Little Mr. Victory

It was August 15, 1945, and Boston was in a mood to celebrate.  After three and a half years of bloody sacrifice, news had arrived that Japan was surrendering and that World War Two was finally over.  That afternoon gas rationing, just one of the many sacrifices made by civilians on the home front, had been lifted, and thousands poured into Boston where they drank, danced, paraded and prayed well into the night.  The Hub had never seen such a party.

It was sometime that afternoon that a mystery began which has endured for 60 years.  Down on the Boston Common, in midst of all that celebrating, a young woman walked up to an East Boston teenager named Robert Sparato.  Sparato told police that he was sitting on a park bench when the woman, whom he described as being in her mid-twenties and well-dressed in a grey suit, asked him to watch her baby while she performed an errand.  He said the woman then gave him two dollars and promised that she would return shortly.

She never did.

After about an hour, the sight of the teenage boy holding a baby (who had begun to whimper almost immediately upon being placed in his arms) drew the attention of three young women from Dorchester.  After hearing Sparato’s story, they suggested he turn the baby over to the police, which he did.  Following a brief stop at the old Joy Street station, the black-haired, blue-eyed, eleven-pound boy was taken to Boston City Hospital (now B.U. Medical Center) where he was examined and found to be in perfect health.  His age was estimated by doctors to be between two and five weeks old.

During a week in which the most deadly and costly war in American history had finally ended, the story of the abandoned baby made the front page of several Boston papers.  “Deserts Baby on Boston Common” blared the August 16th Boston Post, just below its headline about Japan’s surrender.  The timing of the baby’s abandonment was not lost on anyone, and several papers took to calling the boy “Little Mr. Victory” or “Baby Victory,” nicknames which seemed to endear him to the hearts of Bostonians.  Over the next two weeks, local papers would provide their readers with frequent reports on the search for the child’s mother, even as couples lined up to adopt the baby boy.

On August 16th the Evening American reported how the state would, for the first time, use footprints in its efforts to identify the boy.  The next day they reported that a woman fitting the description given by Charles Sparato was seen by a patrolman boarding a bus for Portland, and that a detective had been dispatched to Maine to check with area hospitals.  But hopes that were raised were just as quickly dashed, leading a frustrated writer at the American to ask, in an open letter to the city, “Mother!  Won’t You Give Mr. V a Name?”

Things started looking up again on August 27th when a police spokesman said they were “convinced they know the name of the mother.”  That hope was based on information given to them by another woman who had given birth in June at Boston City Hospital, and who claimed to have recognized the baby from his photograph and the missing mother from her description in the paper.  She recalled how the woman had said her husband was a G.I. who had been killed in Europe.  That lead led police to Long Island, where a pregnant woman had recently been reported missing.  They were expecting a picture to arrive any day.

Yet by August 29th, a full two weeks since “Little Mr. Victory” had been abandoned, the picture had not arrived, and it was clear by their actions that the police were frustrated.  That day, Captain James Tiernan of the Joy Street station released a number of previously unreported details about the baby, such as the white shirt he was wearing when abandoned on which were embroidered the initials T.M.K.  It was hoped that those details would generate a lead that would help with identification.

Just the opposite apparently happened, because after the 29th of August there is not a single article in any Boston paper on the fate of “Mr. Victory,” at least through the end of the year.  Efforts by archivists at both the Globe and Herald turned up nothing, as did a thorough search of the microfilm collections of the Post and American.  Official channels don’t provide any answers, either.  The records for Boston City Hospital from that era are long-gone, as are the case files at the Suffolk County Probate Court and Boston Police Department.  Since neither the baby’s date of birth nor the name given to him by the Department of Public Welfare (a precursor to the DSS) is known, his records are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find.

We are left with so many questions.  Did the police ever find “Baby Victory’s” mother?”  If they did, why was there no mention in any paper?  If not, which seems more likely, then was the baby adopted, or did he remain a ward of the state, living in foster homes until he became an adult?  Then there is the most poignant question of all; why, on the day when all around her Boston was celebrating a day of unmatched joy and unbridled hope for the future, why on this day did the mother chose to change her life and the life her baby forever?

We have so few answers.  “Little Mr. Victory,” if he is still alive, celebrated his 60th birthday this summer.  Does he know - or suspect - of how he came to rest, albeit for only an hour, in the arms of a stranger on a wonderful day when Boston held its biggest party ever?