Robert Modrak, “Burglary”, 10 July 1948

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The last day of New Castle’s week-long sesquicentennial celebrations (more on them here) started with a golf tournament at Sylvan Heights, followed by a parade of the city’s fraternal organisations—the Elks, the Sons of Italy, the Eintracht singing society—through the downtown and southside streets, accompanied by floats and high school marching bands. Thousands of people packed the sidewalks. The sun blazed down all afternoon.

Robert Modrak and three of his friends avoided all of that. They drove out of the city and spent the day walking along Slippery Rock creek, a shady gorge to the east of New Castle. When they got hungry, they broke into a cottage—the owner, Earl Dufford, was in town, watching the parade—and stole a little food and some blankets. Nearby, they found an unattended picnic hamper. They carried it off up the creek and had eaten most of its contents when they were disturbed by Clair Shaner, a brass worker at Johnson Bronze, who shouted at them to give him his hamper back. They threw it in the water and Robert pulled out a pistol. Shaner backed off and the men ran back to their car.

They were arrested later that day. In light of their previous good records, the judge gave them light sentences—$100 fines and a year’s probation.

Some years later, Robert moved to Arizona, where he died in 1988, at the age of sixty-nine.

Sources: New Castle News (10 July 1948, “Arrest Four On Burglary Charge”; 12 July 1948, “Huge Crowd Sees Sesqui Parade”; 14 July 1948, “Beaver County Men Paroled”; 17 Dec 1965, “Deaths Of The Day”).


  1. Linda says

    As I read thru these entries I reflect on the richness of what you call New Castle’s “fraternal” societies and clubs. ( Was interested in another STN entry to find a “Negro Elks”)

    Yes,some of these “clubs” were fraternal; some were ethnic; perhaps some were racial. What purpose did these clubs serve and is there anything today which could be conceived as counterpart?

    As a very young child -maybe 1947 when I was 4 or five? – I remember drinking my first Coca Cola at the GBU. There were two German clubs in New Castle at that time, the Eintracht and the GBU. My grandfather was a founder of the Eintracht Singing Society which is mentioned in your entry here – but did you know there was another German club, the GBU, short for German Beneficiary (not sure about that word) Union? The GBU club – at a downtown location – which I remember as being below street level and full of good cheer – a safe place – was from time to time raided by police for German sympathizers.

    This was ironic since the members and their sons at the same time of the New Castle police raids were laying their lives on line killing their German cousins – in Germany.

    During WW2 New Castle High School suspended the teaching of the German language!

    In a uniquely American way the ethnic clubs were quite open – and remain quite open to the best of my knowledge – to “other” nationalities. One did not need to be German to join the GBU; one did not need to be Croation to join the Croation Club; or Italian to join – the the vernacular -the “SonzaItly.” (Sons of Italy)

    • Thank you so much for that reminiscence about the GBU. It’s wonderful. I’m going to read up on it in the New Castle News archive, if I can. I saw the Eintracht singing society hall the last time I was in New Castle. Very interesting to hear about your family connection…

  2. Mario E Perkins says

    Same rule for those clubs as the rest, can’t be black, thats why there’s what they call the ” Black Elks ” in every town. All those clubs are still goin’ and still the same as the time in this article, I know cause I use to deliver food to all of them. Same question always, they would ask from behind a locked door, “What u want”, and I would ask ” Do you want to pick your food up from the shop cause I don’t really want to be around ” yenz” neither”.

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