I will start this story as of my graduation night.
As some of you may know, I ran away from the
Cross farm shortly after graduation. I did this in order to keep the first $50.00 I ever had. Otherwise, Mrs. Cross would have kept it. Through the help of Miss Ambler and using the High School address, I had a job lined up and a place to live in Warren, Massachusetts. The company I was working for wanted me to go into management training but I needed to get my military obligation behind me first.
The draft was a necessity back in those days.
When I tried to enlist in the Air Force, I was denied due to the lack of a birth certificate. My supervisor made a trip to the State House in Boston and returned with a notarized statement that a Kenneth George Palmer was born in Hartford, Connecticut. This was my first knowledge of having a middle name. Along with this form was an application for a copy of my birth certificate. I was unable to complete the application because it required my biological mother/father to complete the application. I will come back to this point later on.
I enlisted in January 1954 thinking I would be going to Texas for basic training in a nice warm climate. But no, they sent me to Sampson AFB in New York, a miserable place and time for my training. Upon completion of basic training they sent me to, where else, Keesler AFB Mississippi for my technical training and my first encounter in a hot and humid climate. Six months later I completed my schooling, and you guessed it, Keflavik, Iceland for my first tour of duty for one year.
Upon returning to the states, I was assigned to a small Air Force Station in Ann Arbor Michigan. Six months later I was transferred to K.I. Sawyer AFB in upper Michigan. This is where I met Grace, the woman I married. At this time, the Air Force finalized my top secret clearance and I spent 18 months in a Security Service base in Japan. From there I was sent to Tyndall AFB in the Florida panhandle. This is when and where I became a radar maintenance technician.
My next assignment was Homestead AFB near Miami, Florida. There, I lived through hurricane Donna, the longest hurricane in history.
In January 1962 I was told I had to be at Indian mountain, Alaska by the February 15th. Here we go again, from Miami to 12 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and a high mountain at that, in 20 days. Six months later I traded places with another person in Fort Yukon, Alaska.
Again, upon returning to the states, I was assigned to Arlington Heights, Illinois, near Chicago. Two years later I was again transferred to another cold climate, Baudette, Minnesota on the Canadian border. It was here I found out about my biological mother. While in Baudette we learned to become campers.
Our next transfer was to Amarillo, Texas. We took two weeks to get there, enjoying camping and many tourist attractions including the Black Hills of South Dakota as well as the Rocky Mountain National Park.
It was decided I needed advanced electronics and management training to qualify for promotion to E-6. This brought us again to Biloxi, Mississippi for one year and also to witness hurricane Camille, the worst one in history. (Hurricane Andrew which hit Homestead, Florida is still rated second to Camille). From there they bounced me across the country again to Opheim, Montana on the Canadian border. Two years later, they bounced me again across country to Jacksonville, Florida and finally Kelly AFB, San Antonio, Texas where I retired from the Air Force.
I spent the next 25 years in the retail inventory business with varying duties and work places including Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Carlsbad, New Mexico, Roswell, New Mexico, Plano, Texas and Longview, Texas. I also spent the last six months of 1989 Driving and working at the Grand Canyon.
Now, about being the only "State kid" to graduate to date, this is what I've learned.
A few years after graduation I found John Coons sister Gladys in Fiskdale, Massachusetts. John was a "State kid" at Plimpton home in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Gladys was stunned when I told her I graduated. I told her it was due to the fact I was holding an above average grade of 85. She told me her average was in the mid 90's. It was devastating for her to have to support herself at age 16 with no skills or experience capabilities. Several years later I learned from one of my school friends that Mrs. Cross could no longer keep State kids and she lost all the kids, even her own son got married and moved to Portland, Oregon and made it clear even he wanted to be as far away as possible from her. This friend told me that she is changed and wanted to visit with me if possible.
With reluctance, I stopped by for a visit. Nothing was ever said about things that happened on the farm. Grace was with me at the time. I don't think she ever knew About my $50.00 award at graduation. I finally did get up the nerve to ask her about me being allowed to graduate but this was also a puzzle to her. She told me extra money was paid to her to keep me there until I graduated. She also told me the extra money was sent to the State, not provided by the State.
Upon a later visit to Hopedale I learned Mr. Dennett had passed away and his funeral was that afternoon. I remember Miss Ambler's face light up when she saw me and said "If only Mr. Dennett could know you were here." But being in a hurry, had no time for a visit.
It wasn't until our 25th class reunion that I was able to solve most of the mystery. I was told in a confidential manner that there were letters back and forth between Mr. Dennett and the State House and my name was in that correspondence. Mr. Dennett also took me to the "Father-Son banquet in my senior year.
Now I'll tell you about finding my mother.
When I was transferred to Hopedale, I asked my State Visitor about my parents. He told me I would be better off and happier if I did not know. This did stop my curiosity. I knew something about illegitimacy from other State kids and also, 1935 was a bad depression year.
When I received my birth certificate application, I had no interest in pursuing the matter. While in Iceland, I bought my first camera and was like a kid with a new toy. Probably because I was a kid with a new toy. Anyway, I made a scrapbook of all the pictures I took. Somehow, that application found it's way there and was forgotten. While I was married, Grace kept wondering why I was not interested about my mother and father. It bothered her more than me.
In early December 1964 we had misplaced an important receipt. Upon looking for it, we opened all our books, magazines, etc. Grace opened my book of Iceland and the application fell out. She insisted on completing and placed it in the mail. Two weeks later I saw, for the first time, my birth certificate. It had "father unknown" which came as no surprise. It also told my mother's name was Dorothea Palmer and her home was in Granby, Connecticut. She was employed as a housekeeper in Springfield, Massachusetts. This explained why I was born in Hartford, Connecticut and raised on Massachusetts's welfare.
Both our curiosities were now aroused. What to do next? I decided to call Granby information for any Palmers living in Granby. She said there were several. I told her I did not know his first name but asked for the number of one of them. She reluctantly gave me the first one..David. Upon calling David, I asked him if there were any Palmers living there around 1935. He said he knew of two, Harold and Wilson. Harold was in his 80's and Wilson was his son. He gave me Wilson's number.
Upon calling Wilson, a woman answered. I told her I was trying to locate a Dorothea Palmer. She said "Dorothea's last name was Potter." "Who are you?" I replied, I am Her son and she asked "which one." When I said Kenneth, you could have heard a pin drop. After ten seconds of silence I went on to explain that I just received a copy of my birth certificate and proceeded to give her an account of most of the information on it. At that point she said "I'm your aunt Betty and helped take care of you the first six weeks of your life." She then told me to wait for a letter from her and she would wait for my reply before going any further.
In her initial letter she wanted to make sure I was not going to cause trouble or try to get any money from her. It was a very long letter and explained many things. Future correspondence revealed that my mother had a chance to marry a Paul Potter. He wanted her but not me. It is apparent by now that Paul had a State Visitor visit my mother stating she knew a family that wanted to adopt me. After two weeks of torment and pressure from him, she felt I would be better off with a family that wanted me rather than to be forced to live with a man who did not want me. She thought I was adopted and would never see me again. She had no idea I was being bounced around from home to home.
When Betty met with my mother and twin daughters (Jean and Joan) everyone was in tears of joy.
Her biggest comment: "One letter brings me a son, a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren."
It was a great family reunion when I met my mother, two brothers, two sisters, my grandfather Harold, his wife, and my grandmother. Also, my other Aunt Agnes who resides in Vermont.
There is a great deal more to be said but let me close with this:
The final missing piece of my graduation could be that my biological father was in on this. I have no proof but one of those early letters stated he was a State employee.
I hope anyone reading this finds it quite interesting.
More stories and details can be furnished by anyone interested.
Kenneth George Palmer
1837 Redmon Rd. #36
Longview, TX 75602
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