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The Boy at Booth Memorial

Jeff Hall

Posted on December 9, 2018 21:03

1 user

"The Boy at Booth Memorial" is a true story about a 14-year-old boy named Rene who, in 1949, along with his mother, moved into a facility for "wayward girls" in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I recently had the pleasure of reading “The Boy at Booth Memorial”.

A mother with a 14-year-old son was in need of a job.  A chance meeting led to her being hired by Booth Memorial, run by Salvation Army nurses. 

Both mother and son lived there as part of the arrangement.  Rene’s father was, by now, long gone, as the marriage between his parents had failed.

So young Rene, obsessed with football and other “boy” things, suddenly found himself not only surrounded by lots of young women – but pregnant young women. 

And so began a several-year adventure for a young boy coming of age.  It is based on the true story of Raymond DeTournay, now in his eighties.

Pregnant girls would spend several months at Booth Memorial, hiding from the world in shame as they prepared to give birth.  They came from all over the U.S. and were given new names upon entering Booth Memorial, so as to protect their anonymity.

In the next few years, young Rene would learn about bullying (mostly while learning to play ice hockey), ridicule (at school), and various forms of heartbreak – miscarriages, childbirth, death, suicide and broken relationships.

St. Paul in the early fifties is another world, to be sure.  We see newsboys on street corners, big and very solid cars, streetcars and people huddling around a big radio in the living room to listen to a faraway football game.

Many of the scenes took place in winter, when the air was frigid, sunlight was scarce, and the ground was covered in snow.  St. Paul was COLD.

While this setting might sound grim, the book can be hilarious at times.  Be sure to pay attention during the Christmas Nativity scene, when young Rene is pressed into duty to play the bearded Joseph in the annual Christmas play

We come to learn there is a predictable cycle to all this – there are the “prom night” girls and “graduation night” girls.

The book can also be quite tender, as Rene becomes the confidant of some of the girls.  The girls were there until shortly after giving birth; the babies were then given over to parents eager to adopt. Then the girls disappeared into their new (or old) lives, not to be heard from again.

Spirituality is part of the story, as well: Young Rene was raised as a Catholic and now found himself surrounded by “sinners.”  But they didn’t always seem like sinners; Rene came to question what a “sin” really was.

You are likely wondering by now if young Rene experiences sex while living at Booth Memorial.  You will have to read the book to find out.

DeTournay is now in talks with Hollywood movie producers who are considering turning “The Boy at Booth Memorial” into a movie.  Stay tuned.

 

Jeff Hall

Posted on December 9, 2018 21:03

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Source: NPR

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