David Miller, right, president of the Hendrick Home for Children, gives former resident Jeanette Hammock a Mickey Mouse watch. The watch used to be a coveted award for good behavior, but the year the young Hammock qualified, nearly 60 years ago, she got money instead.

Ex-Hendrick Home for Children resident receives watch for her good behavior six decades ago

For young Jeanette Hammock in the early 1940s, nothing was a more desirable Christmas present than the Mickey Mouse watch awarded for good behavior to the residents at Hendrick Home for Children.

Hammock, who was one of the 41 children who loved in the home when it first opened, in 1939, tried to control her temper all year. She was excited when her name was announced as the “child most improved,” and severely disappointed when the coveted award turned out to be just money that time.

About 60 years later, Hammock’s dream finally came true.

Last Saturday, Hendrick Home for Children director David Miller presented her with a little ribbon-wrapped box containing a Mickey Mouse watch.

Former residents, their families, employees and current residents cheered and clapped when the surprise present was announced at the Exes Christmas Reunion.

“That watch to me is worth a million,” said Hammock, once the excitement had subsided. “I wonder what I would’ve thought as a kid.”

Hammock, 72, came to the home when she was 7 and stayed for six years, until her mother remarried and could afford food and clothing for her six young children.

“I remember being very hungry and very cold,” Hammock said. “I felt my mother was giving me away. I was very angry.”

Hammock thinks her stay at the home affected her life and personality. She learned the importance of education and later finished high school and went to college to become a licensed vocational nurse.

“I empathize with people,” she said. “I cared for patients as if they were my family. I remembered how I felt as a kid when I was sick.”

Hammock in recent years survived uterine and stomach cancer. Her health is now improved.

Two years ago, she and her husband, J. W. Hammock, sold all their possessions and decided to spend five years on the road in a recreational vehicle.

“It’s a coincidence we stopped by,” she said at the reunion. “Memory trips are the reason we are traveling – to get pictures for a family album.”