Cottage Memories

This was posted to the comment section of one of my Then and Now articles. It’s from someone who grew up in the Child and Family Services cottages on east Fifth Street. I’m bringing it out to the front page because it’s too good to leave buried.

I lived in one of those cottages, that was called “Cottage Two”, and my cottage parents were Mr. and Mrs. Rex, whom we called “Mom” and “Dad”. I went there in July of 1968, being transferred up from Child Haven in Las Vegas, after a failed stay at St. Jude’s Ranch. Mr. and Mrs. Rex were older at the time I came, and had spent their entire lives there, dating back to the original orphanage buildings. They were unable to have children, and had come there as a young couple from Texas, signing up for what must have been one of the biggest, and longest term, parenting job in history. Their job as parents never ended – and they always took us little ones with them on their vacations too.

It’s ironic that the Sunny Acres sign lasted such a long, long, time. We had no idea what it meant – we thought it might have something to do with the driving range next door (on the other side of the bowling alley and motor pool garage), or perhaps the cattle grazing in the fields between us and Snake Hill, where sat the prison.

The front door of Cottage Two lined up directly across the street from J.C. Fremont elementary school, which is now (or was last I visited) a postal annex. We had fabulous flower beds all the way around our home, with a big sunny porch that faced the ball field. Mom (Mrs. Rex) was an osbsesive gardner, and we would drive their little truck out to a sheep ranch every fall, and load up on manure to spread on the garden beds for the following spring. She had one several prizes for these flowers – and we all shared in the glory.

The side door was off our laundry room, and my bedroom was two windows in. I imagine some state worker sits in that room now and wonders what it was like. It may be hard to believe, but it was home, and I have very fond and warm memories of the wonderful times, including our Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, that we would share.

I remember the gymnasium well. It had some older, and mostly dangerous, metal playsets, including a giant slide, and a spinning merry-go-round type of equipment that had hanging chains with rings on it. Next door to it was our favorite pastime – the bowling alley!

The Nevada State Childrens Home, and the organization within the State of Nevada, that rescued me as a child is a testament to the good, decent, and loving people of Nevada.

God bless you all – and thank you.

Michael Corrieri
2006

13 comments

  1. I lived in Cottage 1, my cottage parents were Mr. and Mrs. Head. I realize now that the Head’s were good people and they worked hard for us, even if we didn’t always make it easy for them. I resided there during the early to mid 1970s. I too was moved to Northern Nevada Children’s home from Child Haven in Las Vegas. I was in the NJROTC unit in high school and I got my first “real” job as a busboy at the Ormsby House. I also worked as a guard at the Nevada State Museum through the old C.E.T.A. program for a summer. By the way Child Haven was closed down in the early 2000s due to lack of funding, with all the casinos and money in Vegas? Wow, what’s up with that???

  2. Hey how are you doing I hope you’re doing well and that you are still getting on here just wondering if you have any pictures of all of us or do you now we’re I can get some? I hope to hear from you soon thank you or you can call me at 916 738 1341

  3. My name is johnna barringer (shinn) me and my little brother and sister were all three there from 77 to 80 my little brother was so small he got picked on alot my sister got in to fight with a colored boy in front of cottage 3 it wasn’t to bad of a place

  4. My name is Gina Dickman Johnstun, and I lived at the Nevada State children’s home during my 13th 14th and 15th year which would have been 1956, 57 and 58. I was in high school and it was a hard time to be separated from my parents. My mother was an alcoholic and my father at that time was looking for us. she had left him in Alaska and not told him where we were. I had two little sisters Patti and Jeanne and our last name was Field, My experience at the children’s home or Sunnyacres was wonderful. For the first time in a long time I had a warm bed, and clothing to wear and food … I was very thin, and the food, Oh, the food Was wonderful … we had a big cafeteria and three meals a day. I was in high school and I loved going to Carson City HS, and I had many friends there. The counselors at the children’s home were loving and kind I’m in the summers. I worked at the local theater as an usher, and I sold shoes at JC Penny’s. Also, I worked at Lake Tahoe as a nanny for two summers. My dad found us at Sunny Acres, but sadly, the summer of my 14th year my father suddenly passed away and is buried in Reno Nevada. I have to admit at that time I thought my life was over. But in my 15th year a wonderful family came to the children’s home and they liked me and my sisters and we went to live with them in Las Vegas Nevada and never returned to the children’s home. But for those three years, we were loved and taken care of and we were blessed I have gone on to be married to a wonderful man and have five sons who are all good men and loving and kind husbands and fathers. I am very blessed and some of my greatest blessings and emotional growth came to me during that time in the children’s home. I never felt homeless at the children’s home. I loved the other girls and boys my age, and most were younger. There were.about 120 kids at the home at that time. When I left I was the oldest girl at 15.We would never have found the Dickman‘s but they found us. They came to the children looking for a baby girl to adopt, and took home three girls who needed a family. They doubled their family of three children to six. I THANK all the counselors for their love and care and for all the fun times that we had. Christmases were JOYOUS at the children’s home.The employees of the Riverside and Mapes hotels provided our Christmas, and we had wonderful Christmases. We would write a letter to Santa Claus and then the employees of those two hotels and perhaps other hotels provided the gifts. We usually went to A dinner at the hotel and then they would provide the gifts all wrapped beautifully. We sang Christmas carols. We felt loved. I never understood the story of the first Christmas until I went to the children’s home and the OXBORROW’s taught us about baby Jesus, .I remember the first year I was there I came in November, I have very little clothes and I especially didn’t have a coat. I asked for a car coat and A poodle skirt and shirt, and I got everything … plus I got two car coats and I wore those car coats throughout high school and after…then mother Dickman wore them for a few more years afterwards. We had horses to ride and A bowling alley and there was just so many things to do. I had a little lamb for 4H and I love that little lamb. I was very sad and I had to give him up. I learned to sew my own clothes at the children’s home from the counselor Mrs. Lindsay, who mended all the children’s clothes. She was patient and taught me the basics of sewing. From then on I made all of my clothes for almost all of my life and my children’s clothes as well. She was a very sweet lady. We were all taught to press our own clothes, and we helped in the Laundromat, washing and ironing everyone’s clothes. I especially liked learning to press clothes and I was very good at it. The lady who ran the laundromat was an Indian woman and she told me I was her best ironer of boys shirts. And I think she was probably right. And it’s a good thing I learned to iron boys shirts because later I ironed for my husband and my five sons there Sunday shirts. I went to church on Sundays and we were allowed quite a bit of freedom to do so. I would pick my sisters up from there dormitory, and with other girls, we would walk into Carson City, Each Sunday and attend the church of our preference. I went to many churches and one day somebody said, “Gina why don’t you try the Mormon church?” I didn’t know the Mormon church was in Carson City, but I had had a very dear friend in Alaska who was a Mormon, so I had a tender spot in my heart for the Mormon church because of Carolyn. The very next Sunday I went to the Mormon branch, and found that mommy O and Daddy O (OXBORROW’s ) we’re members also.
    I became active in that branch of the Mormon church, and led the Congregation in singing in Sunday School. The Baptist church members were just wonderful people and they provided fun camps for the kids at the children’s home during the summer. I have so many good memories of those people and how kind they were. I did join the Mormon church at this time at age 14 and I have remained active until I went to live with the Dickman‘s in Las Vegas, who also were Mormons. I have stayed active in the Mormon church all of my life. When I was age 21 I served a mission to England and there I met my husband and each of my sons have served missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day Saints. So you can see that the children’s home and the activities that I was able to participate in, and the people that I met and influence my life, influenced And strengthened me in a positive way. The children’s home was a great blessing to me for all of the days of my life. I am now 77 years old and I still look back on those three important years that I was at sunny acres. My husband died when I was 52 years old prematurely, and that was a great sorrow, but much of the strength that I gained deserve five hard things came to me during the years I was at the children’s Home, under the tutelage of the OXBORROW’s and other counselors. I was not able to stay in touch with counselors or other children at the home.
    I found mommy O ( Isabell OXBORROW) few years ago, through her son Jed Oxboro who made a comment on a news TV show and I recognize his name and where he lived and called him and that was a joyous reunion with Jed and his sister and we shared many memories. I always admired the OXBORROW family.

    I have been in many foster homes before I went to the children’s home and none of them were positive experiences but the children’s home was a wonderful experience. The counselors were wonderful people dedicated to helping the children. The whole city of Carson City Was for people who were kind and accepting of the kids from the home as we called it or Sunny acres. I don’t remember ever being discriminated against. I found the teachers to be exceptionally kind and loving for the three years that I was at the children’s home. I had many friends who reached out to me. In particular Hollis and Tina Hunt befriended me. They also were members of the Mormon church and often would pick me up and take me to church or to the youth programs so that I didn’t have to walk so far. There was a kind lady at the drugstore and she wore a beautiful green wool pleated skirt and I remember remarking how pretty her skirt was – one day when I stopped at the drugstore she had it all wrapped and gave it to me and said she wanted me to have it and I wore that skirt till I was 25 years old, and my waist was too big to wear it or I still would’ve been wearing it. I loved the poodle skirt that I received that first Christmas at the children’s home, age 13. I cherished that skirt and 2 car coats and I love the people I never met, but still remember with love the kindness of those hotel employees who gave them to
    Me. I’m in the process of writing my life history and have many pictures if anybody is interested … I may have pictures of them that I’m happy to print and send to them. I hope all of the children that lived at the children’s home have been as happy in their lives as I have been. There were many little ones I always worried about them and hope they found homes … like my sisters and I did. I remember once the little ones in their Dormitory got impetigo and we all had to be treated for that, also lice for our hair.

    If you lived at the home during 1957, 58 and 59, and if I knew you, you would remember me as Gina Field.
    I send you my love and hope you’ve had a happy life and would love to reconnect and hear about your experiences at the home. We were all very fortunate to be at The Home with the OXBORROW’s at that time. I send you my love. Gina Field (Dickman Johnstun). I married Loren Kent Johnstun in 1966.
    Please feel free to contact me on the Internet….love to all!

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