Lake Charles American-Press from Lake Charles, Louisiana on June 28, 1964 · Page 62
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Lake Charles American-Press from Lake Charles, Louisiana · Page 62

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Lake Charles, Louisiana
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Sunday, June 28, 1964
Page:
Page 62
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Was an Escaped Convict / How does a woman react when her husband of 17 years, father of her seven children, reveals a secret his conscience can no longer contain? Here is her own story noncommissioned rating: George had to turn it down. On June 3, 1944, a burst of shrapnel wounded George in the leg, and the war ended for him. After the war, George returned to St. Louis and became friends with my father, who operated a garage. He introduced us, and it was love at first sight. George never made friends, and we moved often, but this didn't seem strange to me. Whatever George worked at, he did well. Once he was promoted to an excellent position, and we thought our financial troubles would end. But George learned he would be investigated for a surety bond. He turned down the advancement, telling me he couldn't get along with his supervisor and could do better elsewhere. I thought that was odd, but I went along. I always believed the man should make the decisions. Eventually we settled in an old frame farmhouse on the bottom lands not far from the Missouri River in Bridgeton, Mo. We had to carry our own drinking water, and the place was drafty and cold until George fixed the stoves. But we were isolated and that was important. "You know, I remember one day," George went on, "when I was shaving, and you answered a knock on the door. I heard a man say, 'We're from the FBI. May we speak to your husband?' I looked in the mirror and thought, 'Well, they've caught you at last.' All I could think of was you and the kids learning about me this way. Instead, the FBI man just said, 'We're investigating the possibility that a stolen interstate- commerce truck is hidden around here, Mr. Swanson, and we wonder whether you could help us.' That was all. But I was limp when they left." Fear and Shame Were Forever with Him Over the years, George's apprehensions built steadily. "I wanted to buy you and the kids a house, but I was scared about the mortgage and insurance checking. I wanted to go to church with the family, but how could I sit there knowing everything about me was a lie? I kept asking myself, 'What am I leaving them? Nothing. Not even a name.' " People ask me how I felt listening to my husband tell me he was a fugitive. I didn't feel anything. I just remember repeating numbly: "We'll make out all right. Mustn't worry. Do what you have to do." I meant it, too. I had sensed for a long time that something was driving my husband beyond endurance. I felt relief in having the cause in the open. Together I knew we could make anything bearable. "I'll be in prison three years," he kept saying. "There will be headlines. You and the kids might have to move. No telling what people will do once they learn what I am." When George finished his story, we coolly made plans for the day he would end his double life. We seldom got more than three hours sleep a night during the next week. We would lie in bed and talk over our problems softly so as not to wake the children. We told my family, and they were wonderful. They pledged all the help they could. George gave away his new snow tires and other things he figured he couldn't use again. I took my final driver's-license test because now all the chores would be mine. And we made plans to be married—married as Mr. and Mrs. George Hutchison. Oh, the trouble George had signing his real name to the marriage license after 27 years! We both practiced saying and writing Hutchison, but it was a long time before it came naturally. I don't think we will ever forget Jan. 14. My brother picked us up in his car. We were to drive to Troy, Mo., for our wedding, then directly to the sheriff's office. Bruce, 16, stayed home with the youngest children—David, 6, Valeria, 4, and Irene, eight months—who huddled unconcernedly around the television set. George stopped at the door, and he was crying. "So long, kids," he said. They thought Daddy was going shopping and paid no attention. Our older children—Glenn, 14, Michael, 12, and Rebecca, 10—came along as witnesses. All through the ride. Becky clung to her father's arm. They both wept quietly, the rest of us pretending not to notice. When George told his story to a deputy sheriff later, it was obvious the officer thought he was a crank. But Sheriff Lester Plackmeyer of St. Charles County telephoned Pontiac Penitentiary in Illinois, and about an hour later they called back after checking the records. Yes, all details checked out. Everybody thought George had frozen to death or drowned, and little effort had been made to find him. Now, however, the state would send marshals to return him to prison. "When they take me," George said, "I don't want you there." I insisted I'd stay with him until the last moment. "No," he replied. "The law says I have to be returned in chains. I don't want you or the kids to see me like that." Sheriff Plackmeyer was wonderful. He got newspaper photographers to agree not to take pictures of George in chains. But a tv crew hid down the street and filmed the scene. That night our children were watching tv when the film appeared. Despite all the precautions, they saw their father being led away in chains. I must have been in shock after returning home from the sheriff's office. I stood ironing until midnight. Things kept going- over and over in my mind: / must get George's army papers together . . . 1 must apply for aid for the children . . . I must get a hold of myself — the children unit need me if people turn against us. How the Public Reacted The story appeared on the front pages the next day. Our first incident involved the oil company, which refused to refill our tank although it was dead winter and the house was getting bitter cold. I thought the worst had come, but soon another truck drove up and began delivery. I told the driver I didn't know when we could pay. "Already paid for, ma'am," he said, but he couldn't tell me by whom. "The man just said he wanted to help until your husband came back." That was the first in a series of offers to help us. The phone rang constantly with neighbors worried about how we'd make out and asking how they could help. In the afternoon, a delegation from George's plant knocked on our door. "We took up a collection, Mrs. Swanson . . . er, Mrs. Hutchison," the spokesman said. "Here's about $100. There'll be more. We know George and won't let him down." But what about the children? I knew kids can be cruel without understanding 1 what they are doing. When our children came home from school, though, they were all excited over how everybody at school was talking about their daddy and how brave he must be. According to prison policy, George and I could not even correspond for weeks, but many wonderful people interceded for us, and soon I was flying to Pontiac. I was quite anxious because George had been taken ill and confined to the prison hospital. When I entered his room, though, he wouldn't talk about himself. "Please tell me the truth," he said. "How are you making out ? Is it rough ?" He couldn't seem to believe bow many friends we had and how they were not only helping us financially but petitioning Gov. Otto Kerner for a pardon. (Continued on page &} Family Weekly, June 28, 1984 3

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