DEAR SUN SPOTS: Could you stir up some conversation with readers who would remember the “walking baby?” The article appeared in the paper and the national news.

— No name, Farmington

ANSWER: On April Fool’s Day, 1948 the Lewiston Evening Journal published:

“A warrant charging Mrs. Lucienne Kolreg of 23 Bates Street, Lewiston, with permitting the exhibition of her 14-day-old child — the ‘walking baby’ — was issued by Recorder Harris M. Isaacson of the Lewiston Municipal Court today. The woman was ordered to appear in the Lewiston court tomorrow morning … charging Mrs. Kolreg with permitting the exhibition of her child ‘to the injury of the said child’s life, limb and health.

“Visiting hours for the baby had been established for several days after a great many people called at the Kolreg home to see the unusual feat …”

This grabbed people’s attention and created a worldwide sensation across the United States and Europe.

This story has been passed down through families of reporters and editors of that era who indicate the piece was a practical joke, and so outrageous as not to be believed. Even so, folks believed the walking baby story so much that they demanded updates on the child. Reporters and editors obliged readers and wrote about the walking baby for almost four years. News appeared about the size of the baby, what the baby did, where he was seen, and what he said.

According to the report published on April 2, 1948, the case against 21-year-old Mrs. Kolreg was dropped if she agreed to stop exhibiting “the child in any manner in the future, nor is she to invite the general public to view the child.”

Very few people remember actually seeing the walking baby and the courts in Androscoggin County have no records of a Mrs. Kolreg being charged with any such crime around that time. Even so, a photo of an alleged 1-year-old baby Robert Normand Kolreg was published in the Lewiston Sun Journal in March 1949 where he was seen striding alone down Lisbon Street during a snowstorm wearing white shoes, shorts and a hooded sweater. According to the caption, Robert Normand started walking when he was 4 days old. The child, who was said to have been born at home, spoke French and made a habit of saluting people as he strolled down the street. He was so accomplished that he was potty-trained by 12 months of age, according to reports.

No one at the law firm who supposedly handled the case remembers this and friends of former editor Hal Gosselin remember him telling the tale of a practical joke born during a slow news day right around April 1.

Yet another Sun Journal editor swears it’s true. He remembers Mrs. Kolreg bringing the 14-day-old child into the newsroom, holding him by the armpits and helping him walk across the floor. Yet another newsroom employee remembers the tale as somewhere between fact and fiction. A very sturdy baby was brought to the newsroom by his proud mother for a walking demonstration. However, the child never strolled alone down Lisbon Street and the mother was never charged with exhibiting him.

The story was a phenomenon, for sure, but whether it’s true or was just an April Fool’s joke, will likely never be known.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be emailed to [email protected]

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