#3. Michael McNamee Crosses the Country at Age 11
In 1953, 11-year-old Michael McNamee was scared to go home on account of a bad report card. Most of us have been there. Maybe you take a chance and use a pen to change that D into a B, or run off to your treehouse hideaway until things blow over.
But little Mikey thought bigger.
Bs are for losers.
"I only had 35 cents in my pocket, but I wasn't worried much," Mikey later told police (an unconfirmed cigarette dangling from his lips), speaking in regards to his hopping a train from San Mateo to Oakland, and then crossing the entire freaking country, ducking train conductors all the way to Chicago.
"Weird. Another train full of dead hobos with child-sized finger bruises on their throats."
Thirty-five cents is equivalent to, what, three bucks in today's currency? Most of us would be worried to leave the house with just three bucks, let alone journey 2,000 miles across the country. His goal was to get to his uncle and aunt's house, which we assume was a report card judgment-free zone.
Man, we really didn't take advantage of all our get-out-of-jail-free years.
As soon as he got to Chicago, he sneaked aboard another train to Springfield, Illinois, where he heard that Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy himself, was playing a show. It was an opportunity too good for any 11-year-old boy in 1953 to pass up. But one that 35 cents couldn't cover, even in Ozzie and Harriet money. So what'd Mikey do? As if this game of report card repercussion outrun wasn't already the most epic in history, Mikey decided to seal his place in the Cracked record books by coolly explaining to the police:
"I didn't have a ticket. But I got in."
Damn right you did, Mikey.
#2. At 13, Bobby Stap Sails to Europe (More than Once)
It's 1938, and 13-year-old New Yorker Bobby Stap just wants to be a sailor man, like his dad, who was a chef for the American Merchant transatlantic steamship line. This kid wants it so bad he can feel the ship rocking: He even has his bedroom decked out like a ship's berth so he can go to sleep at night, visions of seafaring drifting through his head. It's safe to assume his mother had to tell him at least a few times to be patient; there would be plenty of time for sailing once he grew up.
Big mistake. Because one morning, Yvonne Stap woke up to find her little Bobby's bunk was empty.
See, nobody tells Bobby Stap when he can or can't embark on an ocean voyage.
Not even Mom.
"Fuck you, Mom ... blupblupblup."
For a brief period in U.S. history, little Bobby was a actually a celebrity, "America's Kid Stowaway #1-- Bobby Stap, the Incorrigible," and he definitely earned the title. In March of 1938, Bobby slipped away from his home in Queens and onto the Normandie, headed for France. He made it there and back, probably showing back up on his parents' doorstep with a crappy Eiffel Tower souvenir in hand for a peace offering on account of the whole "Look Ma, I ran away to another continent last month, but I'm back now!" thing. But Bobby didn't stop there.
He also got a silly hat and a disdainful attitude.
Almost as soon as he returned from his France jaunt, he ran away again and boarded the Georgic, due for England. The crew found their stowaway midway through that voyage, sending him back to NYC aboard the Queen Mary as soon as they docked. So you'd think that Bobby's wanderlust would have been sated at that point, right? Or at the very least, maybe he'd take a couple days off?
Not little Bobby Stap, who stepped off the Queen Mary's gangplank and greeted his waiting mother with:
"This isn't completely about your terrible nurturing skills, but yeah, you're an awful mother."
And he did: Within 24 hours he was headed for Savannah, Georgia, stowed away aboard the ship City of Chattanooga. When the crew found him that time, they locked him in the ship's brig and began sailing back, contacting the missing persons bureau after docking. Soon after that, he stowed away a fourth time on a Caribbean cruise. At this point, the question on most everybody's mind was: "What the hell do we do with this kid? Besides latch ourselves onto him and see if he can get us to the moon 30 years early." Newspaper columnists were actually weighing in on the Bobby issue in editorials, with at least one making the suggestion that the parents hook the kid up with the Navy and call it a day.
The Navy: We don't card.
After a judge waived the age requirement, Bobby was sent to the New York Merchant Marine School, where he was the youngest of the students preparing for life in the Navy. "This sea business is my second nature," Bobby told a reporter on the cusp of his graduation in September of 1940. "I will be captain of a ship one day. Why, I can be a quartermaster in eight months if we go to war!"
It seemed as though the mini-mariner menace had undergone a magical makeover; his mother was beaming with pride, and little did Bobby know, it wouldn't be much longer before he'd get to actually try his hand at that war thing.
"You know what this war needs more of? Child soldiers."
But the champ stowaway's makeover, like most makeovers, apparently didn't stick for very long: The final mention of Bobby in the papers comes in a July 1942 article reporting his rescue from a torpedoed ship, labeling him an annoyance to the Navy.
#1. Phillip Davidson Traveled the World Before He Could Drive
Though we can't confirm it, we suspect that toddler leashes were inspired by Phillip Davidson. His first runaway attempt was in 1960, at the age of six. Though that first escape bid probably didn't see him getting much farther than the backyard fence, little Phillip wasn't deterred; on the contrary, it only inspired the beginning of a long, long list of voyage objectives.
Doodled in crayon.
In 1971, officials found 16-year-old Phillip Davidson wandering around Tampa International Airport. Which wouldn't be a big deal, if it weren't for the fact that his home was in Coventry.
Immigration authorities didn't know what to make of it. He had no airline ticket; he must have been a stowaway. They questioned him as to how the hell he'd gotten there, but it didn't do much good: The kid told him four different stories. Finally, they gave up and got in contact with his father, who proceeded to explain the entirety of the situation. Since his first escape as a tyke, Phillip Davidson had run away a total of 46 times. Now, we know what you're thinking. "His father must have been the absolute worst person in the world."
Or Harry Houdini.
Well, not exactly. It turned out Phillip's father had recently spent $1,000 to retrieve little Phillip from a land and sea excursion to Switzerland he'd decided to take on a whim. The kid was just a natural born rolling stone, or as Phillip himself eventually confessed to immigration authorities, in what were perhaps the baddest-ass words ever uttered by a runaway kid in the latter half of the 20th century:
"I'm going to flip off a redback."
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For more children that could own you, check out 8 Child Prodigies So Amazing They'll Ruin Your Day and 5 Shockingly Powerful Kids Who Make You Look Like a Coward.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see how else children are making you insignificant.
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