Marjorie West born in 1934 is not just a name on a missing person’s file, she is my first cousin once removed. In May of 1938, while picking flowers behind a rock at a family picnic she disappeared. My mother was 6 at the time and had just had her birthday party about 10 days before and Marjorie had attended.
It became one of Pennsylvania’s biggest man hunts looking for the little girl. Searchers combed the tree covered hillside looking for her, there was fear that she had fallen down an old forgotten well after wandering away from the roc k. Her older sister who was about 11 had just walked away from her for a moment. “Stay away from going behind the rock,” she had been warned. As small children are prone to do, that is right where she went.
The assumption that the other children involved will get over it and heal, life will go on and things blur and forgotten is not necessarily true. My mother collected all of the newspaper clippings, pasting them into her scrapbook along with pictures of Shirley Temple, glamour girls and animals. She gave me the scrapbook a couple of years ago. The clippings had yellowed with time but the stress and strain on the family pictured could still be felt today. Marjorie’s parents would eventually divorce and her sister is the only living sibling of three.
The effects of that day lasted long into mom’s adulthood and when she had children made her extra cautious about where we were and who we were with. She confessed to me that she use to call my girlfriends mother when I cut across backyards to ensure I had arrived safe, a trip that took a minute at most.
The searches found the crushed bouquet of violets, picked for her mother for mother’s day, lying on the ground not far from the rock that hid her small size from view. They brought bloodhounds in that day. The dogs followed her scent into the middle of the road and stopped. Rumors, tips and hints flooded in, sightings of a small girl with a man heading south. Another young boy was missing south of the area that Marjorie disappeared in, could they be related?
Here in Memphis a woman was arrested for selling stolen children as orphans to wealthy families during that same time period. Connections were never made to her operation and I wonder, could Marjorie possibly still be alive.