Edwin Duff, “intox driver”, 20 Dec 1942

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There were heavy snows on the last weekend of 1942, when Edwin Duff crashed his car on East Washington street. The day of the accident, the New Castle News reported that the snow was so deep that squirrels were having difficulty getting to the feeding stations that had been set up for them in the city’s parks. “On Saturday afternoon, Owen Fox, while at Gaston Park, watched the squirrels jump from treetop to treetop en-route to one of the feeding stations. Mr Fox saw one of these nimble animals slip and fall about 25 feet to the ground. It lay buried in the deep snow which being somewhat wet and heavy, bogged the little fellow down so it could not travel. Owen went over and lifted the squirrel a couple of times with his foot, landing it atop the feeding station with a whack. Although ‘fuzzy tail’ was hungry, it turned and faced its assailant and chattered and pumped its tail up and down in an angry mood. Soon it decided to turn in and get a good feed, probably becoming reconciled to the fact that Mr Fox had done it a good turn.”

Even with the snow, there shouldn’t have been any traffic accidents that weekend. Washington had just placed an emergency ban on the sale of gas to motorists in the eastern states as all the supplies from the Atlantic coast gas depots were being sent to the army in North Africa, so traffic on the streets of New Castle was the quietest it had been in decades. No one knew when the ban would be lifted – Roosevelt would say only that he hoped that it would be a temporary measure – so people crowded onto buses or stayed home (resisting even the lure of the Christmas season church services in town, which were poorly attended).

But Edwin Duff, a forty-three year old motor mechanic, had been drinking until after midnight in a downtown bar. He hadn’t liked the idea of walking the thirteen blocks to his home on Beckford street, so he’d decided to drive home, regardless of the snow, the gas ban and the fact he was drunk, but he didn’t even make it as far as Neshannock creek before he ran into a parked car. He wasn’t hurt, but he later received the standard New Castle sentence for being intoxicated whilst in charge of a motor vehicle: $100 and thirty days in the county jail, out in three days if the fine and costs were paid.

A few years later, Edwin moved up to Pulaski, about six miles north of New Castle, where he operated Duff’s garage for fifteen years until he died, in 1963, at the age of sixty-four.

Sources: New Castle News, 21 December 1942 (“Arrested Following Automobile Accident”, “Pa Newc Observes”, “Curtail Gasoline Sales”); 1 March 1943 (“On Court House Hill”); 12 Nov 1963 (“Deaths of the Day”)

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