More than eight decades haven’t clouded the memory of William Bennett who spent his childhood at the Home and recently had the opportunity to return for a visit many years in the making.
Although age is beginning to catch up with 92-year-old William Bennett, he is still able to recall vivid memories of years spent at the Omaha Home for Boys during his childhood. A recent visit to the Home’s museum evoked an array of emotions from the WWII Navy Veteran. Mr. Bennett shared stories about some of the lighthearted moments he encountered from 1933 to 1942 as a resident at the Megeath House, the original location of Omaha Home for Boys on South 33rd Street.
One such story that William shared as he fondly peered at a photograph of the Megeath House was that of being a young escape artist. Although he was a slightly built nine year old, William recalled being able to jump off of the front porch of the house, scamper towards the white picket fence near the street and use his arms to catapult himself over the fence.
“I did this more for entertainment than to escape the Home,” William recalled with an ornery chuckle.
Another memory evoked from William’s visit to the museum was that of the excitement among the boys when they let their imaginations wonder what the attic of the Megeath House contained. They believed that the attic was filled with toys and treasures put there by the Masons.
One day a mischievous youngster named Bob Davey who was nicknamed Peaked aimed to put this gossip to rest. Peaked climbed onto the roof of the house and broke into the attic. He proceeded to joyously throw toys, treasures and all down to the boys who anxiously awaited below.
“We relished in this moment of an early Christmas,” said William with a tear of joy on his cheek, “but Peaked sure did receive a strict punishment for letting his rascally behavior get the best of him!”
William also remembered that it wasn’t all fun and games at the Home. “Each boy had a job,” said William, “and the worst job was peeling potatoes.”
Preparation of the potatoes was led by Mrs. Noble, the wife of Superintendent James Noble, in the basement of the Megeath House. From the basement Mrs. Noble had the perfect view of a patch of beautiful, well-kept grass behind the house that the boys were forbidden to step foot on. William recalled many times when Mrs. Noble would instantly drop her potato peeler and rush outside to reprimand any youngster who dared to tip toe across that patch of precious grass.
After spending eight years at the Home, William entered the Navy and served in WWII. He went on to have four children and spent many years serving the Omaha community on the Omaha Police Department and Douglas County Sheriff’s Department. William was also a talented journeyman carpenter. After his retirement he built his own home from the ground up.
Now using a wheelchair and not as spry as he once was, William’s return to the Home was extremely important to him. “I really enjoyed visiting the museum with all of the archived pictures and encourage anyone who used to live at the Home to visit as well,” he said.
About the Museum
Formally known as the Kevin Orr Historical Center, the museum lets guests take a walk through the past 96 years of the Home’s rich history. Located on the Omaha Home for Boys’ main campus, the museum is open to the public and contains hundreds of photos, memorabilia and iconic artifacts within its walls. Please call 402.457.7000 to schedule a tour.