I grew up "junking," as my family called it—combing the Sunday flea with my grandma as a kid, searching for dance dresses at the second-hand with my high-school friend Mary, furnishing first apartments at the Goodwill. For a poor, semi-migrant newspaper reporter who loved anything faintly scenting of a story, junking met a lot of different needs over the years.
No wonder then that one of the first places I turned when I started looking for Catherine Winters was the local antique shops. And they haven't disappointed. 1913 postcards of New Castle scenes, "Where Did Catherine Winters Go" sheet music, even the high-school yearbook of Catherine's little brother Frankie—these have given me the feeling of coming just that much closer to knowing what her world was really like.
But even in this small sideline of a search, some items have proved impossibly illusive.
The children of New Castle sold thousands of small pasteboard buttons in May 1913 as a fundraiser. Reading "Catherine Winters Search Fund" and designed to be worn in a buttonhole, it's inconceivable that not a single one got saved, given the nature of people and the notoriety of the case. Yet never has one popped up on eBay or fallen under my gaze in a flea-market case, no matter how often I look.
And while yellowed copies of "Where Did Catherine Winters Go" appear with regularity at local shops and online (and I have trouble not buying every one I see), the Gorbett Brothers issued a second song about the lost child I've never seen. Even the Henry County Historical Society doesn't have a copy of the 1915 "Could We Telephone to Heaven." (The Indiana Historical Society does though—http://images.indianahistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16797coll1/id/1653.)
But I keep looking. The longer I'm denied, the more stubbornly I search. That probably says something about the lasting fascination of the Catherine Winters case as a whole.