Runaway Times Three

Relatives go missing for numerous reasons. My Aunt Marjorie June ran away twice in 1943 at age 13 and then simply vanished. No one in my family ever said exactly when she left home for the last time, although it was likely before 1945, and no one ever admitted having had contact with her following her departure.

Two local newspaper articles related her earlier adventures while there were never any reports when she finally left home for good.

The Portsmouth Herald reported June 16, 1943:

Thirteen-year-old Marjorie Merrifield left for her East Barrington, N.H., home yesterday, her week’s adventure in New York ended.

The girl was accompanied by her father, Charles Merrifield, who brought feminine clothing to replace the blue denim overalls, red lumberjacket, and boy’s shoes she was wearing when she was found in Times Square a week ago. The girl was taken to the Children’s Aid Society shelter, where for several days she gave officials one identity for herself after another. She finally gave them her true identity Tuesday night.

The family actually lived in Nottingham at the time. East Barrington was the rural mailing address.

How Marjorie made her way to New York City was unreported. It is possible that she hitchhiked or may have taken a bus or train. Finding her way to the Big Apple all on her own unaided, however, seems unlikely.

About a month later, the Portsmouth Herald reported July 17, 1943, that young Marjorie had taken to the roads again, this time traveling to Boston:

Miss Marjorie Merryfield, 13, of Nottingham, has decided to stay home for good. After her many thrilling adventures in Boston and New York she has decided that home isn’t so bad after all—that is, until possibly she gets the urge to hit the road again.

Safely home after her second runaway trip in three months, Marjorie had very little to say today about her many thrilling experiences. Her family reported that Marjorie was the victim of too many movies, but that now she is home again, she is being “safely taken care of.”

When she was picked up on Times square, New York city, July 7, she lead police on a wild chase by giving several fictitious names and addresses. It wasn’t until a week later that she gave authorities her correct name and address, and was brought back home by her father.

Last May, Marjorie decided to see Boston. Clad in boys overalls, she roamed about the city and attended the circus. When police finally caught up with her, she was identified and returned home.

She is one of five children of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Merryfield. The family has lived in Nottingham for about a year.

Obviously news traveled at a slower pace in those days and the reports of Marjorie’s shenanigans took time to make their way into the local press.

Boston was not unfamiliar territory to Marjorie. Her grandparents, Everett and Emma, lived in Roxbury and operated the Ashmont Taxi in Dorchester. She had visited both locations with her parents.

There are, of course, as found in all families, hushed rumors and tidbits and inklings. It was said that Marjorie June did not want to be a girl and preferred dressing like a boy, even going so far as to bind down her breasts. Allegedly, she chose the name John Hilliard for herself. She also reportedly headed for the Midwest, where her younger sister Shirley Faye moved to years later.

Sadly, both Marjorie and her alter-ego John have not been located over all these decades of searching for her. With a bit of luck she might show up in the 1950 federal census — when the release begins in April 2022.

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