“Where’s Mary Jane…My Mary Jane?”…

Where's Mary Jane?
Where’s Mary Jane?

In memory of Marianne Schuett who disappeared April, 1967…

This morning I rose like any other morning. I brewed some coffee, had a bite to eat and then, as is part of my daily routine, I eased down into my favourite chair in the livingroom, a recliner where I sit and gaze through expansive windows to the marina literally in our front yard, lapping Pacific waters, the gulls swooping by, the heavenly blue sky, the straight, island and coastal mainland beyond. When I awoke the sky was a brilliant shade of blue with only a whisper of a wind.

I have often looked out those windows at the beauty that surrounds us, the peaceful serenity, almost dreamlike splendor, seemingly unaffected by the global picture, the experiences of humanity good and bad. My thoughts often drift in their own direction as I gaze through those windows and out amidst the beauty. The images, the memories, the visual sensations and transparency of the mind flow as the northeasterly drawing at the blinds in cadent distraction.

Thoughts will take me where they will and on this particular morning my deliberations took me back to days of my youth. Our family had a few years ago moved out of the city to a rural, countryside area of Southern Ontario. There were gentle rolling hills dotted with trees and expansive tracts of farmland worked for cash crops and feed, corn primarily and hay. In this moment I could still smell the freshly turned soil as the farmer’s tractor ambled across undulating fields tilling the dark earth into neat rows of, from what seemed from a distance, narrow rolls of chocolate swirl.

And in this moment of recollection memory served up an unpleasant thought of a dark and mysterious time when a little girl named Marianne Schuett, aged ten years, had gone missing from a small, serene community in southern Ontario, Canada. It was in April of 1967, forty-six years ago to the month, that little Marianne scampered off to school just four hundred yards away. It was a different time then, serene, quiet, peaceful times when children, even as young as Marianne, toddled off to school with their friends from their neighborhood by her side. Everyone knew each other back then, just a small, close-knit country community with the local school, church, general store and cemetery.

Mid-afternoon came and the bell rang out to announce the end of the school day. Children merrily poured through the doors of Kilbride Elementary, pausing briefly to chatter, to play on the school swings, to chase each other giddily before heading home, books under their arms or hanging in back packs. The beautiful large maple trees swayed in the breeze of a spring day with budding leaves and tulip bulbs pushing up through garden beds. The air was so fresh as though cleansed by the harsh winter storms now past.

Marianne did not arrive home from school that fateful spring afternoon in April. She was last seen talking to a man, fortyish, with thin face and wearing glasses, seated in a large red European car. Anyone who might have seen Marianne chatting with this man would likely not have thought anything of it. It was indeed a different time, an era of a child trusting an adult, even if that adult might be unfamiliar, unknown. Everyone went about their business oblivious to any distraction, any sense of concern or foreboding.

At the Schuett residence that late afternoon, as the time came and passed that little Marianne was usually home from school, then half and whole hours passed them by, Marianne’s parents started to worry, made phone calls, all to no avail.

In the days that followed massive air and land searches ensued. I recall hearing scores of people talking as they worked their way through the brush just beyond the perimeter of our yard, quite heavily wooded, lifting fallen branches, brushing aside broad leaf ferns and leaf debris on the ground searching….quietly, solemnly searching. A helicopter would noisily fly by not far over the treetops, hover momentarily, then move on. I nervously peered out my window to the souls below as they inched forward, police officers pointing and directing, questioning anything that might look out of the ordinary. Mom or dad would come into my room and guide me away from the window, counseling and consoling my youthful confusion and fear. Mom was emotional, often tears in her eyes. She had lost two children to incurable disease and the pain would resurface as she reflected on this poor, lost child.

Marianne’s picture was everywhere…in the newspapers, on the tv news, on urgent bulletins family and friends stapled to hydro poles and bulletin boards for miles away. The hunt continued day after day after increasingly forlorn day. Ultimately, as the searching produced no concrete results of clues to Marianne’s disappearance, the police called off the formally organized search party efforts. The community had come together with an incredible display of concern, fear and dismay as the days passed into weeks since Marianne was last seen in the school yard. There was a terrible sense of loss, grief, and a community in mourning for that lost little girl who could well have been the child of any family in that immediate area, anywhere for that matter. Marianne was gone…not a trace left behind.

The police did for a time have a ‘person of interest’ in their sights, a man who lived not too distant to the Kilbride community, who was married with children. Still, there was insufficient evidence to warrant an arrest. The man of concern eventually relocated to another city not far away and in 1991 took his own life. There has never been anything concrete in evidence to suggest he or anyone else was involved in the apparent abduction of Marianne Schuett.

Marianne’s family, including an older brother, went through a living hell, never knowing with any certainty the fate of their beloved little girl/sister. That was the worst of it all, not only for the Schuett family but the surrounding community and so many communities throughout the province, throughout the country who would soon come to know the name and the tragic disappearance of Marianne Schuett. Her family would never again know her laughter, her cheerful and bright disposition, her quiet playfulness and gentle demeanor. Without the closure her family will forever have the heartache of not knowing what truly needs to be known…

In 1991 singer/songwriter/musician/actor/author Ian Thomas, who himself was raised in a nearby community to Kilbride, was deeply moved about the Schuett case and wrote a song about the missing little girl titled “Mary Jane”. The song is one of the tracks on his 1976 record album ‘Calabash’, a haunting, solemn lament, the lyrics of which are posted here. Because of the close proximity of Marianne’s community to our own we too felt a terrible sense of tragedy, of loss. Not an instant went by as I rode my bike or drove my car through that community years later that I did not have instant recall to her pretty little face nor the painful voice and lyrics of the Thomas song.

There are little boys and girls around the world who have seemingly come to this same fate. One can imagine the worst yet pray for something of lesser evil. The unsolved mystery of the missing child, the tears, the anguish, the lifelong torment of the who, the what, the why…it lays unbearably heavy upon the wounded heart. The unknown can be a terrible, terrible thing.

The question weighed heavy on my mind so often then and to this day…where’s Mary Jane?…

Perhaps we will never know.

 

Mary Jane

By Ian Thomas

It’s been a year or so since anybody’s seen her
Mary Jane was on her way from school
They say a big red car pulled up and she got in
The sheriff says it was after dinner that Mary’s mother phoned in
Where’s Mary Jane? My Mary Jane, oh, Mary Jane, Mary Jane

You know they ran her picture for a month or so
Saying, “Anybody seen Miss Mary Jane?”
Now there’s nothing, seems like everyone’s forgot
But Mary’s folks who sit with the toys they bought
The toys they bought for Mary Jane

My Mary Jane, oh, Mary Jane, Mary Jane

I remember all the Sunday afternoons
Swinging on her swing and singing funny childrens’
Funny childrens’ tunes, Mary-Jane
My Mary Jane, oh. Mary Jane, Mary Jane

Forever in the memory of Marianne Schuett…

 

© Don MacIver 2013; All Rights Reserved

Connect With Don MacIver on Google+

 

Did you enjoy this blog post today? If so your comment would be most appreciated in addition to a rating at the top of the post, clicking “Like” and also ‘SHARE’ this literary post with those you know.

Share a related writing of your own here or link back to the same on your own blog!

Advertisements

13 thoughts on ““Where’s Mary Jane…My Mary Jane?”…

  1. I remember this case. It was only about five months after my family moved into a neighboring community as well. My parents knew the Schuetts because they were members of our church at the time and participated in their pain. Never solved. I was completely unaware Ian Thomas’ Mary Jane, however.

    Like

    1. Thank you for sharing this Peter. Yes, you and I lived in relatively close proximity to the Schuett neighborhood of Kilbride, Ontario. In that day and age child abduction was a rare occurrence and most unsettling for the entire community. Having just being exposed through the media to the reuniting of three young ladies in the US after a ten year abduction, an unimaginable situation, so many questions must remain heavily on the minds of the Schuett family. To lose a child under such circumstances and to not know for all these years, to not have closure on the status of the case and your loved one’s disposition has to be a tremendous heartache, inconsolable in so many ways. Having two sons of my own I just could not imagine, ever, my own child disappearing in this manner and the horrible agony we, as parents, would have to spent a lifetime dealing with. Though I have not played that Ian Thomas record album in so many years the words, the chorus, haunting, desperate, resonate in my mind to this day.

      Like

  2. CBC just had a news item on child abductions, this evening and my mind suddenly turned to remembering Marianne Schuett. I did not know her, but lived in neighbouring Burlington, south of Kilbride. The day Marianne was abducted was the day I believe the “days of innocence” of our childhood ended. I was only a year older than her, and our parents no longer seemed as cavalier about our comings and goings in the neighbourhood. We found a torn red shirt in the local “woods” near the centre of town, and the police came, but it was not connected to Marianne….I did not realize Mary Jane was a song dedicated to Marianne’s memory. Sad…but, I never did forget her name.

    Like

    1. My gosh, we must have been practically neighbors. I too lived just south of Kilbride on what was then No. 5 Sideroad between Guelph Line and Blind Line. I used to shortcut through to the Cedar Springs community via a series of hiking trails to visit a close friend. The occasion of Marianne Schuett’s disappearance was certainly a turning point in our perspective of “strangers” and was potential perils were represented by the approach of a stranger, especially to one as a child. It has been a very innocent, trusting time, yes, in an area where my parents relocated their family away from the urban environment to realize that innocence, an area they felt ideal for raising their children and indeed, in many respects, the area was conducive to just that. The moment I peered out through my bedroom window at hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers combing their way through the wooded brush searching for clues of that child’s whereabouts and a helicopter hovering over our house and police officers directing that enormous search and rescue operation right through our property and onward for many miles beyond was truly a significant alteration to many of my own perceptions.

      Parent became much more vigilant in their guidance of their children in terms of strangers, who to trust, who not to trust. And yes, that sense of childhood innocence was indeed lost forever.

      Like

    1. You’re most welcome Melissa. You have been through so much with the heartbreaking loss of a child. To this day the family of that little girl gaze out their windows at passing vehicles, they look into the eyes of people approaching on a sidewalk or nodding a greeting at the corner store…they just never have resolve, the closure of knowing with any certainty what has happened to their child for all these years and this will undoubtedly haunt them for the rest of their lives. I have children and cannot know how I would handle such circumstance, or that of your own, unless I have been through it myself but I expect the pain and anguish would eat me alive. All they truly want is to know…one way or the other.

      Like

  3. Pingback: micro jobs
    1. Micro, I must extend sincere apologies for my lack of response until now. Somehow your post escaped me through my comment notifications. If my writing on this matter has affected my readers in any positive way then I have accomplished what I set out to do. We can never lose hope for our lost children. This is indeed a sensitive subject and given my close proximity to the Schuett family and their community I felt a strong sense of compelling to share the story once again.

      Like

  4. I cried when I read this. Marianne was my best friend. I was only 6 when she disappeared, but we were together often. She had just helped my celebrate my birthday the month before. When she went missing, her mother, Ethel, called and asked my mom to send Marianne home for supper. Ours was the only house she was allowed to go to after school. I remember being asked questions by the police. Mac Lipson of CHUM radio used our house as his base. My dad joined all of the neighbours in the search. I remember helicopters landing in the school yard. I also remember asking my mom weeks later, where Marianne was and why she wasn’t coming to school, and why she wasn’t coming to play anymore. I was too little to understand, I guess. I remember we found a baby bird in our front yard, and we tried to raise it. I don’t actually remember what happened to it, but I assume it died. Years later, when I was 18, I came home from work one day to a strange car in the driveway. As soon as I walked in, I recognized her. Ethel had come from Guelph to visit my mom. She cried when she saw me. I’m sure she thought of Marianne and that she too should be all grown up. I think of her often and wonder what could have been. I’m sure we would still be friends. I will never forget her. Thank you for remembering her too.

    Like

    1. Karen, thank you so much for sharing such painful circumstance with us here. This was such a high profile case that brought historic attention to our community and far, far beyond. That was seemingly such an innocent time and our perceptions of our surroundings, our lives, our comfort levels wherever we ventured as children, the risks we needed to associate with strangers even though they were seemingly friendly. People began to lock their doors, increase night lighting around their homes and were so much more diligent about always knowing their children’s whereabouts and what they were doing.

      I was only eight years old at the time having moved with my family to the area not that long before Marianne’s disappearance. My parents had made deliberate decisions about our home location given concerns about life in the urban centers. It was all extremely confusing for me to hear all the news about Marianne, to see all those many people combing their way through our property. We lived but a few miles away from Kilbride on what was then #5 Side Road next to Fairview Elementary School and of course on weekdays there was a heavy presence of young children right next door to our home. I went to Fairview School and it seemed that whenever a car pulled into the school parking lot, if it paused for any length of time without picking someone up, or leaving, the driver became suspect. What an uneasy time it was for us growing up. Perhaps in some ways there was some good, some positive that came out of all that uneasiness. School teachers and parents took a very proactive approach to ensuring our awareness of strangers, of never getting into a stranger’s car or walking away with them, even conversing with them.

      Even though so many of us did not know Marianne personally there was a terrible sense of sadness…for the family, friends, anyone directly connected to Marianne and her family. Worst of all was surely in the not knowing with certainty where Marianne was or what her circumstance was…then as in now. I posted this piece to raise awareness about Marianne, to keep that beautiful little face in peoples minds. We cannot forget her simply because of the lengthy passage of time. Of course this goes without saying for anyone’s disappearance. We cannot lose hope that she still may be found. Of course she is an adult now yet…it was only recently that we became acutely aware of three young girls kept captive for ten years and their escape became imminent. Cold cases have indeed been resolved on occasion and the best resource of all are people in the communities, near or far, that may see some shred of evidence, some reason to believe in miracles.

      That you have felt such emotions all these years later says so much Karen. That a prominent musician/singer in the day cared enough to express his own shock and sadness about Marianne and to go into a studio and preserve that sadness, that anxiety, that hope that she might be found and returned to her family and friends elevates the hope, the presence of mind to be watchful for even the smallest of clues…

      Indeed, I wrote this piece in the hopes that it will serve to remind people to maintain a cautious vigil over their children…not smothering but sufficient to be aware, always aware of their child’s proximity and safety. We are certainly all the more cautious and aware (one would hope) in this day when child abduction is so much more prevalent. Interestingly this post has received amoung the very highest levels of page views and shares of all my written works published here at Transitions since 2005. This has been the case since its initial publication here and it would seem that in the vastness of the internet such related writings are picked up and attached to all the myriad of other related articles.

      I would dearly love for Marianne’s parents to be aware of my post, my own continued memories and awareness…and too that there continues to be public caring, hope and vigilance about the loss, and finding, of their precious daughter Marianne. Her mom and dad are surely elderly in this day and have lived through their life carrying that terrible grief. Perhaps in the day of their eventual final resting they (mom, dad, siblings, relatives) will all reunite with their sweet little girl from that pleasant town north of Burlington, Ontario, Canada who suddenly and swiftly…slipped away. Hope maintains a living balance, a comfort, an assurance that miracles in our lives do happen.

      Like

  5. Reblogged this on Don MacIver; Transitions and commented:

    Nearly one year ago I wrote about a little girl’s disappearance from a small community in southern Ontario, Canada back in 1967. I choose to keep Marianne Schuett and the hope of her eventual finding alive in the mind and spirit of many. We have to embrace hope, we have to believe in miracles.
    Moments are a lifetime for this individual to her family, relatives, friends and community.
    PLEASE SHARE this story, far and wide. Share this story and this little girl’s image, not allowing the long passage of time to detract from the significance and urgency of her finding. Thank you for being here to see this story and passing it on to as many as possible…for the sake of Marianne Schuett. Hope runs eternal and must be so…for Marianne, her beloved family,,,and all those who have disappeared before and since.

    Like

  6. Marianne’s disappearance was probably the most horrible instance of my life, certainly the first. At the time I was 12. We lived on a farm in Lynden, maybe 45 minutes away. It changed me, my family and took me from a lad to an adolescent overnight. These common pictures are those from the Hamilton Spec and probably every newspaper across Canada at the time. I read of farmers in Guelph, Campbellville and elsewhere walking hand-in hand looking for her. It was a story that would never end, JFK like, on a small town, Canadian town scale. So horrific.

    The year before Roger Woodward went over Niagara Falls on the CDN side. My brother, Mom and I were in Denmark at the time but Dad saved the “Spectator” clippings for us to read since it was so spectacular, in a good sense. Then this. Sadly, I and maybe Canada were growing up together, being Centennial Year.

    I went to a party with my parents in Burlington about 1969 or 70 where Marianne’s parents were to be. My Dad and Mr. Schuett both worked at Ford in Oakville, as I recall. I doubt they knew each other but that kind of story would spread fast around the auto plant fast. Mom counselled us, (rather, strongly warned us) not to mention Marianne at all. I remember seeing a very slender Mrs. Schuett, arms crossed across her stomach, looking at us and other children with a sad smile. We were taught to give a firm handshake and introduce ourselves to adults. It was the best acting job of my life to say “Hello Mrs. Schuett. My name is Steve.” while pretending I knew nothing of her loss.

    Being a Canadian farm boy, I was devastated whenever we lost an animal on our farm. I’ve since lost my parents but I can’t pretend to minutely equate those to losing Marianne. My deepest condolences to her family and friends. Perhaps the best solace I can offer is for parents and others to read “The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence” by Gavin de Becker. It gave me chills up my spine but also practical advice about subliminal messages that our brain gives us to protect us and our loved ones from monsters like Marianne’s taker.

    For whatever it is worth, I would happily give up my remaining years if it would bring Marianne walking back into Kilbride to live out the rest of hers.

    Sincerely,
    Steve Frandsen

    Like

    1. Steve, thank you so much for your heartfelt comment here. Being from a rural area the shockwaves of such an incident resonate across the country. Those days were a very different time than we know today. I cannot imagine the heartbreak the Schuett family had to go through and it is something that one surely never gets over…the weight of not knowing and having closure has to be almost debilitating, crushing. For me as such a young boy looking out my window at those hundreds of anxious volunteers and police officers scouring methodically through the woods surrounding our home was incredibly surreal and honestly made me feel sick to my stomach. I didn’t fully understand the fear I felt and my parents did all they could to explain what had happened and of course counseled how careful we needed to be when approached by strangers. Even as I wrote this piece I became emotional. It’s so hard to think about an innocent, defenceless child at the hands of a predator. We were always extremely mindful of our own two sons and they were raised in suburban Vancouver where by population numbers alone the potential for this kind of crime become so much greater. Your closing line is wonderfully selfless Steve.

      Like

Please Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s