The picture featured below tells every tale there is to be told about mankind–from bounding success to selfless heroism to unspeakable loss. It was the first photo I found in the Eliada archives, and it ignited the fire that fueled my need to tell the story of this orphanage. To this day I don’t fully understand why it had that effect on me, and I don’t really care to understand. It is now part of me. I took it wherever I went and showed it to everyone I met. I promised myself I would identify every individual who appeared in it–and for the most part I succeeded. Almost every person whose story I have told for this oral history project is staring back at the camera in that photo. It was taken almost casually from behind the little girls’ dormitory at the orphanage–and in one shot it captured the essence of the Eliada family.
The picture first appeared in the May 1944 edition of The New Testament Christian, the Eliada newsletter. It was taken by the Rev. R. B. Mitchell, Dean of the Open Bible Institute, Des Moines, Iowa while he was a guest on the campus. Rev. Lucius Bunyan Compton, the Founder and General Manager of Eliada Homes stated, “The family was blessed with his messages and visit, and while he was with us he took this splendid picture of our Eliada family.” I have always considered it the most iconic of all the orphanage photographs–and one that I have returned to repeatedly over the years for inspiration and renewal.
The picture was published in the middle of WWII–the war was raging and D-Day was less than a month away. Compton was quick to point out that the orphanage had donated its share of manpower–he bragged that he had placed more than twenty boys in service, and stated, “Not one has been rejected for physical disabilities. They grow up rugged, with few comforts, some hard tasks and considerable time for play. With all of this out-of-door life they develop into husky, hearty, alert chaps, normal in every way.”
Closer to home, Compton had just enjoyed a profitable meeting with the State Board of Charities, and reported he was close to an agreement on what he called “the scope of our liberties in the acceptance of children from other states, and also girls for the Faith Cottage.” He was nearing seventy years old and times were changing, but he was still fighting for his right to “supply a work of this kind through prayer alone.” Compton closed the NTC issue by offering this Bible quote to his loyal readers:
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God.” (John 3:1)
“THE SPLENDID FAMILY PORTRAIT”–May of 1944
- Faye Edmonson 2.Unknown 3. Bobby Maye 4. Bruce Shipman 5. unknown 6. Donald Crook 7. Raymond Williams 8. Beth Haynes 9. Libby Sprouse 10. Shirley Brank 11. Bernice Crook 12. David Carter 13. unknown 14. Dickie Drake 15. Furman Williams, Jr. 16. Fred Kurfees 17. unknown 18. Alvin Bradshaw 19. Fred Roberts 20. Yvonne Brock 21. unknown 22. Francis Sprouse 23. Mary Elizabeth Compton 24. unknown 25. unknown 26. Arrowood boy 27. Gene McDavis 28. David Forrest Lee 29. Carolyn 30. unknown 31. Billy Harkins 32. unknown 33. Elmer Cole 34. Katherine Love 35. Lela Williams 36. Ruth Brock 37. Arrowood 38. William Warren 39. unknown 40. Tina Coggins 41. Mae McDoris 42. Thelma’s daughter 43. Thelma Fletcher 44. Mac Hanson 45. Rebecca Helton 46. Ruby Cogburn 47. unknown soldier 48. David Harrison 49. unknown 50. Emma Jean 51. Connie McCarson 52. Matron 53. Peggy Brock 54. Marie King 55. Mrs. Julian Bell 56. unknown 57. Edith Jacobs 58. Julian Bell 59. Grace Green 60. Dad Compton 61. Mama Edith 62. Christine Tilley 63. June Saylor 64. Wilma Rath 65. unknown 66. Lillian 67. Doris Ward 68. Mrs. Stambeck 69. Gladys Cogburn