Two days after Thanksgiving, 1941, George Velky forged four checks amounting to $64, with which he bought paint, wall paper and groceries from stores on North Mill street. His choice of alias— George Belky—proved insufficient to keep him out of jail.
Four months later, his wife—her walls still in need of fresh paint and paper—obtained a divorce, which was soon followed by an announcement of her engagement to a young airman named Herbert Hribar, to whom she remained married for the rest of her life, raising a son who would become a record-breaking high-school athlete and, eventually, managing director of the European wing of one of America’s largest telecommunications companies.
George was released from prison but lasted only a short while before he was arrested for forging checks in Lorain, Ohio, and received two to four years in the state penitentiary. Upon his release, he resorted once again to forgery, and was imprisoned a few years later by a court in Mercer County, where he had tried to pass a bad check under the name George Stanko. He was thirty years old. There is no further record of his life.Sources: New Castle News (29 Nov 1941, “News Briefs From City Hall”; 16 April 1942, “On Court House Hill”; 16 Feb 1943, “Velky In Jail”; 10 March 1943, “On Court House Hill”; 28 June 1974, “Navy Wedding Unites Miss Hudson, Ensign Hribar”) Youngstown Vindicator, 16 Sep 1949, “Six Ohioans Are Indicted”; Chicago Daily Herald, “Ameritech’s Belgacom Growing Rapidly”, 25 Oct, 1996.
Robert Cole and Wayne Shotzbarger pulled a gun on Benny Panella as he sat in his car in an alley off West Washington street around 10 o’clock one Saturday night and told him to drive them to south New Castle, where they put him out of the car and drove off.
When they were out of sight, they turned around and headed north, skirting the town on their way to New Wilmington. They stopped at the filling station on the corner of New Castle street and Neshannock avenue and ordered five gallons of gasoline, then followed the attendant inside, telling him they wanted to buy some cigarettes. Robert drew his pistol and pointed it at the attendant while Shotzbarger filled a bag with the money from the till, which came to $23.75.
The attendant called the police as soon as the men had driven away. They were spotted shortly afterwards, heading down the North Jefferson street hill into New Castle. Motor police forced the car to the side of the street just after it crossed the Shenango river, heading west out of town. Robert tossed the pistol out of the window as the police approached. After the men were taken to the station, the police returned to the scene to look for the gun, but it had vanished. “We want the person who picked up the revolver to bring it to state motor police headquarters,” an officer told the press. But no one ever did.
Robert and Shotzbarger were sentenced to a year in the Allegheny County workhouse for armed robbery and larceny of an auto, but served only half their time before they were paroled.
Robert and his three brothers joined the army in 1942. Robert spent the war as a personnel clerk in a succession of army air force bases in New Mexico and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Only one brother was sent overseas: Daniel, who was lamed by a German sniper in France. After the war, Jack, the oldest brother, ran a service station on Moravia street (“Cole’s—We skin our prices, not our customers!”) until October 1960, when he shot himself in the head with a semi-automatic rifle.
Robert moved to Lake Worth, Florida. He died there in 1976, in a head-on automobile crash.Sources: New Castle News (25 March 1940, “Two Are Held For Robberies”; 1 April 1940, “On Court House Hill”; 13 Aug 1940 – “On Court House Hill”; 11 Aug 1942 “With Men In US Service”; 20 Sep 1943, “In US Armed Service”; 18 Nov 1943 “In US Armed Service”; 21 Nov 1944 “Pfc Danny Cole Wounded In Action”; 14 Oct 1960, “Deaths Of The Day”) Naples Daily News, 26 July 1976, “At Least 6 Killed In Weekend Accidents”).
The Falls family had farmed the north hill since the beginning of the 19th century. As the town’s population grew in the prosperous decades up to the 1930s, they sold off portions of their farm to developers and, by the time that a boy named Bill Harlan had his mug shot taken in 1933, the open pasture above New Castle had been transformed into a well-off residential area with spacious streets lined with the sturdy mansions of industrialists and the elegant homes of bankers, businessmen and white-collar professionals—and of Bill’s family, who lived in a newly built timber house on Meyer avenue.
The Harlans were an even older local family than the Falls, having arrived in the area in the 1790s, when they founded the village of Harlansburg, just east of the small settlement at the junction of the Shenango and the Neshannock creek that was to become the city of New Castle. By the 1930s, the Harlans—Bill’s father, uncles and cousins—owned several businesses in town and were comfortably settled among the quality up on the north hill.
Highland avenue was the main spine of the north hill district, crossing the most moneyed streets on the way out of town. Two widowed sisters, Beulah Phillips and Mellie Julian, lived in a large house at 1503 Highland avenue, and another sister, Goldie Ingels, lived around the corner on Euclid avenue. On 13th January 1933, when the widows were wintering in California, Goldie Ingels passed by their house and noticed that some of the blinds were down, which they hadn’t been a couple of days previously. Letting herself in through the kitchen door, she found that the house had been ransacked. Furniture was overturned, rugs were awry and the contents of the drawers were scattered around the rooms.
The thieves had evidently taken their time as they went through the house, methodically checking for valuables and making off with a dozen pearl handled knives; two triangle clocks; several rugs, large and small; two hunting rifles; two fishing poles; two men’s overcoats and one man’s suit; a seal skin coat; some dresses; two hundred pieces of silverware; linen sheets; two small lamps; three suitcases; one bureau toilet set; several decks of cards; and some memorandum pads.
Based on the thoroughness of the job the police declared that the house had been targeted by a gang of professional thieves, but they were wrong. When the burglars gave themselves up two weeks later, they turned out to be a group of boys who lived in nearby streets, the youngest of whom was the sixteen-year-old Bill Harlan.
Bill and his friend, George Hawk, had broken into the house one night during the first week of the widows’ absence and stolen some small objects. The next night, they returned with some other boys, and together they set about stealing as much as they could carry off.
The boys were all good students from well-off north hill families, and they apologised for the theft and promised to give back everything they had taken. Naturally, their punishment was light—probation for three years, and costs.
Within two months, Bill Harlan was in custody again. He had broken into a little cottage along the Neshannock creek, the home of Tullie Caiazza, an insurance salesman and local baseball coach, and stolen some fishing tackle, a rifle and a mounted deer head. While he was awaiting trial, it emerged that he had also recently held up a Mercer hardware store and made off with guns, ammunition and ether.
Once again, the court was sympathetic, and Bill was paroled for one year. However, only a few months later, he took part in an armed robbery at the Hutchinson inn, on the New Wilmington road. He fled to California and was apprehended in Los Angeles, where he unsuccessfully resisted extradition to Pennsylvania.
Back in New Castle, the judge told Bill that anyone who committed so serious a crime while on parole should expect to be sent to jail, no matter how young they were. However, in recognition of his previous good behaviour—and, no doubt, the position of the Harlans among the families on the north hill—the court was disposed to give him one more chance to reform, and he was sent instead to the industrial school at Huntingdon.
Seven years later, only a few days after the attack on Pearl harbor, Bill enlisted in the national guard. There is no further trace of him until his death in July 1997, in Sandusky, Ohio.Sources: New Castle News (22 May, 1931, “Deaths of the Day”; 14 January, 1933 “North Hill Residence Looted”; 9 March, 1933, “Clear Up Robbery At Phillips Home”; 13 March, 1933 “Charge Cottage Was Broken Into”; 21 March, 1933 “Sentenced In Mercer County Court”; 23 March, 1933, “Boy Who Stabbed His Sweetheart Sentenced Today”; 25 Jan, 1934, “Arrest Local Youth On Coast”; 14 Feb, 1934, “Officers Return From Coast Trip”; 3 March, 1934, “Pleas Entered And Prisoners Are Sentenced”; 8 March, 1934, “On Court House Hill”).
In the early hours of the fourth of July, 1941, a few young men—Alexander Aldan, Paul Voland and the Haza brothers, George and Phillip—took a bomb that they had made out of an old shell casing, gun powder, rags and clay and placed it against the back wall of the Victory cafe in Wampum, a few miles south of New Castle. When it exploded, it shattered the windows in the rear of the restaurant and “upset tinsels throughout the room”.
All four were charged with malicious mischief by use of explosives and were each ordered to pay a $25 fine and $9 to cover the damage. The New Castle News offered no explanation of the men’s actions. Perhaps there was none.
Six years later, Alexander and his wife, Helen, had a baby boy, Alexander, Jr, who died in the New Castle hospital before they could take him home. Not long after—a few years before they divorced—they had another child, a daughter named Sharon. She was twenty-eight years old when she died in a car crash in Beaver county.
Alexander lived alone in West Pittsburg until he died in 1987, at the age of sixty-six.Sources: New Castle News (16 April 1938, “Funeral Notices”; 5 July, 1941, “Home-Made Bomb Causes Trouble For Celebrators”; 12 July, 1941, “On Court House Hill”; 1 Oct 1947, “Deaths Of The Day”; 14 May 1973, “Woman Dies As Result Of Injuries”)