Orphan Survival Stories Index |
THAT BIG YELLOW BUS
I stayed up all night, because I could not get to sleep. Tomorrow would be my first day of Junior High School. It would also be the first time I ever ventured outside the orphanage by myself - well, at least in the daytime and never for more than 500 yards from the fence, legally anyway.
Next door to the orphanage was Spring Park Elementary School. I had attended that school for as far back as I could remember. I always walked to school with the other orphans who lived in the Children's Home Society.
Other than running away, I was never outside the fence without the other orphans. It was just too scary. Therefore, I was quite worried about what was really outside the fence in the strange world where all the normal kids lived. I am talking about the lucky kids, who had mothers and fathers. They were always making fun of kids from the orphanage that did not have parents.
The next morning, I walked about a mile and a half to the old wooden store. That is where we orphans used to go to buy candy with our nickel allowance. This was where I was told to catch the school bus. I had no idea what I was supposed to do when I got there, except get on a yellow bus and ride to Landon Junior and Senior High School. However, when I got to the bus stop, there were all kinds of big yellow busses.
Busses were going this way and that. They were going in every direction and there were many of them. I was very confused and started to ask someone what I was supposed to do. A very pretty girl made some type of comment to the other girls about my wearing short pants. She also laughed and mentioned that my shirt was too small.
I had no choice about the clothes I wore. Every morning, we boys lined up at the clothing room door. As we filed passed, the matron handed us a set of clothes from the small, medium or large clothes locker located in the sewing room. What you got was what you got. If it fit, it fit. If it did not fit, then that was just too bad.
After the girl made her comment, all the other girls laughed at me. I did not want to look them in the eye, so I walked away with my head down and stood behind the edge of the store. Right then, I sure wanted to get back to the orphanage awfully bad. I wanted to go to my bedroom and hide, so that nobody would look at me or make fun of me.
Within 15 minutes, everyone was gone except this one girl. She looked at me and smiled. She asked what school I was going to attend and I told her "Landon High School." She advised me that the Landon bus had already left and there would be no more busses. I was very embarrassed and told her that I did not take the bus; I was waiting on a ride from a friend who owned a car.
Finally, her bus came and she waved at me. As she entered the bus door, she turned around, smiled and told me that she would see me tomorrow. That made me feel good inside and then I was not so afraid anymore. That beautiful smile I will always remember, because it was the first time that a girl ever smiled at me. I saved that smile in a very special place in my mind and thought about it all day.
When everyone was gone, I stood there alone. I had no idea what I was going to do. I was very confused and did not know where to turn or whom to turn to. However, I knew two things for sure. I knew there was no way out for me and that I was in deep, deep trouble. I also knew that I was going to get the beating of my life when I returned to the orphanage, just because I missed the big yellow bus.
All I could do was start walking toward the school, which was about 10 miles away. God that was a long, long walk! I guess it was about noon when I finally arrived at the school building. I stood outside for about an hour thinking about what I had heard the day before. I heard that the people at school would also beat you with a wooden paddle, if you did something wrong. If they found out I missed the bus on purpose, then they would beat me too.
I dreaded having to walk into that school building wearing those short pants and a shirt that was two sizes too small for me. The beating with that wooden paddle was really going to hurt with these short pants, and then all the girls would see the marks on my legs and laugh at me again, just like at the orphanage. However, I knew that I did not have a choice. I had to do it today and if not today, then tomorrow. So I might as well get beat today and get it over with.
I now know, today as an adult, there were a lot of children who had those same types of feelings, especially on their first day of school. I guess the thing that bothers me, and the difference between them and me, was the fact that they had someone who loved and cared about them. At least they had a mom and dad who could explain to them that the fright they were feeling was a normal.
The orphanage just pushed us kids out of the gate, leaving us in a strange world with no idea what was out there. I stood there all alone and scared, thinking the entire time I was a freak of nature - that I was just a joke, standing there at the bus stop in my short pants and a shirt that was so small, it would have fit a 4 year old.
This may seem strange to anyone who has not lived in an orphanage. However, when you have never ventured outside a confined fenced area, the outside world is a very dark and scary place. I had never been outside the orphanage fences, except to walk to school. That school was located right next door to the orphanage and the walk took less than two minutes. Going to high school for the first time was just as scary to me as your first time going to kindergarten. Once your parents leave you there, you are all by yourself. That can be very scary and unsettling. Especially, if all you had ever known was to be treated like a part of a herd.
Those orphanage fences might as well have been my parents. They were my only protection and security from the outside world. They were the barriers that locked us away, as well as protected us from those kids who laughed, joked, mocked and threw bricks at us from the baseball diamond as we watched them play almost every afternoon. That was all I had ever known as a child.
I was so glad when the school bell rang that afternoon at 3:30 p.m. I was back at the bus stop by four o'clock. I bet you never saw an orphan run so fast to get back inside the gates of an orphanage.