Orphan Survival Stories Index |
Boy! Was I excited! One of the older boys that lived with us in the orphanage dormitory had stolen a ‘Boy's Life Magazine’ from the Spring Park School building and had sneaked it into our dormitory.
I was amazed when I looked at all the pictures and what was going on in the outside world. I always thought that all kids, even the ones who had moms and dads, just stayed home all the time, like we had to do. But there were pictures of kids hiking, swimming, camping and all kinds of fun stuff.
I was just starting to realize for the first time in my life that there were lots of fun things kids could do, if you lived outside the fences of an orphanage. I was very sad by the time I reached the back few pages of the magazine. I turned the pages slower and slower, so I could watch all the fun things for as long as I could. Occasionally, I would turn back the pages where I had stuck my finger, just to see the kids laughing and yelling, while they were getting to play.
When I turned the last page, it was nothing but advertisements. I noticed this one special ad, because it was bigger than the others and it was printed much darker. “The Cheerful Card Company,” it read. “All Boys Can Make Money or Receive Gifts in their spare time.”
"I have lots of spare time," I said aloud to myself. I slowly read down the ad and saw all the gifts that they were offering. They were pictured and lined up in a row.
One time, I did write Ester Williams, the movie star and the orphanage let me have the signed picture that she sent back. But I don't know what happened to it. I think one of the older boys stole it from me and hid it in his locker. Maybe the orphanage would let me sell the cards for Cheerful Card Company, so I could get a gift or some money.
I filled out the form "Roger Kiser, who lives at the orphanage at 3165 San Diego Road, Jacksonville, Fla." and I put it in the mail using a stamp that I got from Old Topper. He was the old policeman who walked around the outside of the orphanage fences every afternoon.
Two weeks later, I was called to the front office by Mrs. Winters, the head matron. There was a big, brown box laying on one of the dining room tables. I was so excited that I ran up to the box and starting rubbing it. She grabbed me by the hair of my head and starting yelling at me. She made me carry the box out back behind the dining room and open it. Mrs. Winters took all 12 individual boxes of cards out of the larger box and had me dump them on the ground. Then she lit the cards on fire with a match. She got real, real mad, 'cause they made a lot of smoke and would not start burning. Within the hour, the cards were all gone and lay in a pile of hot ashes, along with the great big box they came in.
I wrote to the Cheerful Card Company and I told them what had happened, and that I did not have any money to pay for their beautiful cards. About a month or two later, I was called to the office once again. Mrs. Winters had gone on vacation. The woman who was there taking her place told me that I had received a large box in the mail. I knew that I was in bad trouble, so I turned and ran out of the office, through the dining room and back to my dormitory. I went up into the attic through a hole in the ceiling of the down stair’s bathroom where I hid for hours.
That night after all 60 of us kids had finished our supper, the woman asked me to remain seated. She excused all the other children by ringing the small bell, which sat at Mrs. Winters' position at the head of the front table. As I sat there, she left the dining room and returned a few minutes later holding the big, brown box and she asked me to open it.
When I opened the box, there was a letter lying inside. It read, "Thank you, Roger, for your honesty. Please accept this gift." It was signed "The Cheerful Card Company." Beneath the note was a beautiful tent, which the woman allowed me to keep. It became our army fort for many a year at the orphanage.
I will never forget that letter and The Cheerful Card Company calling me an "honest" little boy. Without having heard those words, I would have never known what “BEING HONEST” was supposed to feel like. It was that letter that gave me a conscience and somewhat guided me for the remainder of my life.
Please visit http://www.cheerfulcardcompanykids.com. A web site established for former kids (to get together) who sold greeting cards for The Cheerful Card Company.