Author: Diarmid

James Owens, “Bad Checks”, 5 August 1939

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James Owens, from Boston, walked into New Castle police station on a Saturday night to report his girlfriend missing. Her name was Della Nugent. He said they’d gone different ways when they were shopping and she hadn’t shown up where they’d arranged to meet. The police told him she’d been arrested that afternoon for passing bad checks. James, who was found to be carrying fake ID in the name of James O’Conners, was arrested on […]

Hubert Lykins, “Drunk”, 6 December 1958

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Around three thousand Americans fought in the 1944 campaign against the Japanese in Burma. By the end, all but two were either dead or had been hospitalised with wounds, cerebral malaria, amoebic dysentery or scrub typhus. Hubert Lykins’ brother, Edwin, was a signalman supporting the jungle warfare unit known as Merrill’s Marauders. He died the day after the final engagement of the campaign. Hubert was never drafted. He worked as a molder in the New […]

“Mugshot”

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News! Small Town Noir is featured in the award-winning documentary “Mugshot”, to be broadcast on TVO on Wednesday September 24 (that’s tomorrow, at time of writing) at 9pm — also on Thursday, September 25 at 9pm and Sunday September 28 at 11pm. As far as I know, you have to be in Canada to watch TVO, but I could be wrong.  I expect it will be on in the US at some point… I had […]

Meyer Shussett, “Suspicion”, 14 January 1933

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Meyer Shussett was a fifty-two-year-old salesman from Pittsburgh who had lost a lot of money in the depression. He took a train to New Castle on a January weekend in 1933 and spent Saturday night walking from bar to bar with boxes of counterfeit Pollock cigars, which he sold cheap until he was arrested by a patrolman. The mayor fined him $20. Later—after the depression, after the war—he managed a variety store in Pittsburgh. One […]

William Jaynes, “Attempted B & E”, 11 September 1939

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There is no record of which property William Jaynes was attempting to break into when he was arrested on the eleventh of September, 1939. He got thirty days in jail. William worked in Johnson Bronze. His wife died of a heart attack in 1953, at the age of thirty-seven. They had no children. He got a job cutting hair at the Lawrence County home for the aged. After a while, he went to work in […]

Harry Curry, “Intox Driver”, 4 August 1935

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Harry Curry’s father, William, was a boy of fourteen when he left Ireland in 1840. He worked in Wilkinsburg and Greensburg, earning enough money to buy some land outside of New Castle on which he set up a farm and raised a family. Harry was his third son. In August 1899, when Harry was nineteen, the congregation of the Mountville U P church in Perry township, east of New Castle, were listening to a lecture […]

Gerald McCluskey, “Carrying Concealed Weapons”, 10 February 1949

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When he was twelve years old, Gerald McCluskey won an award for excellence in the YMCA cadet Bible club. His father died of a heart attack the following year. A few months later, he and an eighteen-year-old boy from his street, Donald Pontius, were walking through their neighborhood when they noticed a young girl, around Gerald’s age, walking alone on the road ahead of them. It was a dark winter’s evening. A light snow was […]

How Small Town Noir came to be

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People often ask how I found these mug shots and why I chose to write about them, and I’ve usually given what I feel are rather inadequate answers (I suppose because I’m more interested in the stories behind the mug shots than the story behind the blog).  However, when the editors of the history journal, The Appendix, asked me to write an article for them about my research, I took the opportunity to set out my […]

Ernest Pokersnik, “B E Larceny”, 7 May 1946

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Ernest Pokersnik’s father left Slovenia at the turn of the century and worked for forty years in Bessemer’s brick and cement factories. Ernest’s mother died when he was young, and he spent some time in Morganza reform school for larceny. His sentence was lengthened when he broke into the Croatian club to steal two bottles of beer while on parole. He became a mechanic. During the war, he repaired fighters and bombers in an air […]

James Dagres, “B & E”, 28 April 1934

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In 1930, when James Dagres was twelve, his father, John, was given eighteen months to six years for breaking and entering and larceny, and so may not have been around in 1934, when James planned a robbery of his own. One of James’s friends from school, Jack Cook, lived around the corner from an unoccupied furnished house on the north hill. Over a period of weeks, James, Jack and a third boy, LeRoy Shoaff, removed […]