That Time a 10-Year-Old Spent a Week at the Movie Theater

In February of 1947, a story about a runaway child in San Francisco was picked up and made the news nationwide. The boy was already home again, so there was no panic, and the story provoked mostly laughter. Richard Allen loved movies, and with $20 in his pocket, spent an entire week watching movies all day, buying comic books, and eating candy and hot dogs. He slept outside at night, and eventually was hauled back home by his father. The story was a sensation again when it went viral on the internet in 2021. But behind the headlines, there were questions. How did a 10-year-old boy in 1947 get his hands on $20? Why was he afraid to go home? And why weren't the police involved?

Allen died in 2020, so Joshua Bote of the San Francisco Gazetteer talked to his daughter Denise about her father's unique life, both before and after the theater incident. His mother dressed him up as Shirley Temple when he was a baby, he had a crush on Annette Funicello, he was a wrestling promoter in the 1980s, and he was once awarded Citizen of the Year. But he never told his daughter about the week he spent watching movies away from his parents. Yet Denise was able to fill in some of the blanks in the story, which you can read at the Gazetteer. -via Nag on the Lake

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