Small Town Noir will not be updated for the next couple of weeks, as I’ll be out of the country and hopefully nowhere near a computer.
In the meantime, you might want to revisit a few of the earlier posts, as I’ve rewritten a lot of them as I found out more about the lives of the subjects. For example, I came across the interesting story behind the first arrest, at the age of sixteen, of Walter Jamison, who would go on to become an expert forger and doughnut baker. I was able to fill in a little more of the life of John Hutchison, a rather less expert forger, after I received an e-mail from his son, who had never heard of the criminal episode in his father’s life until he read about it here. I’ve also been able to shed a little more light on the crimes of William Fabian, Warren Dewyer and others as I’ve learned more about their context and what New Castle was like back then.
What I’m saying is, I’m sorry there will be no new stories until the middle of March, but there’s plenty of old ones in the archives, and some of them have changed so much that they might as well be new, so dig in.
Dick Hitchcock grew up working in his father’s butcher shop by the Grant street bridge and playing football for New Castle High. After he left school, he switched his game to golf. Throughout his twenties, he won tournaments for Trinity Episcopal in the church golfing league and for the independent grocers in the small business league. He organised charity golf matches, gave and received toasts at golf club dinners and helped with the annual banquet for aged local golfers. His arrest in February, 1942, for driving while intoxicated, was uncharacteristic; the sole transgression in an otherwise blameless life.
The golf leagues had closed for the winter in October and the courses had been shut due to heavy snow since the new year. America had been at war since the beginning of December, and the third draft lottery was scheduled for March. By the time the golf courses reopened in spring, Dick was in the army. He was sent to Camp Blanding in Florida for training, then to north Africa to join the 5th army. He earned a good conduct ribbon and was promoted to corporal.
Dick saw his first fighting in September, 1943, when the 5th army invaded Italy. He landed at Salerno and took part in the battle to liberate the town. Five thousand men died in the first week as the army pushed north towards Naples. After twelve days, they reached Pompeii, where Dick was shot by a sniper. The bullet hit him in his hip, passing through the flesh without hitting the bone. He recovered quickly and rejoined his unit near San Pietro, where he was promoted again, to sergeant. A month later, a mortar shell exploded close by him. He was struck by a shower of rocks. His arm was broken; his elbow smashed to splinters. He made his way to the rear, where he was transported to the coast along with other wounded soldiers—a lieutenant who had been shot in the jaw; a Korean private from California who had lost an eye when a bullet had gone through his skull; a soldier whose feet had been shot through by machine gun fire—and sent back to America.
Dick was in the Valley Forge hospital in Pennsylvania until the summer of 1944. He visited New Castle when he got out. The summer golf fixtures were well underway. The First Presbyterians led the church league, with the First Baptists five points behind. In the small business league, New Castle Moose were eight points ahead of Universal Sanitary and Manufacturing. Mixed foursome tourneys were being held every Sunday. Dick was the guest of honor at a dinner at the Castle Hills golf club. He was unable to play, of course.
Dick spent the rest of the war at Camp Butner, in North Carolina. After he was released from service, he returned to New Castle. When his father retired a few years later, Dick moved away, first to Washington, DC, then to Big Bear City, California. He died in the veterans hospital in Santa Monica in 1970, at the age of sixty. He was buried in the Los Angeles national cemetery.Sources: New Castle News (7 Sep 1904, “List Of Meats For Saturday”; 13 April 1926, “Grid Candidates Start Training”; 11 June 1934, “Dick Hitchcock Tourney Winner”; 20 March 1935, “Church Golfers Enthusiastic At Meeting Tuesday”; 14 April 1936, “Golf Captains Meet Wednesday”; 4 Aug 1936, “Golfing Events On Local Links”; 24 Oct 1938, “Fish For Trout”; 17 June 1939, “Swinging Along Local Fairways”; 29 May 1940, “First Methodists Still Lead League”; 26 Sep 1941, “Church Bowlers Organize Loop”; 7 May 1942, “Local Board One Announces List”; 28 July 1942, “With Men In US Service”; 1 Sep 1943, “In US Armed Service”; 30 Sep 1943, “Troops Moving Through Pompeii”; 23 Nov 1943, “Dick Hitchcock Wounded In Italy”; 3 Jan 1944, “Sgt Hitchcock Wounded Again”; 13 June 1944, “Dick Hitchcock On Radio Program”; 20 June 1944,”Senior Committee Has Fine Dinner”; 13 July 1944, “Hitchcock Out Of Army Hospital”; 18 April 1945, “Sgt Dick Hitchcock Gets purple heart”; 15 Aug 1948, 13 May 1952; 19 June 1970, “Deaths Of The Day”).
Youtha Beverly arrived in New Castle from Covington, Virginia, in 1920. He turned eighteen in 1927, the year when a car in which he was a passenger broke the neck of a four-year-old girl who ran out into the street. The following year, he was arrested in connection with a disturbance during a whoopee party at a house in Sciota street that resulted in a man named John Sears being shot in the head. During the thirties, he was arrested on various occasions for the possession of liquor, disorderly conduct and assault and battery.
Youtha’s mug shot was taken in September 1934, after an arrest for drunkenness. He died six years later, in 1940, at the age of thirty-three, from what his obituary called a lingering illness. His only family was his sister’s daughter, Dorthula, who would be hospitalised several times during her married life following unexplained domestic accidents, until the day in 1973 when she shot her husband.Sources: New Castle News (8 Aug 1927, “Ran Into Auto Of John Fulmore In Rear Of Home”; 25 Nov 1929, “Colored Man Shot In Head”; 1 Feb 1930, “Pleas Are Entered; Sentences Passed”; 19 July 1930, “Charge Withdrawn By Prosecutor”; 26 May 1938, “Arrests Driver After Accident”; 5 Jan 1940, “Deaths Of The Day”; 14 May 1958, “Woman Breaks Arm”; 26 Nov 1960, “Woman Fined”; 1 April 1964, “Hand Hurt”; 8 March 1966, “Patton Service”; 15 Dec 1973, “City man Is Shot In Home”).
Charles Cialella played football for New Castle High and worked for his family’s florist business until he joined the army air service, immediately after the attack on Pearl harbor. Two months after the end of the war, he was arrested for playing a numbers game. He was released without being charged.
He went to work with New Castle’s parks department and became supervisor of the Cascade park swimming pool when it reopened in 1952, offering a pledge that, following a programme of improvements, it would now be impossible for bathers to contract skin diseases or sinus trouble through use of the facility.
In 1968, Charles’s cousin, Carl Cialella, became mayor and appointed Charles superintendent of all the city’s parks. By the seventies, the administration had changed and Charles was made foreman of the city’s sewers. In 1976, he was working in a sewer in Winter avenue when he found a 1942 class ring inscribed with the initials MAS hanging on a broken tree branch. He called New Castle High, whose staff checked their records and told him that it must have belonged to Mary Agnes Schetrom. Charles’s friend, Frank Gagliardo, had been the Schetrom’s paper boy and still knew some friends of the family, who told Charles that Mary Agnes was living on Kenneth street. Two hours after he had found the ring, Charles returned it to Mary Agnes, who told him she had accidentally dropped it down her toilet in 1946 and had not expected to see it again.
Charles was a Republican committeeman and president of the local lodge of the Sons of Italy. He played golf, went bowling and raised funds for charity. His wife bred exotic plants and worked as an Avon representative for fifty years. They raised five children and were both over eighty when they died.Sources: New Castle News (4 Nov 1938, “New Castle And Monessen Play Here Tonight”; 17 Feb 1942, “With Men In US Service”; 3 May 1952, “Cascade Pool Repairs Near Completion”; 14 June 1952, “Bathers Crowd Cascade Park Pool Friday”; 12 Oct 1959, “Bowling”; 28 Aug 1963, “11-Year Rarity”;15 April 1968, “Observe Construction”;10 Sep 1968, “Cialella Shifts Personnel”; 27 May 1975, “Believe It Or Not, People Still Care”; 12 Sep 1977, “Honored For Participation”); obitsforlife.com, Mary E Cialella obituary via obitsforlife.com.
Fred Weir came to New Castle from the south as a young man, just before prohibition began, and spent the twenties drinking and gambling in backroom establishments downtown and on the south side.
A woman named Mattie McKisson ran a Negro club in her home on the corner of Cochran way and South street, where she allowed dice, cards and liquor. On a spring night in 1922, Fred hired a taxi to take him there and told the driver to wait while he fetched Mattie. He called her out, but she refused to come with him. Fred drew a pistol and fired three bullets through the bolted door. He told the taxi driver to take him to the Mahoningtown district and waved the gun at him when he said he would rather not. Once they were on their way, the driver objected again and Fred fired three shots through the roof and the windshield. The driver stopped the car and Fred ran into Dieterlee’s lumber yard to hide. Mattie McKisson called the police. They found Fred on top of a tall pile of lumber, his pistol under some logs nearby. He was fined $25 for disorderly conduct and $5 for drunkenness.
In those years, Fred was often in court on charges of possessing liquor, gambling or being drunk. He was ordered to leave the city each time he was found in a raid on a disorderly house, but he never did. Around the time he turned thirty, he changed his ways. He stopped getting into trouble with the police, found himself a wife and concentrated on establishing a few quiet gambling operations in the south of the city. His arrest in 1947 for disorderly conduct—using a knife and a blackjack to threaten a numbers player who owed him money—was an uncharacteristic relapse, after which he returned to running his affairs in a manner that was less likely to draw the attention of the authorities. There is no further record of his life.Sources: New Castle News (22 Feb 1922, “Twenty-Four Are Arrested”; 25 May 1922, “Revolver Shots Bring The Police”; 21 April 1924, Noise Attracts City Officers; Arrests Made”; 24 April 1924, “Pay Heavy Fines”; 21 Aug 1924, “Held On Suspicion”; 22 Aug 1924, “Sentence Suspended”; 27 June 1944, “Hold Trio On Burglary Charge”; 4 Nov 1947, “Two Are Held”; 29 Sep 1948, “Two To Receive Hearing”).
On Saturday, the fourteenth of January, 1956, many people throughout New Castle stopped to admire an unusual circular rainbow that hung around the sun above Lawrence County, a creation of the cold and frosty air. Fewer noticed Paul Conner as he drove south from Sharon through New Castle and onward, stopping at every department store and supermarket on the way to cash hundreds of dollars-worth of bad checks in the name of Joe Garrett.
Paul was heading for his home in Bellevue, in Allegheny County, but his trip was cut short when the manager of the Montgomery Ward store in Beaver Falls recognised him from a previous visit and called the police. He ran out of the shop but was chased and caught.
Paul waited in Beaver Falls jail while the various jurisdictions discussed where he should be dealt with first. New Castle won the argument, and he was taken there on the seventeenth of January. There is no further record of his case or of Paul himself.Sources: New Castle News (14 Jan 1956, “Pa Newc Observes”; 17 Jan 1956, “Alleged Forger Taken To Sharon”; 18 Jan 1956, “Spurious Check Charge Placed Against Connor”).