December usually inspires generosity and compassion even in the most guarded of hearts. However, a story that was printed in the Napa Register during the holidays 53 years ago could have moved, or possibly even melted, the icy hearts of the Scrooge types.
The headline of this front page article read, “Baby Given To Police — Infant Given Home, Love for Christmas.” The Dec. 24, 1964 Register reported: “Love — the most precious gift of all — was bestowed today in abundance on a pretty 14-month-old baby girl who felt the brush of a kiss for the first time in her life and smiled as she returned the gesture.”
The details continued, “Her 21-year-old mother gave her to the police yesterday. She had tried to sell the child for $500 and was tired of waiting. ‘She was pleased that we came along and solved all of her problems,’ said Sgt. Carl Randol, juvenile officer. Her parting remark was, ‘As soon as you get those papers, let me know. The sooner the better.’”
“Those papers” were the legal documents of her voluntarily surrendering the child to the authorities as well as waiving her custodial and/or parental rights to the little girl.
The Register then reported, “A neighbor’s complaint brought Randol and Officer Carolyn Jolliffe to the mother’s house on Dec. 23. The found the child in a crib, lying on a wet diaper placed over the bare plastic cover. She wore only a wet diaper and was not covered. Although the baby girl was covered with bruises.”
The article added, “While signing the release statement prepared for her, she fawned over a 2-year-old boy. The officers said the child was clean, unmarked and apparently well fed.” When asked about the boy, who was about 10 months older than the little girl, their mother said, “We really like him. We wouldn’t give him up for anything.”
The Dec. 24, 1964 article did not report that the authorities had taken or were planning to take any legal action against the mother. Also, the reporter did not provide any clarification as to whom the mother was referring to when she said, “We.”
The Register did provide more details about the course of events following the officers taking custody of the little girl. Back at the station, “The 28 police (officers) who took her to their hearts yesterday while arrangements were made for a foster home, rushed out to buy clothing, toys and a supply of healthy food for their ‘surprise Christmas present.’ Several (officers) passed out cigars today to mark the arrival of a daughter.”
Once examined by a doctor and found to be in good health, the little girl was placed in a Napa-area foster home. There, she received the proper amount of healthful food, attentive care and an abundance of affection. Her foster mother added, “She is the most lovable little tyke I ever saw.”
To conclude this heartrending story, the Register wrote, “While she slept, those who felt blessed by her presence prayed all of her Christmases would be happy.”
Before closing this column, I would like to add some background information. I came across this true holiday season story in 1999 as I was conducting historical research for a special short-term column series titled “Millennium Moments,” a 20th century retrospective. I was and continue to be touched by this story. And even though 18 years have passed since I first came across it, I have not been able to find out any additional information about the little girl, now a woman in her 50s. But, maybe this is for the best! All I can add is that I hope from Dec. 23, 1964 and onward she has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, a wonderful life.