Frank Siegel, “intox driver”, 25 September 1946

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Six years into prohibition, Frank Siegel was arrested for possessing liquor. He was a farmer who had come to America from Austria before the first world war, and he tried to explain that he was strictly teetotal and that the alcohol that had been found in his house had been meant for medical purposes – his wife was suffering from some malady that required a local application of the stuff. His attorney backed him up, stating that, in all the years that he had known Frank, he had never known him to drink.

The court didn’t care what the alcohol was for: possession was possession. Frank was fined $100 and, of course, had his liquor confiscated.

Any teetotal tendencies Frank might have had had been abandoned by the day in 1946 when he had his mug shot taken after he got drunk in town and crashed his farm truck into another truck on Pearl street. He was fined $100, again, and was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail, out in three if he paid the fine and costs.

The following year, Frank’s six-year-old daughter got polio, and was unable to walk for two years. (When she eventually took her first steps with her new waist-high leg braces, the New Castle News published a picture of the little girl grinning with excitement.) The year after that, Frank’s sixteen-year-old son was injured in a car crash that killed his friend. The medical bills were far too much for the farm to support, and the family avoided ruin only by accepting charity.

Faced with times like that, no one could blame Frank if he took a healthy drink once in a while.

In 1956, while once again drunk in town, he got in a fight with a man called Ira Walls. Walls was an elder of the Mission Church of God in Christ and Frank was a Roman Catholic, so perhaps the laceration and contusions that Frank ended up being treated for in hospital were the result of a disagreement regarding a fine point of doctrine. (Walls went on that night to assault his wife, punch a policeman in the face and beat up another drunk who had the misfortune to share a cell with him, so it could have gone worse for Frank.)

Frank retired from the farm a couple of years after that and became a naturalised US citizen a few months later. When he died in 1969, at the age of seventy-three, he left behind him twenty-four American grandchildren.

Sources: New Castle News (8 Nov 1924 “Criminal List Is Cut Down As Pleas Entered By Court”; 26 Sep 1946 “Driver Arrested”; 27 Sep 1946 “Sentence Drunken Driver”; 19 Jan 1948 “Boy Is Killed; Six Injured; In 422 Crash”; 26 Jan 1950 “Local Girl ON Road To Recovery”; 12 June 1956 “Claim Prisoner Assaulted Police”; 1958 small ads throughout the year; 6 Dec 1958 “Citizenship Is Approved”; 10 March 1969 “Deaths of the Day”)

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