Samuel Balin’s mother died when he was six. His father, a Polish immigrant who worked in the Farrell Steel works, sent him to the Margaret Henry home for orphans, which occupied an old mansion on Friendship street.
The house had been built by R W Cunningham, who had come to New Castle in 1836 and established a business forwarding wool, glass, iron and steel to the west. He grew prosperous and built a foundry, turning out ploughs, stoves, mill gears and, after the civil war, cast iron pipes for the new oil wells and machinery for industrial plants. He backed the New Castle and Beaver railway, which secured New Castle’s future as a steel town, and was one of the founders of the International Bank of Lawrence County, which gave the town control of its finances. After he died, close to the end of the nineteenth century, his family sold his iron manufactories to US Steel, which soon came to own almost every industrial concern in the city, and gave his house, with twenty-seven rooms and acres of land, to a Catholic society to use as New Castle’s only orphanage.
The home had been open for over twenty years by 1929, when Stanley enrolled. It had a good reputation. Its children were clean and educated and were known to be able to secure decent employment and do well later in life. Very few ever troubled the police.
By the winter of 1936, just before his eighteenth birthday, Stanley and a group of southside boys—none from the orphanage—had begun to rob drunks and old men walking home late at night from the bars on Long avenue. Most of the victims were easy marks, but they had beaten a few badly enough to put them in hospital. Just before midnight on the seventh of March, they saw a drunk staggering down Jefferson street. When he stopped to lean against a telephone pole by an alley, they crossed over to him. They cursed at him and he answered back. When they attacked him, the drunk grabbed Stanley by his shirt, drew a blackjack and struck another boy on the shoulder, then pulled out a gun and said, “Someone’s going to get hurt, and it won’t be me.” A plainclothes detective ran out of the alley. Someone shouted, “Here comes the law.” The group fled, leaving Stanley behind.
The drunk was the chief of police, John Haven, setting himself out as bait. Stanley was taken to the station, where he co-operated and signed a confession naming the other members of the gang, who were arrested a few hours later. Four boys, including Stanley, were found guilty of assault and battery with intent to rob. Only three were sentenced to jail, each receiving one to three years in the Western penitentiary. Stanley was not among them.
Stanley went to work with a furniture manufacturer and trained as an upholsterer. In January 1941, he was arrested in South Mercer street for disorderly conduct and fined $10. That spring, he joined the army. Japan attacked Pearl harbour seven months later.
After the war, Stanley moved to Uniontown, south of Pittsburgh. His father, who had remarried, died in 1948. Stanley eventually retired to Florida, where he died in 1997, at the age of seventy-nine.Sources: New Castle News (30 March 1904, “Has Removed To Cunningham Place”; 18 April 1906, “Transfer Made”; 18 Dec 1922; “JPH Cunningham Dies At Home Here”; 18 Aug 1924, “Deaths Of The Day”; 21 Aug 1928, “Rotarian Guests Enjoy Scout Camp”; 29 Aug 1934, “SS Board Of Trade Junior Team Victors”; 9 March 1936, “Posing As Drunk, Police Chief Haven Makes Arrest”; 10 March 1936, “Hearing Thursday For Quartet In Police Chief Case”; 13 March 1936, “Four Are Held After Testimony By Police Chief”; 9 June 1936, “Haven Tells How He Fooled Gang Out To Get Him”; 11 June 1936, “Haven Assailants Are Found Guilty”; 20 Feb 1937, “Three Sent To Penitentiary”; 11 Nov 1936, “Seventy Three Take test To Operate Auto”; 27 Jan 1941, “Pool Room Arrests”; 7 Sep 1948, “Deaths Of The Day”).
Parades were held almost every day throughout New Castle’s sesquicentennial week—the veterans parade, the youth parade, the agricultural parade, the old-timers parade, the fraternal parade. Tuesday, set aside for the celebration of industrial labour, was a quieter day. Nevertheless, the carnival midway on the city parking grounds by the central fire station was open and busy until after midnight.
No alcohol was sold at the midway, but much was consumed. While driving home at twenty to two in the morning, Norman Ross—who had earned a purple heart when he was shot on Christmas eve, 1944, during the battle of the bulge—was stopped by police and arrested for driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. He was fined $100 and jailed for three days. When he got out, sesqui week was over.
(More on the sesquicentennial here.)Sources: New Castle News (23 Jan 1945, “Pvt Norman Ross Wounded In Belgium”; 20 April 1945, “In US Armed Service”; 3 July 1948, “Week’s Celebration of City’s Sesqui To Start Sunday”; 8 July 1948, “Driver Is Held”).
The last day of New Castle’s week-long sesquicentennial celebrations (more on them here) started with a golf tournament at Sylvan Heights, followed by a parade of the city’s fraternal organisations—the Elks, the Sons of Italy, the Eintracht singing society—through the downtown and southside streets, accompanied by floats and high school marching bands. Thousands of people packed the sidewalks. The sun blazed down all afternoon.
Robert Modrak and three of his friends avoided all of that. They drove out of the city and spent the day walking along Slippery Rock creek, a shady gorge to the east of New Castle. When they got hungry, they broke into a cottage—the owner, Earl Dufford, was in town, watching the parade—and stole a little food and some blankets. Nearby, they found an unattended picnic hamper. They carried it off up the creek and had eaten most of its contents when they were disturbed by Clair Shaner, a brass worker at Johnson Bronze, who shouted at them to give him his hamper back. They threw it in the water and Robert pulled out a pistol. Shaner backed off and the men ran back to their car.
They were arrested later that day. In light of their previous good records, the judge gave them light sentences—$100 fines and a year’s probation.
Some years later, Robert moved to Arizona, where he died in 1988, at the age of sixty-nine.Sources: New Castle News (10 July 1948, “Arrest Four On Burglary Charge”; 12 July 1948, “Huge Crowd Sees Sesqui Parade”; 14 July 1948, “Beaver County Men Paroled”; 17 Dec 1965, “Deaths Of The Day”).
A seventy-seven-year-old widow named Alice Johnson opened her door to William Brest, whom she mistook for a neighbor’s son. She let him in, leaving him alone in her living room for a minute. He took her wallet and left. After he removed the $16 that it contained, he threw it into the weed patch behind the United Presbyterian church on Countyline street, where it was recovered by police once William had been arrested and signed a confession. William returned the money, including the $2 that he had already spent, and Mrs Johnson withdrew the charges against him.
William had just turned eighteen. Within three years, he was married with two sons. He found a job at Rockwell’s auto and truck spring plant on Furnace street and got a place on its bowling team, which met with reasonable success in the town’s industrial league. In 1977, William was treated for smoke inhalation when the Rockwell plant was struck by lightning, which started a fire in the duct work. There is no further record of his life.Sources: New Castle News (11 June 1960, “Faces Larceny Charge”; 28 July 1962, “Births Reported”; 7 Aug 1963, “Births”; 8 Sep 1969, “Deaths Of The Day”; 16 Oct 1972, “Bowling Results”; 21 Dec 1976, “Bullish Rockwell Charges Into $6.5 Million Project”; 18 June 1977, “Wind, Rain, Lightning Hits Area Hard”).