I grew up in Jamestown, NY, and one day as a toddler I wandered away from home, only to spend the afternoon with a group of kind local police officers who looked after me at the station until my mother could be located. At the time, it was my greatest adventure, and I’ve remembered it fondly all my life. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a photo of me sitting at a police station with an apple in my hands, posted to Facebook by a complete stranger some 50 years later.
We lived in a second floor apartment on Second Street, and one morning, I woke up hungry from a nap and wandered around the apartment looking for my mother. My sister was now in the crib, so I had the freedom of a big boy’s bed. It was June of 1959 and I was just about three years old, wearing coveralls and a plaid shirt, but no shoes.
I made it down the stairs, out the door, and distinctly remember looking through a door with many panes of square glass trying to find my mother. There was no panic or fear; I just wanted to know where she was. Since my search was fruitless so far, I headed toward the street in my bare feet up the concrete walk, humming a melody in my little head.
A woman approached me, and asked “Where are your shoes?” I really did not know or care, but she seem interested, so I told her, “Under that car,” figuring while she looked, I could just keep going along the sidewalk to find my mother. Instead, the lady scooped me up, took me to her home and sat me on the lid of a white appliance. She talked to someone on the phone while keeping one hand on me so I couldn’t wiggle off the perch she had me on. A couple of policemen arrived and carried me off, and I stood up in the front seat between them as we drove.
At the station they asked my name. A mostly inaudible “Mika Ja Bone” was my answer. They handed me a candy bar after candy bar asking the same question, but I was focused on the officer who resembled my Grandpa Nalbone. “Grandpa, tell them who I am,” I said, over and over. He just laughed and handed me another candy bar.
At some point, a hysterical phone call to the station made by my mother identified me as Michael John Nalbone, and with fists full of candy, I was carried to the squad car and set once again in the front seat, to stand between the officers for my ride home. The patrol car stopped in front of the apartment house, and I can still picture my mother running up the walk to fold me into her arms. I can’t remember her conversation with the police, but I remember saying “Look what Grandpa gave me!” once we went inside, showing her the two handfuls of candy bars. She took them from me, then whooped my butt, and put me in bed.
Later, I’d learn she had been downstairs visiting with her neighbor while my sister and I napped. A photo of me on the desk of the officer that I called “Grandpa” was published in the local Jamestown Post-Journal, but I hadn’t seen it for years, until I saw a post from a man named Art Audley in a Facebook Group about growing up in Jamestown.
Art’s late grandfather, E. Robert Allenson, served on the Jamestown police force for 40 years, and this photo was found among his father’s things. He grew up in Sugar Grove, PA, just 12 miles outside of Jamestown, and eventually relocated to Maine. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I noticed he posted this photo. I never thought I’d see it again.
I moved away in 1976, but I’ll never stop loving Jamestown and the close-knit, everybody-knows-everybody community we were lucky enough to be a part of. Now, I’m grateful to have a bit of that back on Facebook.