Patsy Ross, “Drunk, Dis”, 13 June 1945

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Wick Wood, one of the first reporters on the New Castle News back in the 1880s, was fond of sauerkraut, particularly the sauerkraut that was made by a Bavarian couple called Rentz, who farmed a small plot of land just beyond where the old Butler road crosses Big Run creek. On his visits to the farm, Wood got to know their only child, a boy called Frederick, who had been kept out of school from the age of eight to help on the farm. A vacancy opened up at the paper for a printer’s devil—someone to sweep out the print room, wash ink rolls, fetch type—and Wood arranged for Frederick to get the job. On a summer morning in 1883, the boy left his farm and walked into New Castle, along a cobbled Washington street in which pigs and cows wandered freely, to start his first day’s work at the offices of the New Castle News. When he died sixty-four years later, he was the manager of the company, a position he had held for fifty years.

Frederick Loeffler Rentz was central to the development of the city of New Castle in the twentieth century. He lobbied for roads and highways, drainage improvements and civic construction projects, sponsored good works and served as mayor for a short stretch in the twenties. For decades he wrote a daily column of jokes, aphorisms and observations, such as the one that ran, “In some places it takes nerve to wear a silk top hat and one of them is New Castle—too many loose rocks lying around.”

In 1929, at the peak of New Castle’s prosperity and Rentz’s influence, Patsy Ross was a fifteen-year-old news boy—one of hundreds of news boys who sold the New Castle News on the streets every day, making about a penny a copy. He and some of the older news boys formed an organisation to set rules of conduct for news boys throughout the city, and Patsy was elected to the club’s special court that tried the members for misdemeanours and infringements of the rules. They called themselves the FRNBs, which stood for both the Fred Rentz News Boys Club and Fun, Right, Neat and Best.

Fred Rentz was glad to be associated with the club. At a banquet held in their honour, he told them that many prominent men once carried the New Castle News and were proud of it. It was true: the owners of the hotel that hosted the banquet, Saul Leff and Alex Silverman, had sold the paper in their youth. Evidently, there was no limit to the heights to which a news boy could expect to rise.

Patsy’s club also raised funds for the YMCA, took part in musical and theatre shows and organised a baseball team. The New Castle News itself declared that they were “a thriving group of boys who promise to develop into real hundred per cent American men,” but that was the year of the Wall street crash, and the FRNBs didn’t make it out the other side of the depression. The last mention of the club was in a report on baseball game in 1933, when Patsy and the other founders would have been at least eighteen. The younger news boys whose duty it would have been to carry the FRNB torch perhaps had other matters on their minds.

Twelve years later, Patsy—shirtless and bleeding—was arrested on a charge of drunkenness and disorderly conduct after brawling in the street and punching a taxi driver who refused to pick him up. He was held in the cells overnight and fined $25 in the morning.

Fred Rentz was probably unaware of the incident, unremarkable as it was. He died the following year, aged seventy-eight, and was succeeded as publisher of the New Castle News by his son, Jacob, who was in turn succeeded by his sons, Dick and Fred, who ran the paper until it was sold in 1988.

There is no further record of Patsy Ross.

Sources: New Castle News (18 Jan 1929, “City Newsies organise FRNB Club Thursday”; 12 Nov 1929, “Busy Season Ahead For Local YMCA”; 17 April 1934, “Boys Jam Y For Newsies’ Rally”; 2 April 1937, “Hints and Dints”; 30 July 1942, “Sixty Years Ago Today Fred L Rentz Started Work On New Castle News”; 13 June 1945, “Fine Of $25 Imposed”); Youngstown Vindicator, 26 Feb 1988, “Thomson Inc Buys New Castle News”.

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