McCauley was awarded the “Citation for Distinguished Contribution to the Profession of Psychology” in 1994. From the state association in 1995, he received the “Presidential Citation” award.

    In August, 1997, Dr. McCauley received from the American Psychological Association at a national convention in Chicago, the “Karl F. Heiser Award for Advocacy.”

    Dr. McCauley was appointed a board member by the governor in 1995 to the Oklahoma State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. He now serves as chairman of that board.

    Since 1984, Dr. McCauley has been co-owner of the Christian Clinic for Counseling with four offices in Oklahoma City.

    Dr. McCauley, Baptists of Oklahoma are proud of your achievement and many accomplishments that benefit mankind, particularly children needing help. We especially commend you for your dedication and commitment to the cause of needy and troubled children.

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