Sep. 28—The girl was officially known as Miss L.M. Ray, but when she crept off to Lewiston for a romantic interlude, she changed her name to Miss L.M. White.
Just 16 years old was Miss Ray, or Miss White, if you prefer, but she was no dummy. She had managed to travel all the way from Marblehead, Massachusetts, and with the presto-chango name swap, who could possibly find her?
The girl, presumably lonely and eager for adventure, had been corresponding with an older boy from Maine. When the exchange of words was no longer enough, a plan was hatched. She would sneak out of her family home, travel up to Lewiston and at last, they would be in each other's arms.
Ah, youth. We see it all the time. For days, a young girl's face will be plastered all over social media, along with her age, height, weight and any distinguishing features. Complete strangers will share those posts left and right because who knew? The kid could be in serious trouble.
Runaway teens face uphill battles these days because when they go missing, people assume the worst and those "MISSING" flyers get shared like winter colds all over the internet. Running off for romantic magic with Tony T. from Thorndike might sound like a grand idea for a teenage girl with more hormones than brains, but what chance does the doomed couple have when all those dang MISSING flyers have turned every other person on the internet into Dog the Bounty Hunter?
Miss Ray, however, had something going for her that kids don't have these days. In particular, she had the presence of mind to make her run for romance in a time long before the internet was even a concept.
It was 1913, to be specific, and I only know about this at all because an alert reader found a very old Lewiston Saturday Journal newspaper clipping highlighting the whole sordid affair.
In 1913, newspaper reporters had a way of making everything sound like a Raymond Chandler novel.
"The young woman is 16 years of age and a few days ago, left her home in Marblehead, Mass., not taking the trouble to notify her parents in which direction she was going," goes the breathless article about the affair. "As soon as the father learned that the child had run away, he began to investigate."
Presumably, he began his investigation with the help of a giant magnifying glass and long-stemmed cherry-wood pipe, because that's how hard-boiled men rolled back in those days.
When the girl's worried pa searched her belongings at home, he uncovered plenty of leads, including some old letters from the girl's Lewiston paramour, as well as photos of the wretch in question.
Off dad went, presumably wearing an overcoat and deerstalker hat, to fetch his little girl. He traveled by train, just as his daughter had done when she made her escape. I like to think he ordered bourbon from the club car and scowled over every inch of that 135-mile journey.
Teenagers, huh? What are you going to do?
It just goes to show, really. When it comes to longings and impetuous flights of fancy, kids then were the same as kids now, though their times were vastly different. The main difference in this story is that Little Miss Ray (or Miss White) conducted her affair using a fountain pen and the U.S. Postal Service rather than text messages or some online chatroom. A slower-motion approach, sure, but the results were the same.
At any rate, hard-boiled dad had done enough sleuthing to deduce that Lewiston's Romeo was living on Park Street in Lewiston. According to the news report, Pops went directly there, no cops, no nothing. Found what he was after, too.
The news article doesn't relate what happened when Dadio got to Park Street, but if I know that man like I think I do, it didn't end well for the love-struck lad who caused all this ruckus.
A heaping helping of knuckle sandwiches, I'm betting.
When the dust from all that cleared, dad and daughter were reunited, and together hopped on the afternoon train for Marblehead. I'm going to go ahead and assume that the girl was disciplined soundly, but grew up safer, wiser and more responsible because of it.
Like any good story from back in that golden age of stories, this one had a lingering mystery. Exactly how had that 16-year-old girl from a quaint, coastal village managed to make such a long trip all on her own?
"It was suggested by the parents," according to the Journal, "that the child came to Lewiston in company with a Miss Olsen, a young woman of about 23 years of age, although she was not found in company with the girl."
As far as I know, the enigmatic Miss Olsen is still out there, devilishly tempting younger girls into trouble in faraway places.
If someone would loan me a magnifying glass, pipe and deerstalker hat, I'd be glad to search for the lady.
She'd be 131 years old. How hard could it possibly be to track her down?