Rainy day interview
Easy Does It
The Lindbergh Baby approached me in the lobby of the newspaper where years ago, I was a reporter. He grinned and extennded his hand. He had a firm handshake for a little guy pushing hard past 70 years of age.
“Go see what the guy in the lobby wants,” my editor had said. That’s how the Lindbergh Baby and I met in 1972. I’ve never seen him since.
Later at the paper, telling the story around the water cooler and shortening names so we could talk faster about how our day went, we started calling my visitor and assignment for obvious reasons, Mr. Baby.
“So what did Mr. Baby want?” my editor asked. He hadn’t read my story, and never did. The reason is because he told me not to bother writing Mr. Baby’s story even after I was able to read my own scribbled notes of the interview.
I was given the rare pleasure of de- positing all my interview’s hen scratches and even part of my typewritten translation in the round file next to my desk.
So now I’m summing up as best I can remember of my interview with the guy who claimed to be the son of aviator Charles Lindbergh.
“You mean the famous flyer’s son who was kidnapped back in the thirties and murdered by Bruno Richard Hauptmann? The body discovered in 1936 in a partially covered grave four long years after the crime? We on the same page here?” asked one of photogs.
“That’s right. But there’s more to the story,” I said.
In the lobby in 1972, Mr. Baby greeted me warmly as if grateful for being out of the rain and finding someone who would listen to his story all in the same day. Shaking rainwater off his thin soaked coat, Mr. Baby managed to settle in the least uncomfortable lobby chair, motioned for me to sit across from him, and began to relate his version of “the crime of the century.”
Or as he liked to refer to it, “an exciting adventure” back in the thirties.
I could barely keep my pencil going fast enough to keep up with the words spilling from mouth.
Yes, yes, he was the son and namesake of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, the famous flyer, barnstormer and daredevil pilot once known all over the world.
And yes, he was 30 months old when he was being lifted from his crib and carried from his nursery through a secondfloor window to a ladder leaning against in the family estate in Hopewell, NJ. It was early evening, March 1, 1932, just before 9 o’clock.
Just before 10 o’clock his favorite nurse, Betty Gow, entered the nursery to find Mr. Baby missing from his crib on that first day of March so very long ago.
And when he closes his eyes and thinks back, he remembers one hour earlier, 9 o’clock, the feeling of being gently lifted from his crib, carried down a ladder leaning against the side of the house by someone talking gently, soothingly, kindly to him.
“Have you got all that?” Mr. Baby suddenly wanted to know, concentrating on my reaction to his story. “There’s more, you know.”
He continued, explaining why he wasn’t dead. Another baby who had died of a terrible childhood disease a few days earlier was the kidnapper’s own child. So distraught by the tragedy, the mysterious unknown man who bore Mr. Baby down the ladder that March night in 1932 soon adopted him as his own child, raised him, loved and cherished him, taught him, and saw him grow to manhood.
I held Mr. Baby’s thin wet coat while he slipped it on. The first and only time I saw him was that chance meeting in 1972, a quick exit, and that hard rain. My story never was printed.