Arnold Lyslo, “Impressions on Meeting the Harry Holt Plane,” 1958

Source: Mrs. Harry Holt as told to David Wisner (Los Angeles: Oxford Press, 1956), 206.

The Holt family pictured during their first breakfast together in Oregon after the adoption of eight Korean children in 1955. The Holts' missionary zeal for rescuing Korean orphans through international adoption contrasted with the caution of child welfare leaders, who wanted to insure that more adoptions of all kinds would be arranged by trained professionals through licensed agencies.


While in Portland during the Christmas holidays I had an opportunity to see a few of the 107 Korean children who came to the United States through the Harry Holt Korean Proxy Adoption Program, and the process whereby the adoptive parents picked up their children at the Portland International Airport.

The age range of the children was from the infant child (2-3 months old) to 10 years. Of the 107, there were 50 infant children under one year. A few children were of Negro-Korean extraction, and they were adopted into Negro families. These were beautiful children! I have heard said that the combination of Negro-Korean is an especially attractive combination, and the children proved this. The Negro adoptive couples were thrilled with the children they received. The children tended to be of quite dark coloring.

Although I did not see the children come off the plane because I was a few minutes late, I did see the boxes that the infant children arrived in. These were white, heavy cardboard boxes, approximately three feel long and perhaps two feet wide. There were small round holes in the ends of each box, I understand, to enable the boxes to be stacked one above the other.

At the time I arrived the children were in the Immigration Headquarters having their physical examinations by the Public Health Doctors, and volunteer workers (I believe) were bathing and feeding the children. This room was not open to the adoptive parents or “outsiders.” One could only hear the many children crying.

Many of the children had colds and coughs, but I did not feel that their general physical condition looked too bad. The children were as a rule thin, but they did not look sickly. I understand that thirteen of the 107 children were ill and needed hospitalization.

There must have been about 200 people to meet this plane, including native Koreans who came in their native dress to see these children arrive. This number did not include the adoptive parents, but may have been members of the extended family. In some cases only one parent came to get the child because of the distance involved. I saw adoptive couples from Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, and the far western states. I asked one couple from Colorado the process they had gone through to receive their child, and they replied that their minister (Lutheran) had recommended them, and they submitted a financial statement including employment status. They did not mention anything else.

The adoptive parents were all huddled in one large room waiting for their name to be called by Mr. Holt’s secretary indicating that their child was ready for release. The adoptive parents had in their possession papers from Mr. Holt notifying them of their child’s arrival, plus a picture of the child they were to adopt. Some of the adoptive parents said they could recognize “their” child coming off the plane by the picture.

As a group, I would say that the adoptive couples looked like a lower to middle-class group. The Negro adoptive parents were the most strikingly dressed and groomed of the group. The preponderance of women without makeup, and extremely plain dress—almost drab, was startling. This might indicate that these particular families were of a strict religious sect. I felt that while the enthusiasm of the adoptive parents was generally high, that some of the people showed little affect, and had a “color-less” expression. This lack of affect even extended to a few of the adoptive mothers after they received their child. (I felt ill!) . . .

I could not help but feel that a few of the adoptive couples were disappointed in their child. The expression on some of their faces were revealing that perhaps this was not the child that they had dreamed of, and they were still bewildered at the appearance of the child and his inability to make immediate response as they wished.

I came away from this experience ill and almost as bewildered as some of the adoptive parents themselves—that this could happen to children and parents in the United States today! My worries for these children have never ceased, and one can only hope and pray that they are doing as well as circumstances have allowed with such inadequate planning. I could only think how different this could have been with the participation of good social agencies who could work with these families to evaluate for their own good and the welfare of the child, their capacity to adopt a Korean child. How different the futures of these children might be with more adequate protective devices through proper legislation and the cooperation of all people interested in the lives of children, whether they be American, Korean, or any other children in such circumstances.


Source: Arnold Lyslo, “A Few Impressions on Meeting the Harry Holt Plane, the “Flying Tiger,” Which Arrived in Portland, Oregon, December 27, 1958,” pp. 1-2, 4-5, International Social Service, American Branch Papers, Box 10, Folder: “Children—Independent Adoption Schemes, Holt, Harry, vol. II 1958-1959,” Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota.

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