Author: Diarmid

Jimmy Pasta, “Gambling”, 14 March 1940

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Jimmy Pasta made his money running illegal numbers games. He called himself a bill collector. He was arrested from time to time on gambling-related charges, staying out of jail by paying hundreds of dollars in fines. Just after three o’clock on the nineteenth of September, 1940, he was sitting in his car in Ellwood City when he saw the chief of police, Ernest Hartman, stop a car on the bridge over the Connoquenessing creek and […]

Sylvester Newton, “Malicious Mischief”, 9 July 1938

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Sylvester Newton’s family farmed land by the Shenango for a century until it was sold for industrial development. Sylvester’s father went to work in the new tinplate mill. He stayed there almost forty years, until the depression shut it down. Sylvester worked in the tinplate mill, too, except when he was sent to Europe in the first world war. He divorced his first wife on the grounds of cruel and barbarous treatment. The following year, […]

Angelo Pegnato, “Burglary”, 24 March 1947

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Angelo Pegnato was one of a gang of safe-crackers and burglars—most of whom, like Angelo’s brother, Frank, had fought in the war—who were arrested in March, 1947, after stealing thousands of dollars from businesses in town. They took almost $4,000 from the Strouss-Hirshberg department store, and $3,360 in cash and $6,250 in war bonds from the Rick’s Motor Car office. Smaller sums were taken from Lebo’s clothing store, the Lincoln-Garfield school, the Lawrence laundry, Exide […]

Eugene Sullivan, “Murder”, 24 July 1930

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The Commodore Grill on East Washington street stayed open all night serving food and alcohol to shift workers at the mills. After prohibition, it switched to coffee but those who wanted a real drink could still get one as long as they spoke to Elmo Clarke, who boarded in the rooms above the restaurant. On 24 July 1930, Eugene Sullivan entered, shouting loudly that he wanted a pencil to write a check. It was 2.30 […]

Joseph Copple, “Armed Robbery”, 15 November 1946

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Joseph Copple left school just as the depression hit New Castle. In 1934, after years without a job, he was arrested for stealing and stripping automobiles and spent a short time in jail. In 1942, when the war reopened some of the factories, he got work in Johnson Bronze. Later that year, he was sentenced to three months for failure to support his wife. As he was led from the courtroom, he looked back and […]

Sidney Fell, “Sodomy”, 21 August 1960

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Sidney Fell and William Dugan were arrested for engaging in an act of sodomy in an empty office on the fifth floor of the Greer building on North Mercer street. They had been discovered after occupants of the building, on the look-out for a thief who had stolen $17 from a secretary’s wallet the day before, had noticed the two men loitering suspiciously in the corridors. Sidney ran a window-cleaning business; William was a manual laborer […]

Herman Robertson, “Manslaughter”, 15 June 1946

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Jack Boles, a veteran of the Spanish-American war, was the janitor in the Winters block on East street. He turned seventy-one in June, 1946, and invited the residents of the block to his apartment to help him celebrate. He and Herman Robertson, an unemployed man who lived downstairs, walked to the Produce street liquor store to buy whiskey and wine and brought it back to the building. The party went on all evening, until Jack […]

Floyd Hillkirk, “OMVWI”, 15 April 1956

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After serving in the Pennsylvania Volunteers for less than a year, Isaac Hillkirk was captured by the Confederate army in the battle of Plymouth, in 1864. The hundred or so former slaves who had fought alongside his regiment were executed on the spot. Isaac and the other white captives were sent to a prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia, where tens of thousands of Union soldiers were held in a few acres of marshy ground, surrounded […]

Clyde Kennedy, “Intox Driver”, 27 Dec 1953

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Clyde Kennedy walked with a limp because of a woodcutting accident when he was ten. (He sank an axe into his right foot while chopping wood at the cement factory.) His grandfather, Ezekiel Sankey, had owned the land on which west New Castle was built and had been largely responsible for bringing the first railroad to the town after the canal was abandoned, His cousin, Ira Sankey, was a world-famous singing evangelist whose hymn books […]

A_____ P______, “Larceny of Car”, 26 April 1935

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A_____ P_____ was seventeen when he was arrested for stealing a car. It was the only time in his life he would trouble the police. He still lives in New Castle (hence the redaction of his name), and this November he will celebrate his ninety-fifth birthday by playing in his polka band in front of family, friends and invited guests. And I’ll be there, too. At the end of November, I’m travelling to New Castle […]