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A bit of Paducah history shared from J T Crawford's post

J.t. Crawford to You know you're from Paducah KY when... February 7 at 3:35pm ·

Here's a personal account about the Friendly Home, followed by a bit of information on its history:

Gail Wallace ran as fast as her legs would take her, the sound of her labored breathing filling her ears. Pressure built in her chest as her heart pounded in time with her feet. She glanced over her shoulder. There was no sign of the car.

The young teenager had one mission: make it to North 13th Street from the south side of Paducah. She glanced back again. There they were. She darted to a nearby dumpster, quickly jumping inside.

The car, carrying her father and step-mother, slowly crept by. They didn't see her! She crawled out the dumpster, resuming her journey, praying in desperation they wouldn't find her.

"I was terrified!" says Gail. "It was a horrible situation. My step-mom had killed a man, and I feared for my life. It had not been good all along, and I had to get out. I didn't know anything, I wasn't even exactly sure where I was going, and I was filthy from hiding in trash cans along the way."

In a strange twist, it was Gail's step-mother who'd given her the idea of where to run. "When I was younger, I remember her telling of a place she lived when she was a girl. I knew it was over by 13th Street. I had to get there."

Gail eventually made it to 13th, but had no idea where to go. "I saw a young couple coming out of a house. It looked like they'd been to a birthday party. I asked them about the place, and they said they could take me over there. I just wanted them to tell me where it was. I really didn't trust anyone, and I didn't want to get in a car with them. But they convinced me and drove me other there." The couple delivered Gail to the Friendly Home, Paducah's orphanage. wedding dresses for older women

"I met Mother Manning," says Gail. "She said I could stay the night, but they'd have to check with a judge in the morning to see if I could live there. The next morning, I came out and stood near the door. She saw me and asked me to come over to her. I refused. If I couldn't stay there, I was going to run out the door. She said, 'The judge says you can stay.'"

In that moment, Gail's life began again. "I loved the Friendly Home," she says, "especially after coming out of the life I had. I went to a place of freedom. It was like heaven to me."

There was a period of adjustment, however. "There were simple things I had to get used to," Gail says. "When we'd get up in the morning, we would wear our pajamas to breakfast before getting ready for the day. At first, I dressed fully. I had felt ashamed of going down in my pajamas. But Mother Manning told me I didn't have to feel that way. So I listened to her and finally got used to it."

Gail remembers that about thirty children lived in the home at the time. The boys and girls had separate living quarters, and when the boys reached a certain age, they were moved to a different location. The girls were allowed to stay through college age.

"The older girls helped with the little guys," she recalls, "and my job was to clean the front hallway. We were able to pick the food we wanted to eat, and there was a huge closet of clothes to choose from. Local businesses, churches, and organizations helped a lot. One Christmas, I got a bracelet from Nagel and Meyer, a jewelry store on Broadway. I loved it it! I never had anything, and that was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen."

At night, the children could watch television or read. On weekends, the older children would go to the movies, play outside, or spend time with local families in their homes. "It was so well-run and organized," adds Gail. "And we were like one big family of brothers and sisters. I know some of the kids may not have wanted to be there. They pined for what they could not have. But I felt loved and cared for and lucky to have such a nice place to be."

When Gail reached the age to leave the Friendly Home, she felt a deep sadness. "I honestly didn't want to go," she says. "It was my home, and they were my family."

Before she left, she had one moment to take in just how far she'd come. "There was a book kept on a table in the hall," she remembers. "I looked in it one day, and I saw the notes Mother Manning wrote when I came in. She described how dirty I was and how I'd hidden in trash cans on my journey there. It was amazing to read that. The Friendly Home changed my life. I was happy to have a chance to better myself."

Special thanks to Penny Fields and the Market House Museum for assistance with this story.


The Home of the Friendless (a common name for orphanages in the early 1900s) was built at the corner of North 14th and Burnett Streets in 1902. Construction funds were donated by John W. Keiler and Joseph L. Friedman. It was the evolution of an organization established by Mary Wheeler Campbell in 1892 which served Paducah women.

Before then, Paducah organizations meet the needs of the local indigent, but the response was often uncoordinated. The Home of the Friendless provided a central location and unified effort for children who had deceased parents, or their parents were no longer able to care for them.

In 1932, the name was changed to the Friendly Home. Fundraising to support the orphanage was nearly constant with churches, businesses, and civic organizations devising events and programs to raise money. Local businesses such as Kirchhoff's provided material goods. Kirchhoff's delivered bread and sweet rolls every other week.

By the 1970s, most orphaned children entered the state's foster care system, rendering the Friendly Home an idea of the past. In 1972, the Friendly Home closed. The McCracken Fiscal Court used the building for a time, but beginning in 1977, the building was unoccupied.

The Home of the Friendless was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, but efforts to save the building did not stop its demolition shortly thereafter.