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June 3, 1996

By Mari Maldonado

Cloth or disposable:

which diapers best?

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A few weeks ago I did Rosie the favor of going to the store and buying
pampers and taking them to her daughter's daycare for her, as she was
tied up here at work.

When I returned I asked her if $6 was too much to pay for pampers and
she excitedly exclaimed, "Where did you find them on sale?!"

Needless to say I was shocked at the price of pampers.

Of course, this comes from someone who buys a 50 pound bag of dry dog
food and a case of can dog food every two weeks. And that is about the
extent of my "child" rearing experience, as I have no kids. And there's
the occasional trip to the veterinarian and chew toy purchases.

In a recent Today Show piece more information on pampers struck me as
astonishing. It was presented in an excerpt outlining the pros and cons
of disposible diapers versus cloth diapers.

Two experts on the matter - diaper dons, you might say - presented that
the environmental issue is the most popular reason people switch to
cloth diapers.

Fewer diaper rash occurrences also adds to the cloth diaper
favorability. Since cloth diapers are less absorbent than the disposible
ones, they're changed more often, thus keeping babies bottoms less
susceptible to rashes.

On the other hand, the frequent use of detergents and gas, used by
diaper services or trips to the laundromat, related to the usage of
cloth diapers is a minus that defeats the environmental plus -
interesting points.

The environmental point strikes a minus on the usage of disposible
diapers, but as the experts said Tuesday morning, 95 percent of the
country's population use disposible diapers anyway. This is probably
because most people nowadays don't have the time or energy to mess with
cloth diapers.

The convenience of disposible diapers is the biggest argument in favor
of disposible diapers.

The experts pointed out that 9 billion diapers are disposed of in our
country's landfills. But this, however, only makes up 2 percent of all
the trash that is dumped into waste disposal sites.

The "diaper dons," went on to suggest that perhaps people living in
areas with an abundant water source should take to cloth diapers and
persons in rural areas with less water, but vast amounts of land for
landfills should adopt the usage of disposible diapers.

I guess they haven't read up on the costly federal regulations related
to estblishing a landfill.

I suppose this a peculiar topic for a column. But I suppose we can
regard it as an FYI (for your information) excerpt.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mari Maldonado is an Enterprise reporter whose column
appears each Monday.


Orphan train molded one boy's life

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Lee Nailling was a frightened nine-year-old in 1926 when he and his two
younger brothers were put aboard a train at Grand Central Station with
50 other orphans, half orphans, and children whose families could not
care for them. Like 200,000 American children before them, they were
being sent west from Eastern cities to find new families. The trains
these children rode to new lives were called orphan trains.
Lee's father, who felt he could not take care of his seven children
after his wife died, was at the train station to say goodbye to his
sons. He gave Lee a stamped pink envelope on which he had written his
New York address and told Lee to contact him once he and his brothers
were settled. As Lee slept that first night aboard the train, the
envelope mysteriously disappeared, and the brothers lost all contact
with their family.
When the train finally stopped a week later in tiny Clarksville, Texas,
the children were lined up on the stage at the local hotel. They were
questioned and inspected by Prospective parents. One farmer felt Lee's
muscles. Another stuck his hand in Lee's mouth to check the soundness of
his teeth and Lee had to restrain himself from biting the man. He felt
like a slave being auctioned to the highest bidder. When it was over,
the three boys were taken to separate homes. Lee was actually in three
before he found loving parents who offered him stability and helped him
work through his anger and bitterness over what had happened to him. His
brothers also found good homes and the boys stayed in close touch.
Most orphan train riders were from New York City. Many were the sons
and daughters of hapless immigrants. In 1850, of New York City's
population of 500,000, an estimated 30,000 were homeless children who
wandered the streets simply trying to survive. Newly-arrived immigrants
had no way to support their large families. Many parents abandoned their
children or turned them out to fend for themselves.
A minister, Charles Loring Brace, started the Children's Aid Society in
1853 to help the street children. He felt they needed families of their
own if they were going to grow into productive adulthood. He believed
that enough good families willing to take the children could be found
outside the city. In 1854 he began the placing out movement, using
trains to carry groups of children taken from the streets and orphanages
of the East to small towns across America.
For the most part, his plan worked admirably. A majority of the
children found good homes. Several became famous. Unfortunately, others
were exploited - forced to work hard, abused, or never fully accepted as
family members. Most riders, even those who were mistreated, became the
stable adults Reverend Brace had hoped for, as did Lee and his brothers.
Orphan trains started in 1854 and didn't stop until 1930 when the rise
of the welfare system made it possible for many children to stay with
their families or to go to temporary foster homes who would have
formerly ridden the trains. Today, only a few hundred orphan train
riders are still living. Some are stepping forward to tell their stories
of their participation in this little known event in American history,
which was the largest children's migration to ever occur anywhere.
In her newest book, Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story, City
author, Andrea Warren, weaves together what happened to Lee Nailling
with the history of the orphan trains. Readers both young and old will
warm to Lee's story, from the two years he spent in an orphanage after
his mother's death, the train trip west and his separation from his
brothers, to the happiness he found with his new parents and his adult
reunion with two brothers he had not seen in over 60 years.
Readers will learn:
- Why so many American families - many of them newly arrived immigrants
- could not care for their children.
- How the Children's Aid Society was founded, why it began the orphan
train "placing out" program, and how it worked.
- Why the orphan trains stopped and what method of caring for homeless
children took their place.
- What happened to Lee Nailling, who is today in his late 70s and still
a resident of Texas.
- How the history of the orphan train riders is being researched and
- What happens in our country today when children cannot be cared for
by their families.
Orphan Train Rider is available at local bookstores or from the
publisher: To order, call 800-225-3362. Published by Houghton Mifflin
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