The Story Behind '4 Children for Sale', 1948
The photo below first appeared in the The Vidette-Messenger of Valparaiso, Indiana on August 5, 1948. The children looked posed and a bit confused as their pregnant mother hides her face from the photographer.
“4 Children for Sale. Inquire within”, Chicago, 1948.
The caption read:
“A big ‘For Sale’ sign in a Chicago yard mutely tells the tragic story of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Chalifoux, who face eviction from their apartment. With no place to turn, the jobless coal truck driver and his wife decide to sell their four children. Mrs. Lucille Chalifoux turns her head from camera above while her children stare wonderingly. On the top step are Lana, 6, and Rae, 5. Below are Milton, 4, and Sue Ellen, 2”.
The photo may have been staged, but unfortunately, the mother was dead serious about selling her children. Within two years all of the children in the photo, as well as the baby she was carrying at the time, were sold off to different homes.
RaeAnn Mills, and her brother Milton were sold to the Zoeteman family on August 27, 1950. Although their previous living situation with their birth mother was dire, their new home wasn’t much of a salvation. They were often tied up in a barn and forced to work long hours in the field. Milton remembers his adopted father calling him a “slave,” a label he accepted at the time because he didn’t understand what it meant.
(Left) Sue Ellen and her sister RaeAnn Mills reunited at Chalufoux’s home in Hammond. (Right) RaeAnn Mills holds the dress she was sold in as a child. It is the only physical item she has from the time with her birth mother. Photos taken in 2013.
RaeAnn and Milton were never officially adopted by their new parents, but their brother David, who was in his mother’s womb at the time of photo, was legally adopted by Harry and Luella McDaniel, who only lived a few miles away. David says his adoptive parents were strict but loving and supportive. David remembers riding out on his bike to see his siblings, and untie them before going back home.
RaeAnn as a young teen, was kidnapped and raped, which resulted in a pregnancy. She was sent away to a home for pregnant girls, and had her baby adopted when she returned.
As Milton grew older, he reacted to his parents' abuses with violent rages. A judge deemed him a menace to society, and he was sent to a mental hospital after being forced to choose between that and a reformatory (a juvenile detention center).
The siblings didn’t know what happened with Lana and Sue Ellen, however years later they were able to reconnect with them via social media. Lana died in 1998 of cancer, but Sue Ellen Chalifoux was still alive. Sue Ellen grow up in Chicago, not far from her original home. Her opinion about her biological mother: “She needs to be in hell burning”.
Their birth mother later remarried after selling/giving away her five children. When they eventually came to see her, they described her as completely lacking love for her estranged children, or having any regret for letting them go.
RaeAnn Mills (left) and her brother Milton (right) were sold to the Zoeteman family.
David McDaniel defended his mother’s coldness as evidence of a different, hardscrabble world. “As soon as my mom seen me, she said, ‘You look just like your father’”, McDaniel said. “She never apologized. Back then, it was survival. Who are we to judge? We’re all human beings. We all make mistakes. She could’ve been thinking about the children. Didn’t want them to die”.
Milton had a different perspective on the situation: “My birth mother, she never did love me. She didn’t apologize for selling me. She hated me so much that she didn’t care”.
“She got rid of all us children, married someone else, had four more daughters,” he said. “She kept them. She didn't keep us.”- David McDaniel