Floyd Armstrong, a fifty-five-year-old drifter who gave his profession as dish-washer, was one of several suspicious characters—including Charlie Tilden—who were arrested on the 27th and 28th of June, 1957, for loitering and various other minor infractions, pending further charges that might be brought against them.
In the early hours of the twenty-seventh of June, someone had broken into two cars in the Castleton parking lot and tried, but failed, to hot-wire them. Little damage was done, and nothing was stolen. Later that day, thieves entered the home of Charles Gallagher on Willard avenue, via the rear screen door, and stole a roll of pennies, an envelope containing $1.50, a jar of old coins, four boxes of .22 shells and half a box of .32 shells.
The police had nothing to go on. Floyd and the others were released. The true culprits were never apprehended.Sources: New Castle News, 28 June 1957.
There were heavy snows on the last weekend of 1942, when Edwin Duff crashed his car on East Washington street. The day of the accident, the New Castle News reported that the snow was so deep that squirrels were having difficulty getting to the feeding stations that had been set up for them in the city’s parks. “On Saturday afternoon, Owen Fox, while at Gaston Park, watched the squirrels jump from treetop to treetop en-route to one of the feeding stations. Mr Fox saw one of these nimble animals slip and fall about 25 feet to the ground. It lay buried in the deep snow which being somewhat wet and heavy, bogged the little fellow down so it could not travel. Owen went over and lifted the squirrel a couple of times with his foot, landing it atop the feeding station with a whack. Although ‘fuzzy tail’ was hungry, it turned and faced its assailant and chattered and pumped its tail up and down in an angry mood. Soon it decided to turn in and get a good feed, probably becoming reconciled to the fact that Mr Fox had done it a good turn.”
Even with the snow, there shouldn’t have been any traffic accidents that weekend. Washington had just placed an emergency ban on the sale of gas to motorists in the eastern states as all the supplies from the Atlantic coast gas depots were being sent to the army in North Africa, so traffic on the streets of New Castle was the quietest it had been in decades. No one knew when the ban would be lifted – Roosevelt would say only that he hoped that it would be a temporary measure – so people crowded onto buses or stayed home (resisting even the lure of the Christmas season church services in town, which were poorly attended).
But Edwin Duff, a forty-three year old motor mechanic, had been drinking until after midnight in a downtown bar. He hadn’t liked the idea of walking the thirteen blocks to his home on Beckford street, so he’d decided to drive home, regardless of the snow, the gas ban and the fact he was drunk, but he didn’t even make it as far as Neshannock creek before he ran into a parked car. He wasn’t hurt, but he later received the standard New Castle sentence for being intoxicated whilst in charge of a motor vehicle: $100 and thirty days in the county jail, out in three days if the fine and costs were paid.
A few years later, Edwin moved up to Pulaski, about six miles north of New Castle, where he operated Duff’s garage for fifteen years until he died, in 1963, at the age of sixty-four.Sources: New Castle News, 21 December 1942 (“Arrested Following Automobile Accident”, “Pa Newc Observes”, “Curtail Gasoline Sales”); 1 March 1943 (“On Court House Hill”); 12 Nov 1963 (“Deaths of the Day”)
The guns of the USS Alabama, which fired more than a thousand rounds of sixteen-inch shells during the war in the Pacific, bombarding enemy-occupied islands in battles that resulted in the collapse of the Japanese military and the deaths of tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians, were kept in service for the last two years of the campaign by Charles Stitt, the descendant of a Scotch-Irish family who had opened a tailor’s shop in a log cabin a few miles north of New Castle in 1833.
On a Friday night in September, 1946, a year after the end of the war, Charles and three friends met a railroader from the Mahoningtown district named G W Dailey in a bar in downtown New Castle. They went with him by taxi to the neon-lit strip of Long avenue, where they kept drinking until around half-past two in the morning. Charles and his friends all lived in nearby streets, but they offered to walk with Dailey back towards the center of town.
Before they had gone more than a few blocks, the four men took Dailey to the rear of a building on South Jefferson street and attacked him. They stole his clothes and his cash and left him bleeding on the ground. Some time later, Dailey found a nightwatchman, who called the police. It took them a month to arrest Charles and the others. They all confessed to the crime. One of them handed over Dailey’s wallet. The case never came to trial.
Charles spent the next forty years manufacturing machine parts, mostly in the NRM plant in Columbiana, Ohio. He died in New Castle in 2006, at the age of eighty-one.
Sources: New Castle News (27 Jan 1945 “Cpl C Critchlow Home From The Pacific”; 10 Oct 1946 “Police Arrest Four In Holdup September 14″)
Ernest wasn’t long out of the navy when, on a wet and windy night, he was caught driving a car while drunk (fine: $100). The year before, he been honourably discharged after having served five years on the USS Laffey, which had been involved in heavy fighting while taking part in the blockade of North Korean ports.
The USS Laffey’s Class of ’52 yearbook, a souvenir booklet produced by the ship’s crew in their free time, contains an unidentified sailor’s recollection of a battle that Ernest would have been part of:
“You could hear the dull water-deadened thud of concussion against the bulkheads below the water line during the battle … There was a gnawing uneasiness in the pit of every stomach and a tendency to want to see what was going on in spite of the fact that it was raining shrapnel on all exposed decks. They lost the windshield on the bridge, a bit of jagged steel missing the captain by inches. On all sides there was almost constantly a geyser of water from the bracketing shells and yet no one who was on the ship that day will ever forget the teamwork in the common defense that the entire crew displayed.
“In the 28 days in Wonsan harbor, we fired 5,657 rounds of five inch ammunition and many of the dug-in batteries fired at us only long enough to let our sharp-eyed lookouts spot them and then they were silenced.
“It was a fitting record for a proud fighting ship to add to a previous outstanding record in World War II.”
Ernest is in the centre of the front row in this picture from the yearbook:
James and his brother Lee were arrested for the statutory rape of a fifteen year old girl, which occurred on June 9, 1947, and dates prior. James, who was twenty-two, was fined $100 and given six months in the Lawrence County jail; Lee got off with only an $80 fine or forty-five days in jail.
The brothers appeared in court regularly throughout the forties and fifties. A few years before the statutory rape charge, Lee had been fined for following a couple down Moravia street with a knife in his hand and, a few years later, both were back in court on a highway robbery charge involving an attack on a labourer called Leo Kennedy, who had been walking down South Jefferson street just after midnight when James and Lee grabbed him and dragged him into a side street. One of them rabbit punched him, and he fell to the ground. When Lee took his wallet, with $42 inside, Kennedy told him, “I’ll know you,” and Lee kicked him in the teeth.
The police recognised the Lane boys from Kennedy’s description – they knew the brothers well – and sent four officers to raid their house. Lee tried to escape, but was caught at the front door, and James was found in the kitchen. They spent nearly a year in jail before their trial, at which they were found guilty and each fined 5-and-a-quarter cents (a strange sum; presumably there was a statutory requirement for at least a nominal fine) and sentenced to one to two years in the county jail.
A few years after that stretch, in 1955, James and Lee were jailed again for stabbing two other men in a Saturday night fight in George’s Lunch on West Washington street.
That seems to have been Lee’s last arrest. James still had one more to go.
On the morning of August 20, 1962, six miles west of Hancock, Maryland, a car driven by James pulled over at a telephone box beside Hoffman’s Inn on route 40. He and his friend, Robert Booker, were driving a third man, Lawrence Johns, to Washington, where he was going to hide out after pulling a $10,000 savings-and-loan robbery.
Johns obviously wasn’t sharing his loot with his drivers, as it seems that James and his friend were financing their trip by stealing coin boxes from pay phones along their route. They’d already robbed two that day – scoring $19.20 in small change from one of them – and were trying for a third, working busily with screwdrivers and crowbars, when a police car came up the road towards them. Johns ran out of sight, leaving James and Booker to surrender. The policeman, Corporal Robert Kirby, cuffed the pair, and was about to put them in his car when Johns came out of hiding and shot him down.
James later said, “I ducked when the shooting started, and I grabbed the car so tight with my free hand that I cut two fingers.” When he found the courage to check what had happened, he saw that Johns had run off, and that Corporal Kirby, although wounded in the hip and shoulder, was still alive and had his gun trained on him and Booker.
Kirby kept them prisoner until more cops arrived. A manhunt was organised to search nearby Sideling hill for Johns, who shot himself in the head when they caught up with him the next day. Or so we’re told.
James and Booker were found guilty of attempted larceny and of being rogues and vagabonds – a rare charge arising from the fact that they were officially of no fixed abode when they committed a crime on the highway – and were sent to the Maryland house of correction for two years. While there, they were found guilty of robbing the other telephone boxes, and were sentenced to another year, to be served after their first sentences.
James turned 40 in jail. When he got out, he returned to New Castle, but he’d only been home for a few years when, in the spring of 1972, he fell ill and died in hospital at the age of 47.
Sources: New Castle News (11 Jul 1947 “Held For Hearing”; 2 Oct 1947 “Sentences Passed”; 12 Aug 1950 “Highway Robbery Charge Against Two”; 14 Sep 1950 “Lee Lane and James Lane convicted with robbery”; 19 Dec 1955 “Two Jailed On Assault Charges”; 1 Jan 1962 “Phone Looter Connected To Big Robbery”; 12 Oct 1962 “Two Are Sentenced in Wounding of Maryland Trooper”; 18 April 1972 “Deaths Of The Day”); Daily Mail, Md, 13 Sep 1962 “Friends Of Man Who Shot Kirby Indicted Today”; Morning Herald, Md, “Companions Of Johns Guilty On Two Charges”.
The wet spring weekend in 1940 during which Loyes Langdoff was arrested for being drunk and disorderly was an extraordinarily quiet one for the town, and only one crime story appeared in the New Castle News of Monday, 4 March:
“REPORT COAT STOLEN — Detectives were summoned to the Strouss-Hirshberg store, Saturday afternoon, it having been reported that someone had stolen a woman’s blue Chlnelle coat, worth $39.95.”
Detectives Moore and Young were assigned to solve the robbery. They appear never to have done so.
The heavy rains over the weekend melted the last snow that had lingered since winter, but evidently dampened spirits in town. However, a report was made to the paper that, on that gloomy Saturday afternoon, some “beautiful blooming Amaryllis lilies of a salmon hue” and a red begonia had been observed in the front window of a home on Wilson avenue, which cheered the passerby who saw them, but caused a journalist to reflect, “Years ago, blooming plants in the windows of homes could be seen quite often this time of the year, but for some reason this custom has gone into relapse.”Sources: New Castle News 4 March 1940.
Frank Wilson’s arrest on a charge of disorderly conduct didn’t make the New Castle News, even though it had been a slow weekend.
The day he was arrested, Saturday, 5 October, 1940, began with the discovery of a crime at Keefe’s Cafe, on South Mill street. Some time before the cafe opened up, a thief had smashed the glass in the ventilator in the door, squeezed in through the small opening, stolen $57 in cash and $192 in endorsed cheques, and left via the rear door.
It was the biggest crime of the day, but the culprit would never be apprehended, although the police couldn’t have known that at the time.
That afternoon, a lesser crime occurred over on the east side. The proprietor of a grocery store there noticed that a group of local boys seemed to be coming into his shop rather more frequently than usual with empty gallon and half-gallon cider and vinegar bottles, for which he would give them money or fruit. Growing suspicious, he checked the bottles carefully and realised that they were his own — the boys were carrying them out of his backyard and selling them back to him. The shopkeeper, perhaps feeling embarrassed at having been so green as to have fallen for such a scam, settled for yelling at the boys rather than getting the police involved.
That night, presumably around the time Frank was getting arrested, someone broke into Andy Skiba’s car on Long avenue and stole a red dress, a blue dress, a white shirt and a neck-tie, and someone else stole Norman Stoner’s bicycle on East Washington street.
It was such a quiet weekend that there was even room for a story about the doings of the local insects: “During these cool mornings, some flies go in to one of the local stores to ‘get their feet warm’. In there is a box-like apparatus, with electric bulbs within, covered with a metal plate, for the purpose of drying Photo prints. The flies have located the warm spot and make use of it. Incidentally they also torment the operator with their attentions.”
The front page of the paper was filled with stories about German attacks on Britain, and the only picture is of a mass of Londoners sheltering from a bombing raid in an underground station. America’s first ever peacetime conscription had just begun. Within a month, 75,000 young men would be in uniform and, in just over a year, America would be at war with Germany and Japan.