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Back Home at Children’s Home Society

You pull a chain and the water goes in and the elevator goes up. When you want to go down you pull the chain and the water goes out into the fish pond and the elevator goes down. That’s the way it works in this house.

Sounds wizardy, doesn’t it, a veritable whirlpool of fun for children (not to mention the fish). I couldn’t wait to try it, but it wasn’t working; perhaps all the children had worn it out over the years.

For this is a house of children in more ways than usual; it is all tied in with the Children’s Home Society, a California child welfare agency founded in 1891. Shortly after they bought this 1922 house from David C. Crookshank (Pomona College’s Crookshank Hall of Zoology) in the 1940s, Robert Baum (the son of L. Frank Baum, who wrote the “Wizard of Oz”) and his wife adopted two children from the Children’s Home Society.

Many were the parties held in the Baum home--which stands at the northwest corner of College Avenue and 11th Street in Claremont, you’ll see its red tiled roof right away--and most were to raise money for the Children’s Home Society.

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When the Baum children grew up, the house welcomed a new family, one with four children--no, seven, because they, too, adopted children from the Children’s Home Society, three daughters. Now, for the society’s biggest fund-raiser, the owners are allowing their home to be used for the Showcase ’86 house (open Saturday through May 18, phone 714-624-0540 for information).

Pat McAleer invited me for lunch there and I met the owners, Dr. Jerry and Shirley Rude.

Was their house going to be on the market like most showcase houses are? Instantly and emphatically, both shook their heads. You’ve moved to a hotel while the interior designers prepare it? “Oh no, we just moved over the garage,” Jerry Rude said. “And what a job it was clearing out 17 years of stuff,” Shirley Rude said.

Over the garage! I had never before heard of anyone in a showcase house living over the garage.

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“It’s kind of exciting; we go in every night,” Jerry Rude said. “And lo and behold--" his wife said. “Every time Jerry sees a light left on, he runs in and checks it.”

And do they like what they see? Oh yes. “The designers really listen to us,” Shirley Rude said, “and they found out the colors we could live with.”

They’ll buy some of the new furniture when they move back in--in a hurry because there’s a daughter’s wedding to get ready for.

Only 30 women put all this together and they’re no shirkers--they’ll serve luncheon every day. “We’re baking our little hearts out,” Dorothy Weinke said, removing plates and offering flower-decorated candies. I took the white one with a violet on it. “What do you call these?” I asked.

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“Homemade candies is what we call them,” Weinke said.

Nearby a blue jay hopped among the empty tables, choosing select bits of salad from this plate and that while Jerry Rude told me that a family physician, unlike a general practitioner, had to be recertified every seven years to be sure he is currently knowledgeable. He seemed to be looking ahead almost with enjoyment to taking the exam; his wife is going back to finish her nursing degree.

You know how very rarely you see people who seem thoroughly, genuinely happy? That innocent happiness reflected from the Rudes, the blue jay, the women working for the Children’s Home Society.

It was a nice afternoon.

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