On the summer evening in 1948 when the police raided liquor establishments across New Castle following the death of Anna Grace Robertson earlier in the year, fifteen people were arrested. Among them were Elizabeth Miller, a bartender at the Rex café, and Anagnostis Sakelliadis, who ran the Square Deal café on West Washington street, which was the last place that Anna Grace was seen the night she died. Anna Grace’s mother worked there, but was elsewhere on the night of the raid.
Anagnostis—who eventually changed his name to James Sakelson—had come to New Castle in 1910, from the Aegean island of Karpathos, and had run restaurants in town ever since. He bought the premises for the Square Deal in 1941, taking over from an unsuccessful grocery store, the Orange Car, which had sold nothing but fruit from the proprietor’s own citrus groves in Florida. He installed modern kitchen equipment, two thirty-foot-long formica-topped bars and all-new fixtures and fittings. By the time it was raided, the Square Deal was one of the most popular lunch counters in the city.
The police charged Anagnostis with selling liquor to visibly intoxicated persons and to persons of known intemperate habits, and the State Liquor Control Board shut the café down for seventy-five days. It survived the temporary closure, but nothing could save it from the decline of downtown New Castle.
From the middle of the fifties, the Square Deal suffered regular robberies—crates of liquor taken from behind the bar; hundreds of dollars lifted from the till. Fights—with knives, razors and guns—became quite common. In 1964, the year before Anagnostis’s wife died, there were three break-ins and a stabbing. The streets around the café had become dilapidated, most of the stores abandoned. Anagnostis sold the Square Deal to Buzz Panella, who ran it for only a few years until 1967, when the building was condemned. It was torn down the following year, along with every block in the surrounding nineteen acres, to make way for the Towne Mall indoor shopping plaza and a Sears, Roebuck store.
Anagnostis moved to Florida to live near his sons. He died there in June 1968, at the age of sixty-eight.Sources: New Castle News (6 Dec 1929, “Greek Americans Elect Officers”; 17 Nov 1939, “Orange Car Advertisement”; 9 Dec 1942, “Grand Jury Reports”; 7 June 1948, “Fifteen Facing Liquor Charges”; 23 June 1948, “Proprietors Of Liquor Places Held For Court”; 15 Feb 1949, “License Suspended”; 21 Oct 1952, “Deaths Of The Day”; 20 Feb 1954, “Café Burglarised; About $175 Stolen”; 27 April 1956, “Vending Machine Thieves Hit Twice In City Today”; 2 Jan 1957, Thieves Take $45 From Restaurant”; 27 Feb 1958, “Whiskey Reported Stolen From Café”; 22 Jun 1961, “Two Charged”; 27 Dec 1961, “Lock Tried”; 27 Aug 1962, “Whisky Stolen”; 22 June 1963, “Local Man Charged With Gun Violation”; 24 Aug 1963, “$186, 7 Bottles Of Whisky Stolen In 3 Burglaries”; 17 June 1964, “Police Check Burglary, Vandalism”; 29 Sep 1964, “Window Pryed”; 12 Oct 1964, “Tavern Burglarized”; 28 Oct 1965, “Deaths Of The Day”; 7 May 1966, “Two Treated For Stab Wounds”; 2 Dec 1966, “Square Deal Café Advertisement”; 25 April 1967, “Planners Ask Grant”; 2 Jan 1968, “Public Sales”; 24 Oct 1968, “Property Transfers”).
John Franell, a lifelong resident of Altoona, was an honor roll student in elementary school and sang in his local athletics club’s barbershop quartet when he was in high school. After graduation, he worked as a produce clerk and spent a lot of time in bars. He was arrested a few times—fighting, disorderly conduct, a little light larceny—and was conscripted into the combat engineers in 1942.
After the war, John became a small-time thief, stealing crates of produce, frozen chickens and other groceries from warehouses and selling them cheap in bars and cafés. By the middle of the fifties, he had become a well-known figure in Altoona’s court house, and was told by a judge that he would face years in jail if he violated his probation again. He left Altoona for New Castle, but his arrest for drunkenness in 1957 is the only record of his time in the city. He was back in Altoona by the following February, when he was arrested for burglary.
John was homeless at forty-six, sleeping either in the streets, in the Rescue Mission or in the city jail’s drunk tank. Over the next few years, he was arrested for siphoning gas from a truck, stealing a car, burglarly, larceny and receiving stolen goods. He turned sixty while serving a three-year sentence in the workhouse.
John was never arrested for theft again but appeared in court countless times on charges of drunkenness, disorderly conduct and breach of the peace. In August 1974, by which time he was known to everyone as Whiskey John, he was arrested seven times in four days. Every few months he was hospitalised with lacerations on his forehead, contusions on his head, abrasions on his arms, chest and sides and fractured ribs—all injuries that he sustained when he threw himself in front of moving cars. Once, a car crushed his foot and doctors had to amputate his toes.
On April 4th, 1976, John was beaten to death in the hallway of an apartment where he was staying. He was seventy-one years old. There were no leads, and his killer was never found.Sources: Altoona Mirror (20 June 1918, “Irving Honor Roll”; 8 Oct 1929, “Logantown AC Plans For Annual Opening”; 25 Jan 1934, “Arrest Boys At Drinking Places”; 18 April 1934, “Four Autos Are Reported Stolen”; 5 Aug 1934, “Men Fined $100 For Scene On 11th Street”’; 22 Jan 1943, “Join Engineers”; 29 Dec 1952, “Defendants To Enter Submissions In Court”; 7 May 1953, “Vagrant Given Term In Jail”; 29 Sep 1953, “Grand Jury To Weigh Evidence”; 1 Feb 1958, “Arrest Trio For Two Burglaries At City Plant”; 6 Oct 1959, “Four Caught Stealing Gas”; 15 June 1960, “3 Altoonans Captured In Stolen Auto”; 7 July 1960, “Three Altoona Men Sentenced To Workhouse”; 2 Oct 1963, “Work Of Grand Jury Nears End”; 1 Feb 1964, “Hospital Treats Varied Injuries”; 2 June 1964, “City Hospital Treats Injuries”, 15 Feb 1966, “City Hospital Treats Injuries In Dispensary”; 12 March 1966, “Hospital Treats Varied Injuries In Dispensary”; 29 Jun 1966, “Fall Victims Admitted To Mercy Hospital”; 17 Dec 1966, “Altoona Hospital”; 2 Sep 1969, “Hospital Treats Varied Injuries In Dispensary”; 29 Sep 1969, “3 Hurt On Blair Roads; Loss $12,680”; 14 April 1970, “Men Fined In Police Court For Disturbance”; 14 April 1971, “Held For Misconduct”; 22 April 1971, “Hospital Treats Varied Injuries”; 21 Jun 1971, “Hospital Treats Varied Injuries”; 29 Oct 1971, “Misconduct Case Delay Laid To Police Mixup”; 16 Oct 1973, “City Man Jailed For Misconduct”; 26 Aug 1974, “Altoona Hospital”; 17 May 1987, “Unsolved Homicide Cases Still Baffle Police”); Tyrone Daily Herald (26 Aug 1974, “News From Altoona”; 5 April 1976, “News From Altoona”; 8 April 1976, “Death Ruled Homicide”).
Apart from the night in January 1945 when he stole a carburettor from a neighbour’s car—a crime for which he received no punishment as he was due back in the army—Nick Frank kept out of trouble. He was a truck driver all his life and was involved in collisions every so often, but none was his fault. He hunted deer, but always in season, and once got his picture in the paper for shooting a 180-pound, 11-point buck, which was believed to be the biggest deer ever to have been killed in Lawrence County.
In 1972, Nick’s daughter, Gloria, married a field artilleryman named Richard Jokinen. She accompanied him to Germany when he was posted to the US army base in Baumholder, a former Wehrmacht barracks and prisoner-of-war camp that had been built on the ruins of the homes of four thousand people who had been evicted by the Nazis. Gloria returned home two years later, in 1978, after Richard was killed when his helicopter crashed into the garden of a house in Unteralterheim.
Nick died in 2005, at the age of eighty-one.Sources: New Castle News (5 July 1945, “Truck Driver Is Hurt In Collision; 16 Jan 1945, “Arrested For Larceny”; 23 Dec 1946, “Driver Is Arrested”; 13 Dec 1956, “Frank Shoots 11-Point Buck Near Edenburg”; 22 Jul 1963, “Only One Hurt In Series Of Car Accidents”; 3 Dec 1971, “Deer Kills”; 1 July 1972, “Couple Observes Military Decision”; 5 Nov 1974, “County Report”; 6 July 1976, “News About Jokinens Staioned In Germany”); UPI, “9 Killed In Army Helicopter Crash” via armyaircrews.com; Nick Frank obituary via obitsforlife.com.
Around the time she was arrested for intoxicated driving, Emma Hilke and her husband, Emil, took over Eli Shifman’s grocery store on West North street. Emma had been born in America, to German immigrant parents. Emil and Eli had come to America from Germany when they were young men. It was July 1944, and it looked like the war was almost over. All three were waiting for news of cousins, aunts and uncles in Europe—Hilkes sheltering in basements as allied bombs dropped in the streets outside; Shifmans trying to survive the work camps to the east. There were reports that month that Hitler had almost been killed by a group of his own officers. Russian tanks were in Poland. British and American troops had taken Normandy. Everyone in town knew there wasn’t long to go.
Emma and Emil ran the grocery store for the next decade. Their son, Emil Jr, was arrested on a charge of molestation when he was nineteen, but was allowed to leave town to take up a post in the coast guard as a radioman. Emil died that year, and Emma gave up the store.
There is no record of Emma’s life between the death of her husband and her death in 1974, at the age of seventy-four.Sources: New Castle News (17 Jan 1936, “To Open New Grocery”; 21 Feb 1936, “Married In Wheeling”; 8 June 1956, “Courthouse News”; 31 July 1956, “With Local Men And Women In Armed Forces”; 12 Sep 1974, “Deaths Of The Day”).