breaking out of home of good shepherd

The Runaway Kids 50 Years Later from Home of the Good Shepherd

Runaway kids

Elizabeth Weintraub and Ileen Johnson at Pepito’s in South Minneapolis.

When my housekeeper asked who was the friend in Minneapolis I would be meeting yesterday, it gave me the opportunity to tell her about the runaway kids. It was a crime to leave home without parental permission in the 1960s. If you were caught, the police threw you in jail with all of the adult criminals. Not many people know this about me, but I left home at 15 and did not return until I was 19. And every so often I got picked up, incarcerated and slipped back into society. Runaway kids are rebels or troublemakers or both.

I knew Ileen from high school in Minneapolis, but we were not friends. Not until I met her in the Home of The Good Shepherd. The buildings and campus were from the 1800s, but it seemed like a castle to me. High ceilings, vast spaces, long hallways, damp, chilly and dark. The Sisters gave us 3 cigarettes a day at meal times. At night, they read us a bedtime story: The Hobbit. We went to school onsite, did chores and smoked.

Now, as luck would have it, when I spot a window of opportunity, I generally open that window. In this particular case, the windows had bars on them. Everyone had left us for the afternoon, all the Sisters, and we were unsupervised. This was my opportunity to escape. A large group of us kids tried to pry off the bars from the windows, but it wasn’t working. I noticed the bars were attached to a frame, and somehow, I don’t recall how I did it, I managed to release the frame from the window.

The kids gasped. I opened it. We were on the second floor. There was a tin roof over an extended first floor. Ileen and I jumped out the window, landed on the tin roof and hopped down the remaining distance to the ground. It was the middle of winter in St. Paul, Minnesota. We had no coats, no belongings. We ran. We were 15 years old.

Somehow we found my great grandmother’s house. My great grandma gave us winter coats, a little bit of money, and we left to take the bus into Minneapolis. Along the way, I felt into my grandfather’s coat pocket and discovered a flask of brandy. Nobody thought of us as runaway kids because that’s how kids dressed in the 1960s. In old peoples’ clothing.

Ileen was busted early on, but I stayed on the run for several more months. That was 50 years ago. And above is a photo of me with Ileen today. I am in Minneapolis for a few days to help scatter the ashes of my aunt, my mother’s sister. Still selling Sacramento real estate in my absence from town, though. I’m one of those people who always finds a way to succeed. So does Ileen.

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