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Jan Mitchell Details Teenage Trip To Beatleland In 'My Ticket To Ride'

Jan Mitchell (formerly Hawkins) details running away to England as a teen to meet the Beatles and the consequences she later faced for loving rock and roll. [Gray & Company, Publishers]
Jan Mitchell (formerly Hawkins) details running away to England as a teen to meet the Beatles and the consequences she later faced for loving rock and roll. [Gray & Company, Publishers]

For decades, Jan Mitchell kept the story of running away from Cleveland Heights to England to meet the Beatles largely to herself. The trip she and her friend took in 1964 made international news as authorities searched for the teens, but Mitchell said she was forbidden to speak about it at home, school or church when she returned.

A few years ago, she decided it was time to write about her adventure.

“Nobody can take me to juvenile court,” she said. “The nuns, the teachers, nobody can silence me anymore.”

Mitchell, now a retired investigator and Bratenahl resident, details how Beatlemania inspired her to seek a life abroad away from her difficulties at home in her new memoir, “My Ticket to Ride,” from Cleveland publisher Gray & Company. She also chronicles the consequences she faced from all sorts of authority figures determined to keep rock and roll away from her and others.

The story starts with the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” piping through her radio in 1963.

“Life was never the same for me, for millions and for the world of music,” Mitchell said.

She managed to get front row tickets to the band’s Cleveland concert at Public Hall in 1964, when police stopped the music as screaming fans rushed the stage.

“It was shocking to me because I had never seen that,” she said. “I sat fast in my seat with all the screaming and sobbing and everything that was going on around me.”

The concert resumed and she said she loved every minute of it even though she couldn’t hear the singing too well amidst the excited crowd.

The evening was a prelude to an even more thrilling adventure for Mitchell.

The next day she and her friend boarded an international flight to London in hopes of meeting the band and starting a new life. They rented a flat and toured the city for three weeks, attending clubs and making friends with the help of her travel buddy’s college fund.

“We started venturing out to Soho, where the coffee bars and music clubs were. That was my destination,” Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, her name and photo were on posters in police stations around London and printed in the newspapers as authorities sought to locate the teens. Eventually, she was recognized in public and sent back to Cleveland and juvenile detention.

When she returned home, she said her family and teachers limited her activities. In court, a judge forbade her from attending any more concerts, blaming rock and roll. The Cleveland mayor even banned major rock concerts at city buildings in 1964.

“You can’t ban love, but you can ban performances at Public Hall and other venues,” she said.

Mitchell still has yet to met the Beatles, but said she hasn't given up hope for a future introduction. 

Missing persons notifications were disseminated broadly to locate Jan Mitchell (formerly Hawkins) and her friend in 1964. [Cleveland Public Library]

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.