Woman recalls bittersweet childhood – separation, orphanage, adoption

LaRayne Dahlberg plays the tiple, while her daughter Darlene Walburg plays the guitar during a number they were playing and singing together on April 17 in Dahlberg’s apartment.
LaRayne Dahlberg plays the tiple, while her daughter Darlene Walburg plays the guitar during a number they were playing and singing together on April 17 in Dahlberg’s apartment.

Often during the year, when LaRayne Dahlberg, 93, of Princeton, gets together with her grown children Darlene Walburg and David Dahlberg, the three play stringed instruments and sing.
One of those instruments is a tiple, a little bigger than a ukulele. It has 10 steel strings arranged in four sets, with the middle two sets containing three strings each, and the outer sets each having two strings. LaRayne says her tiple is rare.
LaRayne and Darlene count their experiences of playing stringed instruments and singing together as joyful.
LaRayne felt it was important for her children to learn to play stringed instruments. In fact, when LaRayne taught country school for four years in northern Minnesota, she taught her pupils to play the ukulele. Because of LaRayne’s instrumental teaching to her own children, Darlene now plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, tiple and the omnichord. David learned from LaRayne to play the tiple but now mainly plays the mandolin, Darlene said.
Darlene and David not only play stringed instrument for enjoyment, but also play them at church. Darlene played the tiple as part of a musical trio during her college days, and now plays stringed instruments at the Elim Oasis adult day care center in Princeton, where she is the director.
While the family musical get-together has made for “special memories,” some of LaRayne’s childhood memories are not so good. Darlene and LaRayne talked about LaRayne’s childhood.

Family pulled apart
LaRayne and her sisters, Myra and Gwen, and brothers, Otis and Alton, were taken away from their parents as children in an unjust way, according to LaRayne. LaRayne said it began with a verbal altercation between her mother and a police officer and ended with the officer taking all five children away from their parent’s home in Hibbing. LaRayne said she and her siblings were placed in the Owatonna State Orphanage.
“No court, judge or jury action,” LaRayne said. “It was a very sad day with mother and children crying and clinging to each other. … Father was at work and was not even notified.”
LaRayne and Darlene acknowledged that LaRayne’s father had a gambling problem. LaRayne said the gambling made life more difficult for her mother because their income was not always stable.
Darlene said that not long after the children were taken to the orphanage, authorities promised that if the father could stay away from gambling for six months, then the children could return home. He met the condition, but when the parents went to the orphanage, a spokesperson there said the children couldn’t return home because they had been adopted out, though that wasn’t true, Darlene said.
LaRayne said there wasn’t any question that her biological parents loved her and her siblings.
LaRayne recalled that day, sometime in the early 1920s, when LaRayne was 3, she and her siblings were taken away from their parents. LaRayne said she remembers clinging tightly to her mother’s dark fur collar as police pulled LaRayne away to bring her to the orphanage. LaRayne remembers her mother crying, “Let me at least have my baby.”
“When they pulled me away, there were black hairs on my finger (from the fur collar),” LaRayne said. “When you have a traumatic thing like that happen, you remember it when you are older.”
LaRayne said the police, when justifying their taking her and her siblings away, pointed out that there was a container of beer in the basement of the home.
“Do you think that would happen today, the whole family separated for a beer?” LaRayne asked.
After the removal, their mother had another baby, one that was sickly. LaRayne said her mother was unable to come up with half the cost up front that the hospital wanted in order to treat the baby.
“A nurse said (to mother) ‘If you sign the baby over to me, I’ll put her in the hospital.’”
Mother took the offer and lost her last child, LaRayne said.
LaRayne’s separation from her parents and subsequent one-year stay at the orphanage could be called the bitter part of LaRayne’s childhood.
LaRayne said that the orphanage was overly strict with the children. LaRayne remembers seeing her sister Myra at the orphanage one day and running over to talk to her. Myra just told her to run back or otherwise, she, Myra, would get punished, LaRayne said.
At age 4, LaRayne was adopted by a couple whom she referred to as Doctor and Mrs. Forester.
LaRayne said that after a year with the Foresters, there was one day when Mrs. Forester was very sad, and Dr. Forester had something important to tell LaRayne. He explained that she could choose at that point to return to her birth parents or stay with the Forester couple. LaRayne decided to stay.
“We had such good times,” LaRayne said. “There was no talk about bills (like there had been in her original home). I threw my arms around his neck and said, ‘I want to stay with you, daddy’”
Part of LaRayne’s childhood years were during the Depression, and while many children weren’t able to attend college because of the cost, the Foresters sent LaRayne to college.
Darlene, talking about having LaRayne as a mother, said: “My mom has been a wonderful, loving mother. Think of the situation she went through. I am just so thankful she was able to be a stable, loving mom for me. It (being separated from her original family) was a hard thing for her to go through and she was only 3.”
The part of LaRayne’s childhood with her adoptive parents did turn out well, Darlene said. She noted that the Foresters also adopted an 8-year-old girl, and at another time a sixth-grader whose family had died of tuberculosis. No one else would take the boy in, Darlene said.
LaRayne said that her siblings’ adoptions did not go as well as hers.
LaRayne’s husband Henry died in 2008, and LaRayne moved from Clearbrook to Princeton about four years ago.