The Crash and New Beginnings

Our world came crashing down just before Thanksgiving 1956. Now a lot of this is based on a cloudy memory, hearsay, and facts. Sometimes it is hard to figure out which is which. From information gathered from my aunts, my cousin, information acquired from the Big Spring Harold, internet searches,, and basically guessing, I am trying to express what 5 kids from 9 months old to 6 years old went through.

I do not remember what time of day it was but there was a knock on the door and it was a policeman, actually several. I’m not sure if my mother was home but I know my father wasn’t because he was basically never home. Being told not to open the door for anyone when she was at work, I will assume she was home. We only just recently found out that my father was arrested in 1956 for another bad check incident. Later that year in 1956 he was charged for desertion of wife & children. He was later sentenced to prison and after several appeals he ended up in Huntsville Prison in 1958 to serve a three year sentence. Charges were abandonment, and habitual bad check writing. Sometime before he was taken to prison my mother became pregnant with my brother Dennis who we knew nothing about because we were already gone. My fathers abandonment, and my mother working more than being at home lead to the arrival of the cops. Seems a neighbor turned her in to Social Services, or what ever it was called back then and the case worker got the cops involved.

Now you know where the memory of bars came in. Myself, Dee, Elmer Jr, Debbie, and Lynn were taken to the police station in Big Spring where we were fed. I remember cokes and candy bars, and waiting for Social Services to find us a foster home. So off we went to live with our foster parents Jerry and Nora Malatek. The state of Texas has some strange adoption laws. So many family members tried to come to our rescue. My fathers brothers and sisters, and even my grandfather from California came. We are not sure why, but the judge would not let us go to other family members. The court ordered that we all be put up for adoption and we can not be adopted by the same people, with one exception. Debbie and Lynda were both babies and the court thought it would be to traumatic if they were separated.

Big Spring was a military town and the location of Webb AFB. It turns out we were all adopted by military families. My Father was in the Air Force, as was Dee’s adoptive father, and Elmer Jr’s adoptive father. Lynn and Debbie’s adoptive father was an Army medic stationed at Webb. For me, the strangest part was that one of the people that came to the door that day was a Howard County Investigator for the sheriff department. That person turned out to be Harold Kain, my new father to be. He was a licensed investigator and held down a part time job with the sheriffs office. Jerry and Nora Malatek wanted to adopt Dee and I but the state would not let them. So they only adopted Dee. Elmer Jr was adopted by Charles and Eutice Walker and settled around Beaumont TX somewhere and was never heard from again. Debbie and Lynda were adopted by Earl and Lois Jenkins.

We do not have a lot of pictures during this time in our lives but we do have a few that were taken after our respective adoptions. My Aunt Mary had to fill in a lot of info about how the family handled it all. She is the one who told us that several members on my fathers and mothers side went to court to keep us with family. this is where the Texas laws came in. The judge that handled the case stated that because of the abandonment and that my mother left us alone while she worked, no other members of the families could take us. Basically saying other members of the same family could do it as well, abandon us that is. It is kind of strange because later when my brother Dennis was born, the state took him away as well but allowed our Uncle Robert to adopt him. We have to figure it was handled by a different judge who may not have known about the other case. So Dennis is the only one with the Mitchell name. One other strange thing that was also Texas law, was that we were separated and could never see each other again. There was only one Elementary school in Big Spring at the time and we all went to school there. The teachers were told to keep us separated on the playground and in the hallways. Aunt Mary would actually sit outside the playground and watch us play. One other thing is that my natural mother worked in the Phillip 66 Truckstop restaurant. It was my adoptive fathers favorite place to eat and I would sometimes see my mother working but she was not allowed to talk to me.

I know I am probably rambling here but there is so much to say and it is probably boring to most. I will say that we all had a great Christmas that year and it continued even after adoption. My adoption was final in February 1957 and I was given a new birth certificate. One that would cause problems for me later in life. Before Dee’s adoption was finalized, Dee’s father was transferred to the Philippines. She and her mother had to fly back to Big Spring to finalize the paperwork. I owe so much to Nora Malatek that I could never express my gratitude. According to state law, the sealed envelopes signed by a judge can only be opened after he or she passes away. That is what broke it all open. Nora never lost faith in all of us and later when the judge that signed our adoption orders died, it was Nora who worked with Dee to find us all. It took 34 years and we still have not found Elmer Jr. 

Here are a few more pictures in my collection

Dee and I with Grandma Mitchell
My first experience as a Chef/Dish washer
Dee and I with little brother H.E. (Elmer Jr)
Dee and I with BE. That is whats on the back of the picture and we don’t know who BE is. Maybe a cousin!
My Cousin Robbie carrying HE. Robbie was our addiction dealer. She got us hooked on cinnamon toast!
My adopted parents on their wedding day. They were actually married after I was born. Was a family joke.
Dee’s adopted dad with her new sister Jerie
Debbie and Lynn’s adopted dad in his uniform
Dee (sitting) with her sister Jerie and parents at Christmas
Debbie and Lynda with their dolls at Christmas
Me in front of my new parents 1957 Plymouth Fury Belvedere (I think)
Old Airport Elementary. Now it is the SM Anderson Kindergarten Center
The abandoned 66 Cafe and Gas Station where my mother worked. I took this picture in 1992 at our first reunion.

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