It was the summer of 1932, a hot, humid
day in southeastern Ohio. The state road running by our house was a blacktop
highway composed of a mixture of gravel and tar, an acceptable mixture
but not as good as our modern asphalt roads of today. In those days, we
kids went barefoot from the middle of May till the first of October, give
or take a week or two on either end.
I mentioned the composition of the road
for a reason. During the hot months, the tar would “bubble” up into little
mounds so that when cars or trucks would pass by you could actually hear
the pops as the tar bubbles exploded.
They could also be exploded in another
way, i.e. by barefoot kids walking along the highway and sticking their
big toes into the bubble, which was another way I found to entertain myself
back then. However, it may have been for my entertainment but it was to
my Mom’s despair. She had the job of cleaning off the congealed tar at
the end of a long day of bubble busting. Mom would beg and plead, cajole
and threaten but we invariably found our way back to the road when all
other means of play were exhausted.
It is possible that the reader will
not remember what historical event took place on March 1, 1932 but rest
assured that I am going to tell you.
It was the day that Charles Lindbergh’s
baby was kidnapped and was the primary news item in every newspaper for
months. Along with the news items were other articles warning all parents
to watch their children and cautioning all children to avoid strangers
or anyone who tried to entice them into their cars. Today, we would call
it a panic that had invaded the homes of all Americans. Parents were constantly
reminding their kids about what could happen.
Today, I suppose there would be “counseling”
for all the children but I guess we didn’t have sense enough to be traumatized
by the event.
At any rate, we continued to live our
lives much as before except to watch suspiciously if a passing car seemed
to be slowing down as it approached our position, ready to flee for our
lives if it looked as if we were the target of some nefarious kidnapper.
It didn’t occur to us that kidnappers
wanted money, not kids. And, as we were the poorest people in Clermont
County, maybe the entire state of Ohio, any would-be kidnappers would turn
up their noses at two young lads with tar-covered feet. We were definitely
non-kidnappable material BUT WE DIDN’T KNOW THAT!! Well, on this particular
day, two cousins from down the road came by and asked Bill and me to go
swimming with them. After getting Mom’s permission, we grabbed a pair of
short pants, (no swimming trunks for us--they cost money) and set off for
a two-mile walk to the swimming hole. The swimming hole was located on
Lucy Run, a creek not big enough to be called a river and not small enough
to be called a creek so it was called a “Run”. I guess.
When we reached Lucy Run, we could see
huge carp swimming easily, looking for all the world like goldfish in a
We walked upstream from the road about
a quarter of a mile and were soon frolicking in the cool waters. After
an hour or two, when we were pretty well shriveled from the cold waters,
we called it a day and set out for our return trip home.
The first quarter mile of the road consisted
of a small hill with a bend or two before it leveled out into a straight
It was on this hill, just out of sight
around the first bend that we heard the sounds of a child screaming and
a man’s stern voice telling him to get in the car.
As we approached apprehensively, our
fears grew, for we all had the same thoughts. SOME KID WAS BEING
Suddenly, there they were, and we were
witnesses to a sight that made us tremble with something other than the
cool breeze playing over our wet bodies.
The man was physically forcing the kid
into his car and, after getting him settled down securely, drove away with
the kid still screaming something about, “I don’t wanna go with you.” We
scurried home much faster than we had left it a few hours earlier.
After telling our story, Dad walked
to the next farmhouse where my Mom’s brother lived, called the County Sheriff
and reported the incident.
It was the next day when we got the
Sheriff’s report. They had found the man and the boy. It turned out that
the man was the boy’s father, that the man and his wife were separated
and divorced, and that the man was taking the boy with him for the weekend
as allowed by the divorce court’s visitation decree.
And that ends another summer afternoon
of my childhood.
Eventually a man named Bruno Hauptmann
was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed for the kidnapping and murder
of the Lindbergh baby.
Today, there is much controversy as
to whether the wrong man was executed. There is even a theory that Lindbergh,
himself, may have been involved.
Bob Harrison - July 24, 2000