Flip on the TV today, and you might run across the hit reality show “16 and Pregnant.” Go to the video store and you can rent “Juno,” in which a high school student discovers she’s pregnant and must decide what to do with her baby.



In the early 1960s, Judi Loren Grace, at age 15, didn’t have a choice. When she found out she was pregnant she was sent away to hide, have her child, give it up for adoption and then return home as if nothing had happened.

Flip on the TV today, and you might run across the hit reality show “16 and Pregnant.” Go to the video store and you can rent “Juno,” in which a high school student discovers she’s pregnant and must decide what to do with her baby.

In the early 1960s, Judi Loren Grace, at age 15, didn’t have a choice. When she found out she was pregnant she was sent away to hide, have her child, give it up for adoption and then return home as if nothing had happened.

When Grace sat down to write “The Third Floor” two years ago, she didn’t hold anything back. She told the entire story, including details that are disturbing, and, at times, nearly unbelievable. Written from the perspective of Grace’s teenage self, the book conveys the terror and depression she felt during the 98 days she lived at Booth Memorial Hospital in Oakland, Calif.

Fortunately for Grace, her childhood friend still had the letters she’d sent home during the ordeal. Grace used the letters, recovered medical records and her memories to reconstruct her heart-wrenching experience.

Booth Memorial was home to thousands of young unmarried women during the years it operated, said Grace. While some girls gave their babies up for adoption and others kept them, she said none of them were supported or nurtured while there.

The young residents of Booth - which was run by the Salvation Army - lived under military style rules. They were assigned chores, went to classes and attended chapel; the sermon was always about sins of the flesh, honoring thy mother and father, and tending to daily chores. Grace said she couldn’t stomach the food they served and lost weight instead of gaining it during her pregnancy. Though she had regular checkups with an obstetrician, the doctors and nurses never explained anything to their patients. Neither did they inform the girls how their babies would be born or counsel them about what to expect.

The girls weren’t allowed to use last names for the sake of privacy. When it was time to have their baby, they’d disappear to the third floor and were never heard from again, Grace said.

Facing the unknown, scared and separated from friends and family in her hometown of Porterville, Calif., Grace grew up that terrifying summer and made lasting friendships which crossed the racial boundaries of the 1960s.

Going back to Booth
Grace said she wanted to write The Third Floor to reach other mothers who went through the same things she did. She also wants to shine a light on a time and place that no one ever talks about.  

“My story first began to seep onto paper 23 years prior to publication,” writes Grace in her book’s prologue. “This process of remembering and reliving my summer in a home was more difficult than I had anticipated. I stopped. I tackled it again in 1996 and failed again.”

In 2009, Grace began taking writing lessons; once she got started, it took only a year and a half to complete the 200 page book.

As she wrote, she said memories began washing over her. “Some things came out of my head like they were just waiting to come out. Other times, I’d write a little, then I’d have to lie down because I was having heart palpitations.”

Grace, now 64, said, “Floods of memories just pushed their way out.”

She said it was difficult at times for her to remain completely truthful and accurate throughout the book. However, her writing teacher, Nora Profit, who owns The Writing Loft in Chico, encouraged her to open up and tell the story as it actually happened.

Many have said they’re happy her story has now been told, Grace said. For many of her friends and family members, Grace’s teenage experience was a mystery. Though some knew or suspected she’d gone away to have a child, they never knew all the details.

Grace decided to self-publish The Third Floor because she wanted the story to be left true and accurate. The Third Floor is “a journey of lost innocence, embarrassment, hope and ultimately the realization that a veil of shame has been lightly draped over my being, and has been there for most of my life,” Grace writes. “I hope to reach birth mothers in such a way they will feel comfortable enough to step out of their shame and live life in transparency. Enjoy who you are and accept the past. It could have happened to anyone.”

Grace now lives in Chico, where she owns a successful salon. She and her husband have a second home in Dunsmuir.

Her book is available locally at Village Books in Mount Shasta and online at www.jetstreampublishing.com