Yesterday's Magazette

8 – Kid Kidnappers

Kid Kidnappers

By Bill Easton

The name Erich Fleicher is permanently inscribed in my memory from a boyhood incident which happened over 50 years ago. I was raised in a small upstate New York village during World War Two. Erich lived there briefly with his father, a physician. They may have been refugees since his father had a heavy accent. Their home and office was located in a small apartment house owned and occupied by the parents of my friend, Harold. One thing I remember about  Erich was that, unlike our parents who called us in from play, the doctor used a high pitched whistle to summon his son.

Erich was quite bright, doing adult crossword puzzles at ages 10-12. But he was not much of a playmate for us. Of course this slightly built lad sporting girlish bangs was the “pet” of  both teachers and other neighborhood mothers. His own mother was rumored to be a police officer in New York City.

The day of the incident, when he became our prisoner, was either a Saturday or during vacation because we had no school. We had discovered a back entrance to a neighbor’s garage. The owner, a widow, didn’t use the car parked there.

I suppose she couldn’t get gasoline during the war. So we would crawl into that back spot, probably just large enough for two or three kids. There we could hide treasures, such as comic books, although probably no cigarettes yet. Somehow we enticed Erich in – perhaps with the promise of some comics which he hoarded. I don’t remember just how long he remained there locked in by us from the outside. It was probably the entire afternoon and until bedtime in the evening. He didn’t cry or call for help. But neither did he return at his father’s whistle for dinner or bed. I don’t think that the police were called. But I do know the neighbors were out in full force searching for the missing child.

Eventually my older brother, Joe, Harold, and I confessed. After Erich was freed and safely home, we all received appropriate discipline from our parents. The next weekend, his mother summoned us to their home/office. She informed us that she was a truant officer and described how she sent juvenile delinquents to reform school. She spoke very good English, with a very stern tone. After lecturing each of us separately with our mothers present, she took me aside. (I may have been in tears by then since my older brothers teased that I cried a lot). In a kinder voice, after laying her hands on my head, she pronounced it well formed and that someday I would be president.

Well, that hasn’t happened, but neither did I end up in reform school, as I had feared. But I never forgot Erich Fleicher, even though he left our town a year or two later.

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