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Published Saturday June 6th, 2009 at 3:13pm

Original Article by Scott Herhold

It was just 75 years ago -- on the afternoon of May 8, 1934 -- that a foundling was left inside the women's restroom at the California Theater in San Francisco.

His origins were mysterious: The baby was reported to have been left by a woman who was so nervous entering the theater that she forgot her change at the box office.

The next day's San Francisco Chronicle ran a front-page story under a headline that said, "Six Husky Police Turn Nurse for Single Baby." The story featured a photo of a cop feeding the foundling with a bottle.

The baby was adopted a few months later and grew up to be Bob Brinkerhoff, a respected administrator and teacher in San Jose's Franklin-McKinley School District.

When the now-ailing Brinkerhoff celebrated his 75th birthday, a good friend, Dick Herz, nudged him to talk publicly about the story.

It was nearly a tale he never learned. Brinkerhoff always knew he was adopted, the son of an insurance adjuster and a school secretary. "There was no stigma about it," he said.

He never knew he was a foundling -- much less one left at a movie theater -- until 20 years ago, when his adoptive mother handed him a piece of cardboard with the Chronicle story affixed.

"Have you ever wanted to know who your birth mother was?" she asked. "Well, yeah," said Brinkerhoff, who thought it might be disloyal to his parents to search.

"You ought to go out and find her," his mother said.

Scarce facts

The newspaper story had a few elusive facts. The woman who left the child was said to be fair-complexioned, between 25 and 30.

The baby was found by the wife of a police officer, Mrs. Theodore Andrus, who waited an hour in the hope the mother would return.

When she didn't, the child was taken to the Southern police station at Fourth and Clara streets, where a lieutenant dangled his star in front of the baby -- and, when the child couldn't focus his eyes, declared the foundling to be about 5 weeks old.

Brinkerhoff was given the birthday of March 28, 1934. And he received his first name, Robert.

The trail, however, was very old. Brinkerhoff sought help from Search Finders, a group that helps people find their birthparents. He checked with the Department of Social Services, which had no record of him. And he spent a day traveling to the San Francisco Public Library. Nothing surfaced.

"There was really no way to track it down," he said.

His own story

A relative who professed to know something about ethnic peculiarities speculated from the shape of Brinkerhoff's ears that he might be of Scandinavian origins. But this was hardly a definitive clue.

And so his own story became central: As a child, Brinkerhoff moved often, from Napa to Pismo Beach to Modesto. It was in Redding, where he moved after his father died in 1947, that he found his home.

After going through high school, college and the Army, he settled on a career in education, serving as a junior high school principal and administrator -- and then teaching middle school for 28 years in San Jose.

Always an avid basketball fan and player, he was known for starting noontime athletic programs. And not least, he had six sons himself, four by a previous marriage, and two with his current wife, Kit, who also taught in the district.

The foundling might not know his origins. But he has something more precious, a legacy.