Leave Homes to be Lake Captains

This July 7, 1916, story in The Lake County Times tells of two boys who ran away from home to pursue a career aboard a lake steamer.

Audry Stamm and Leroy Cox were two 14-year-old Indianapolis schoolboys who ran away from home 100 years ago to become captains on Great Lakes steamers but ended up charming the Hammond police force.

The Lake County Times told their story on July 7, 1916.

"So manly and likable are the little runaways, that officers are showing them all sorts of favors," The Times reported. "The boys will be held until word is received from their parents."

The boys were down to their last nickel when they were taken into custody. (With inflation, that's about $1.10 today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Let's let the 1916 story give some details of their escapade:

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"'We wanted to be cabin boys on a lake steamer and work up to be captains,' said Audry today. 'And so we saved our money until we had $5 [$110.20 today] between us and bought half fare tickets over the Pennsylvania railroad to Chicago. It was a nice trip. When we got to Chicago we went down to the lake front but they didn't want any cabin boys and so we started home. Pshaw, we could have broken out of this jail last night. It aint nothing to break out of jail. I could call the officer in to ast him sumthin' and Leroy could gag and bind him. But we ain't desperadoes like that. We fight only when somebody is being abused or their honor is stake. Onst Leroy and me—'"

That's where Captain Hanlon interrupted the story with breakfast for the boys.

"The boys were allowed to play in Central Park today," the story said.

Audry said he was in seventh grade, while Leroy said he was in eighth grade. Leroy "told the police his mother was getting a divorce from his step-father and that she divorced his father two years ago," the story said.

No word on whether the two explorers ever got their sea legs.

Politics/History Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.