Bradford enjoyed its own rush for liquid gold a dozen years later, providing a steady living for families like the Wests – Shirley was an assistant engineer at Kendall Refining, located just a few blocks from his home. What followed was a grueling search that spanned months and saw more than 3,000 local people hunting for Marjorie, with countless others locked into the national newspaper coverage.
After church, the Wests drove 13 miles along Highway 219 to a clearing in the Allegheny Forest that was popular with hunters and fishermen. When police couldn’t find Marjorie that Sunday afternoon, 200 men joined in, including the Citizen Conservation Corps and the Moose and Elks lodges. “All available flash-lights in the city were pressed into service,” noted the .
How free children should be to roam, and how cautious parents should be about young children’s activities, is a debate that still rages today. The girls, Dorothea and Marjorie, wanted to pick wildflowers.
* * * n Sunday, May 8, 1938, the West family – father Shirley; mother Cecilia; and children Dorothea, 11, Allan, 7, and Marjorie – attended church in Bradford, a small city 90 minutes south of Buffalo, New York, and 90 minutes east of Titusville, Pennsylvania, the site of the country’s first oil boom in 1859. Shirley warned them to watch for rattlesnakes behind the boulder nearby. Dorothea headed to the car to deliver them to their mother. The family drove to the nearest phone seven miles away to contact police in the town of Kane.
There were discoveries: a swath of lace near the boulder, and a fresh hole a few miles away.
They traversed the tangled underbrush alongside police with bloodhounds, World War I veterans, Cornplanter Indians, coal miners, and assorted others who’d responded to the local mayor’s call for 1,000 volunteers.
Many people believed in 1938, as they do now, that Marjorie was picked up at the road.
Witnesses told police of three cars that had passed through the area around three p.m.
In a op-ed, Ana North wrote, “‘Stranger Things’ is a reminder of a kind of unstructured childhood wandering that [now] seems less possible.” But the Marjorie West case reminds us that decades before mass media coverage of child kidnappings, there were hazards that terrified parents.
The dangers (Depression-era vagrants, illicit adoption rings) were just different. Her husband, Shirley, prepared to go trout fishing in the stream with Lloyd.