William Shovlin had a little too much to drink one Friday after work and ended up sleeping in a cell instead of his bed. It was a bad start to his weekend, but some households in New Castle had worse ones, and all they did was open the door to the telegram delivery boy.
That weekend in 1945, news came that Henry Mateja had been killed in the south Pacific; that Chester Glenn and Louis Ferrucci, whose brother had been killed the month before, had died on the western front; that Daniel Woolcock and Albert Vanassa were missing in action; and that Carl Bowen, Joseph Gurgacz and Ray Fulkerson were all seriously wounded.
The only person in New Castle to get any good war news that weekend was Josephine Scaduto, who recognised her brother Carl in a newsreel film, among the troops landing on the Pacific island of Luzon. She hadn’t heard from him since he’d shipped out a year before, and she was thrilled to see him safe and sound, still wearing his usual grin.
That was the last time she ever saw him, though. More than ten thousand allied soldiers were killed in the battle for Luzon, and Carl was one of them. The telegram that brought that news would arrive at the end of June, just two months before the end of the war.Sources: New Castle News (10 Feb 1945 “Services Sunday For Sgt H Mateja, Killed In Action”; “Louis Ferrucci Is Killed In France”; “Sgt Albert Vanassa Missing In Action”; “Son In War Picture”; 8 Feb 1945 “Chester Glenn Reported Missing”)
A year of fighting Nazis in Europe earned John Hutchison a chestful of decorations: the ETO ribbon, the good conduct medal, a purple heart and cluster (he was injured twice), four battle stars and the Luxembourg citation. He came home to Oil City, Pennsylvania, a genuine American hero at the age of twenty-one, and proudly wore his uniform when he married his girl, Thelma, exactly six months and one day after Adolf Hitler shot himself in the head.
The army gave John an administrative job in Fort Indiantown Gap, a demobilisation camp in eastern Pennsylvania, where he and Thelma lived in married quarters. Before long, he left the army and moved back to Oil City, hoping to make his way in civilian life. That proved more difficult than he had hoped. He had been married less than two years when he got together with his older brother, Willard, and his sister-in-law, Audrey, and started to forge checks, using them to buy all the things he could not afford—fine clothes, shoes and jewellery for Thelma.
In March, 1948, John, Willard and Audrey were arrested for passing bad checks in towns across north-west Pennsylvania. In the past year, they had swindled more than $4,000 from shops in towns near Oil City. In New Castle, they hit two jewelry stores—King’s and Perelman’s—the Betty Gay clothes store, McGoun’s shoe store and Alexander Radio.
Judge Braham usually handed down sentences of one to four years in jail for multiple counts of forgery. John, Willard and Audrey fared rather better. Throughout his life, even into his old age, Judge Braham would speak with sorrow of his younger brother, Hall, telling people that he was the first American to die in world war one and allowing them to infer that he had met his death fighting Germans in the trenches. However, the truth was that Hall had died of pneumonia in an army training camp in Virginia in 1918, not long after he enlisted in the army. He was not the first American to die in the war, either; merely the first from Lawrence County. When he died, Hall had been the age that John was when he appeared in court in New Castle. Judge Braham had been Willard’s age. The parallels might explain why, instead of beng sent to jail, the Hutchisons were let off with a $100 fine, on the condition that they made efforts to pay back what they had stolen.
John and Thelma had three sons. John worked at the Worthington corporation in Oil City until the family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he ran a motel. When he retired, he moved back to Oil City. He died in 1992, at the age of sixty-seven.Sources: The Blizzard, (Oil City, Pa) 1 Oct 1945, “Matrimonial” column; Indiana Evening Gazette, 16 March 1948, “Hold Three In Bad Check Ring”; New Castle News (19 April 1948, “Alleged Forgers To Be Returned”; 21 April 1948, “Fine 3 Forgers, No Jail Sentence”; 10 Jan 1963, “Distinguished, Learned, Eloquent Is The Judge”; 10 Jan 1918, “Hall Braham Gives His Life For America”).
In July, 1951, James Byers escaped from the hospital in Ohio where he’d been sent after being badly injured during his arrest for rape, and the Youngstown police alerted nearby towns that he might be headed their way.
On the last day of the month, residents of Cascade Street, on the eastern edge of New Castle, informed the police that a suspicious couple had “slept all night in the weeds” nearby. When Officers Bartoshek and Richards went to investigate, they identified the man as James and arrested him. They placed the couple in separate cells in city hall, holding James on a rape charge (a detail that the New Castle News delicately neglected to report) and the woman – who turned out to be James’s wife, standing by her man in his hour of need – on an open charge.
After James had his photograph taken – the very mug shot on this page – he was led back down to the cells by Andy Fair, an auxiliary constable. Fair had been a prize-fighter in the twenties but he was heading for retirement now and his muscles had long since run to fat, which no doubt influenced what James did next.
As the pair walked along a corridor in the basement of the building, James made a break for it, bursting through a door that led to the police garage and fleeing up the ramp into North Jefferson Street. He took off in the direction of Falls Street, away from the centre. Perhaps he planned to keep running until he hit the woods on the edge of town, or perhaps he had no plan at all. In any case, he managed to run only two blocks before Officer D’Ambrosia, riding one of the police bicycles that he’d been testing in the street just outside city hall, caught up with him and placed him under arrest for the second time that day.
James was sent back to Ohio. There’s no record of what happened to his wife.Sources: New Castle News (“Freedom Dash Unsuccessful”, 31 July, 1951; Andy Fair’s boxing history and later weight gain, untitled stub, page 7, 5 November 1958.)
In 1937, when he was eighteen, Frank Soda and a couple of his friends were arrested after a high-speed chase through Lancaster, Ohio, which started when they filled up their stolen car at a gas station and drove off without paying. The police shot out their tires. Frank’s friend, Pete Polinsky, threatened the police with a shotgun. They had only been trying to impress a girl who had accepted their offer of a ride. The girl was sent home; the boys were sent to jail.
Frank was twenty-six years old, with a wife in Warren, Ohio, when he got a New Castle girl pregnant. She went to the police when he refused to support the child, and Frank was charged with adultery and bastardy. Before his case could be heard, he was returned to Warren, which had a prior claim on him in connection with a burglary charge. The mother of his child, who had expected the court to order Frank to pay her around $3 a week, the usual outcome of a bastardy case, was told she would have to wait until Ohio had done with him.
The court in Warren found Frank guilty and sent him to Trumbull County jail for two to four years. He escaped a month later. Every Wednesday afternoon, a local church group visited the prison to conduct services. After observing their routine, Frank and three other convicts simply followed them as they left through the double doors of the cell block. When the turnkey opened the outer door, the men pushed past him and ran off into the back streets of the town.
The men Frank had chosen to break out of jail with were much younger than he was and were all serving sentences for armed robbery and attempted murder. When they were caught a week later, holding up a filling station in New Jersey, Frank was not with them. Shortly before the police had arrived, he had stolen a car and quietly left the scene. There is no further record of his life.Sources: “Police Bullets Halt Flight Of Niles, O., Youths”, Circleville Herald, 29 Nov 1937; “Grand Jury To Take Up Youths’ Cases”, Piqua Daily Call, 3 Dec 1937; “Jail Escapees Seized In East”, Lima News, 1 May 1946.