Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Something Completely Different

by Connie Cortright

On the lighter side...

During the last couple weeks, this blog has discussed famous people with nicknames - "Pretty Boy" Floyd and "Baby Face" Nelson - so today I want to introduce someone else with a nickname - "Cheeks Mahoney".

This person isn't nearly as famous, or infamous, as my other topics because she's my new baby granddaughter. She's gained so much weight during the last couple months making her cheeks so heavy that she has a hard time lifting them up to smile. It made me laugh when I saw her on "FaceTime" a couple weeks ago, so I gave her this nickname.

She's worth a million to her grandma
Maybe I've been working too long with the past where gangsters had these nicknames to describe their looks, but I think "Cheeks Mahoney" is perfect for her.

Of course, she's nothing like the gangsters I've been writing about. Since she was born on Valentine's Day this year, she hasn't had any time to do much beside eat and sleep. The only thing she's ever stolen is my heart, but that only makes her more loved. She took it with her when her daddy got a different job and moved away from Milwaukee. Now I only see her on the computer, when they come, or we go to visit.

"Cheeks Mahoney" does warm my heart when her face lights up with a smile. There's nothing more special than a five-month-old laughing and smiling. All the joy in them reaches out to interact with Mommy and Daddy, or Grandpa and Grandma.

She could be classified as "Grandma's Cutie #1" since her birth, but then she's the seventh person to hold that title. Also, she'll be replaced soon when my eighth grandchild is born later in July. Or maybe I should say I have eight "Grandma's Cutie #1's".

Hope you enjoyed this week of something different. :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

He was Definitely Not a Robin Hood

by Connie Cortright

After doing research on "Baby Face" Nelson this week, John Dillinger and Charles Floyd (the first two Public Enemies) look like angels compared to him. George Nelson, better known as "Baby Face" Nelson, was given the moniker Public Enemy # 1 after the death of "Pretty Boy" Floyd on October 22, 1934. This gangster readily deserved this name and the all-out search to find him until he was killed on November 27, 1934 by the FBI.

But his story starts way before that date. He shot a playmate at the age of 12 - accidentally that time, but his life of crime grew from there. He was in trouble for most of his life afterward. A small man with volatile hot temper, he had a special hatred for law officers and earned the honor of killing the most FBI agents in the line of duty than any other gangster. Besides the agents, Nelson killed several other people before his own death.

By the age of 22, he headed up a gang of men known as "The Tape Bandits", who were known for taping up victims with adhesive tape, cutting the phone lines, and ransacking the house to steal jewelry. Of course, the victims were the richest citizens living in the Chicago area. In one example, they stole jewelry worth more than $700,000 (in today's value). One of his victims described him this way; "He had a baby face. He was good looking, hardly more than a boy," from where he received the nickname "Baby Face" Nelson.

By April, 1930 he graduated from robbing jewelry to robbing banks.  For the next four years, he robbed banks in Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota, and Indiana. Of course, after each heist, he'd and his gang would leave the bank with their guns blazing, killing or injuring police or innocent bystanders. Much of the time, he'd be on the run from one law enforcement agency or another. Several times he fled out west for refuge from the cops, spending time in Sacramento and San Francisco, California and Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada.

The one positive thing in his life was the way he treated his family. In 1928 he married Helen Gillis and in the ensuing years they had two children. He was devoted to his family and took them with him whenever he could, especially when he was on the run from the cops. She was arrested in April, 1934 for assisting a criminal and released on parole.

After a narrow escape from the FBI in spring of 1934, the Dillinger gang, including Nelson, spread out to avoid capture. The FBI then decided to have a nation-wide manhunt and concentrated on one criminal at a time, naming Dillinger "Public Enemy #1" first. Nelson and his family spent the next few months under the radar traveling out West. After Dillinger was eliminated in July and Floyd killed in October, the agents turned their attention on Nelson.

Nelson and his family returned to the Chicago area around November 1 after spending several quiet months roaming the country. The FBI discovered that the Lake Como Inn in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was a favorite hideout for "Baby Face" Nelson and had set up a stake out to catch him if he returned to his secret spot. When Nelson did visit the inn on November 27th, the FBI agent was ready for them. Nelson managed to elude them, but the model of his car and license plates were recorded and the word sent out. Agents swarmed the area and located him outside of Chicago in the town of Barrington.

Nelson was killed that day in the ensuing "Battle of Barrington". The agents overpowered Nelson and he was shot by Federal Agents Herman Hollis and Samuel Cowley - the same agents that had captured and killed Dillinger months before. Before the shootout began, Nelson ordered his wife and children to take cover in a nearby ditch, thus saving their lives. During the battle, Agent Hollis died and Cowley was shot in the chest and stomach.

Nelson was shot seventeen times, but still managed to escape with his family and one of his buddies. Helen and John Chase pulled the dying Nelson into the car and drove off. Nelson died later that day with his wife at his side.

Writing these blogs for the past couple weeks makes me wonder how so many people got so mixed up with the wrong crowd and led their entire lives running from the police. I guess that happens all over today, though - how depressing. Next week, I'll have to choose a more cheerful topic.

Information taken from Wikipedia --Baby Face Nelson

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hoodlum or Hero?

by Connie Cortright
Charles Arthur Floyd

The headlines lately about the escaped convicts in New York state bring back memories of the gangsters and bank robbers who broke out of jail during the 30s. A few weeks ago, the story of John Dillinger was discussed on this blog, so today we're looking at Public Enemy No. 1 after his death, Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd.

While doing my research, I found two entirely different stories about Charles Floyd- the FBI version and the Oklahoma version.

According to the FBI version "Pretty Boy" Floyd was a notorious bank robber and murderer from about 1925 to 1934 when he was killed in a gun battle with FBI agents. He got his nickname (which he hated) from the media when a witness referred to him as "a mere boy -- a pretty boy with apple cheeks." After robbing multiple banks in the Midwest states, he found his face plastered all over the newspapers as a wanted man. He was arrested several times and escaped just as many.

The most famous gunfight he was accused of being involved in was the "Kansas City massacre" on June 17, 1933. Four law enforcement officers were killed when (supposedly) Floyd and three of his buddies tried to free a fellow gangster Frank Nash, who was being transported from one penitentiary to another. The four murdered officers were guarding the prisoner to make sure that an escape wasn't attempted. The four gangsters jumped out from behind parked vehicles and opened fire on the guards killing the agents and, interestingly enough, also Frank Nash. Charles Floyd swore to the day of his death that he was not involved in this massacre.

The "Oklahoma" version of Floyd's story is quite different. According to sources from his home state, Charles Floyd came from a family with a good reputation in the community. His younger brother became the sheriff of their county for decades. If he was part of this great family, he couldn't be all bad.

They do admit that Charlie Floyd was indeed a bank robber, but he was driven to this end because of the lack of jobs during the Great Depression. He had no choice but to rob banks to get money to assist  poor people in Oklahoma. He would give money or food to friends, family, and acquaintances, helping them to survive. In Oklahoma, he had the nickname of "the Robin Hood of the Cooksoon Hills" (which name he cherished).

In one instance, he told friends that he was going to rob a bank in his home town. The word spread among the citizens of the town. An audience assembled on the streets as the bank was robbed. During the get-away, Floyd threw hands-full of money out the car window to his admirers witnessing the event.

His Oklahoma fans do admit that he killed one man. He robbed a bank in McIntosh County, Oklahoma in April, 1932. Two days later Sheriff Erv Kelley set up an ambush to try to catch him. Charlie had no choice but to open fire on the Sheriff and his men, killing Kelley. The people of the county admitted that Floyd had murdered Sheriff Kelley, but it was in self defense. It was either kill or be killed. Charlie insisted that he regretted what had to be done that day because Kelley left behind fatherless children.

In July, 1934 when Floyd was declared Public Enemy No. 1, a massive man-hunt was initiated to collect the reward money. The FBI converged on the town of Wellsville, Ohio when the local police chief reported that two suspicious men were loitering near the woods outside of town. The men were identified as "Pretty Boy" Floyd and his buddy Adam Richetti after their girl friends drove their damaged auto into town to get it repaired. They left the two gangsters out in the country to avoid the law.

When the police officers arrived, they tried to capture the outlaws. Richetti was apprehended by the law officers, but Floyd escaped and fled into the woods.

Floyd was killed three days later, October 22,1934, but again there are two versions of the incident. The FBI story is that Floyd was hiding from them and took off running when they spotted him. He started shooting at the agents and was killed in return fire by the FBI.

Another version is that Chester Smith, a retired East Liverpool Police Captain, shot and wounded Floyd, but did not kill him. He wanted him to be taken alive. FBI agent Melvin Purvis ran up to "Pretty Boy" Floyd and started questioning him. When Floyd answered with curses, Purvis ordered an agent to "fire into him". Floyd was killed point-blank by the agent. According to Smith, the FBI covered these facts up because they didn't want this version to be broadcast to the public  - especially in Oklahoma. The FBI denied Smith's version of the events.

Charles Floyd's body was sent back to Sallisaw, Oklahoma for burial in the family plot at Akins Cemetery. His body was viewed by at least 20,000 people during the visitation in his hometown. That is the largest funeral that Oklahoma has ever had. The "hero" had come home for the last time.

With two such distinct sides of the facts, it's hard to know what to think about Charlie Floyd. Which do you think he was -- hoodlum or hero?

Information taken from Wikipedia--Pretty Boy Floyd and Biography Charles Pretty Boy Floyd.