Former foundling finds more in life
Johnny McFatridge was born on Dec. 4, 1938, but it might be said that his life didn't actually begin until 11 days later, at around 9 p.m. on the blustery night of Dec. 15, when he was found abandoned, hungry and crying in a car parked on a street in the little town of Antlers.
The story of the "the foundling," as the tiny blue-eyed boy was referred to in newspapers at the time, might easily have turned out tragically. There was no note. There was nothing, in fact, left with the child to offer any clues as to how he came to be in such a dire condition. He was guessed to be about 10 days old and was "plainly undernourished," the Daily Oklahoman reported. Temperatures in Antlers around that time were falling to around 24 degrees at night, so his life might easily have ended in the dark on that street.
But rather than tragically, things turned out almost magically for the child. As it happened, Homer and Theo McFatridge and their three daughters, who lived next door to the family of J.C. Hullender, in whose car the baby had been abandoned, had gone out that evening to attend a play at Antlers High School, about a block away. As they were returning home, one of them heard a faint baby's cry and, bothered by it, thought to listen more closely and eventually to track it down to the neighbor's car.
Seventy-eight years later, McFatridge, who grew up to be a school teacher, principal, superintendent and eventually a successful insurance agent now retired and living in Duncan, might reasonably think of that moment that he was discovered and saved as the moment that he really arrived in the world.
He doesn't hold any bitterness in his heart about what happened. As everything turned out, it wasn't like his birth parents gave him up, he said, but rather like they gave him more.
After rescuing the baby from the car, Homer and Theo McFatridge immediately called the sheriff, and almost as immediately started talking about doing whatever it might take to keep the baby safe, taking him into their own home, even adopting him; and they made it clear to authorities, too, that they would be willing to give the child a family.