The Holland Michigan Bank and Baby Face Nelson

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Historic image of First State Bank in Holland, MI (image courtesy of Digital Holland, Michigan)

WHTC News has learned that the PNC bank branch on West 8th Street at Central Avenue will be closing on November 17th. Officials didn’t say a reason behind the move in a letter that arrived in deposit holders’ mailboxes on Monday.

Built in 1916 as First State Bank, it was the scene of a famous robbery on September 29, 1932 when Lester Gillis, better known as the notorious gangster “Baby Face Nelson,” allegedly joined forces with Eddie Bentz to take some 70 thousand dollars in cash and bonds, injuring a bystander in their flight. The crime was never solved by Holland police detectives. Read More.

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Hell’s Angles – Howard Hughes

HELL’S ANGELS 1930 

Hell’s Angels was a 1930 independently made American epic aviation war film, directed and produced by Howard Hughes, Controversy during the Hell’s Angels production contributed to the film’s notoriety, including the accidental deaths of several pilots. [Source Wikipedia]

Spoiler alert, the clip above is not a puff piece.

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Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath is an American realist novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939. The book won the National Book Award] and Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.

Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they are trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other “Okies“, they seek jobs, land, dignity, and a future. [Source Wikipedia]

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Five Things You Didn’t Know About 1920s Gangsters in Chicago

A new book offers some surprising glimpses into the city’s early 20th century underworld.

BY HANNAH NYHART  This article appears in the June 2017 issue of Chicago magazine.

 

ONE: Cicero, not Chicago, was dubbed the “wettest spot in the United States.” Agents discovered 20 separate large-scale stills in a single series of raids, reports John J. Binder in Al Capone’s Beer Wars: A Complete History of Organized Crime in Chicago During Prohibition (June 6, Prometheus Books). Crackdowns had forced the alcohol underworld into the western suburb, where the Torrio-Capone gang roughed up voters to sway the 1924 election and keep certain friendly politicians in office, thus securing itself free run of the town.

TWO: A sign of how cozy gangsters were with elected officials: After Capone’s mentor, James “Big Jim” Colosimo, was killed in 1920, his pallbearers included eight aldermen, three judges, and a U.S. congressman (shown above).

THREE: Gangsters weren’t all to blame for the murderous era. Of the 729 homicides in Cook County between 1919 and 1933 classified as “gang-style” killings by the Chicago Crime Commission, Binder found that 43 percent were actually not related to organized crime but to personal feuds and other private matters. A 1932 newspaper ad for a local textile shop read: “Bullet Holes Rewoven Perfectly in Damaged Clothes—Low Price.”

FOUR: Chicago’s 6,000 illicit slot machines temporarily disappeared in the late 1920s after a vigorous state’s attorney was elected, but gambling as a whole never really died down. By 1930, there were roughly 10,000 illegal locations, from barbershops to newsstands, to wager on horses or place other bets. You could find a spot to lose money about as often as you can find a bus stop today.

FIVE: Capone’s gang was pulling in “tribute” payments—a cut of profits for protection—from two-thirds of the city’s labor unions, but the milk wagon drivers refused to be controlled, even after Capone affiliates kidnapped their union’s president for a $50,000 ransom. Instead, they bombproofed the union office and bought a bulletproof car. Plan B: Capone opened a rival dairy, staffed trucks with his own men, and sold milk two cents cheaper. Read more

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Donuts, WWI, and the 1930’s Depression

WWI 1914 to 1918 

Nine million combatants and seven million civilians died.

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The following is from an article by Michael S. Rosenwald Washington Post Fri., June 2, 2017,

A century ago, not long after the United States entered World War I, the Salvation Army deployed hundreds of volunteers to France to soothe and bolster American troops.

The boys were homesick. They were hungry. They wanted a slice of apple pie.

But that, of course, was impossible. The many indignities of war include this undeniable one: A fox hole is a terrible place to bake.

So the Salvation Army troops improvised, frying dough in soldier helmets, producing such delicious donuts that when the war was over, when the troops finally came home, the government produced a guide for veterans to open donut shops.

Salvation Army volunteers (mostly women) who comforted the boys were called, “Donut Lassies.”

“As they dipped donuts for their boys, they dispensed motherhood,” John T. Edge wrote in “Donuts: An American Passion,” a seminal volume in the genre of historic deliciousness.

The recipe called for:

– 5 C flour;

– 2 C sugar;

– 5 tsp. baking powder;

– 1 ‘saltspoon’ salt;

– 2 eggs;

– 1 3/4 C milk; and

– 1 Tub lard.

The most important instruction: “Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool and enjoy.”

“As the nation slid into economic depression, the industry feared that donuts might go the way of the street corner apple,” Edge (a food historian) wrote. “So they aligned themselves with America’s emerging aristocracy, the ladies of gentlemen of Hollywood.”

Frank Capra put donuts in his movies. There’s that scene in “It Happened One Night” where Clark Gable teaches, as Edge puts it, “donut etiquette.” On Shirley Temple’s list of works is this: “Dora’s Dunking Donuts.” Laurel and Hardy posed for photos holding donuts.

And you know what?

Donuts survived the Great Depression. Hooray for donuts.

While their nutritional value is questionable, their patriotic value is as certain as the round hole at their center, through which eaters can look back through time and see not just food history, but the story of America – of our boys fighting for what’s right, fueled by what would become the country’s favorite pastry. Read more.

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“GYPSIES ORDERED TO VACATE CITY” The Marion Star Saturday. March 15, 1930

by Phil Reid, Sentimental Journey Published 5:00 p.m. ET May 25, 2017

“Mayor Jones Issues Ultimatum When Rovers Overstep Bounds of Phrenology.”

It took a band of gypsies just one week to find out they are not wanted here.

Orders to vacate the city by 12 o’clock today were issued by Mayor L. Don Jones in no uncertain terms. The orders were directed to the “chief” of the gypsies, and were forwarded to T. E. Sonnanstine, directed of public safety, who with the aid of the police department will see to it that the mayor’s orders are carried out.

The gypsies made themselves a nuisance when they stood on the sidewalks in front of their “booths” in several vacant business rooms in the uptown district and “beckoned” for trade, officials explained today.

This, and offers to “tell your fortune” exceeded the bounds of “phrenology,” which they were legally entitled to practice here. But fortune telling is barred by ordinance except with a permit and orders to travel were consequently issued. Read more.

Phrenology: a psychological theory or analytical method based on the belief that certain mental faculties and character traits are indicated by the configurations of the skull.

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Snow Storm 1920

1920 Video Shows How Chicago Dealt With Snowstorms Nearly 100 Years Ago

By Kelly Bauer | March 14, 2017

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This footage was filmed Jan. 24, 1920, for a news story by Fox Movietone that would have been shown in movie theaters. The snowfall came in what was described as a 32-mile-an-hour Nor’Easter that “whistled around Chicago’s ears” the day before.

The Tribune reported that the city used “seven new motor snow plows” it had recently bought and described how 500 men were scheduled to go through the Loop with hand shovels to scoop up the piles the new plows had created.

The winter of 1919-1920 had about 32 inches of snow in Chicago, about as much as last winter’s (2016-17) snowfall.

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Article from the Kiowa County Signal, March 13, 2017

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born and raised in a privileged family in Hyde Park, New York. He was tutored at home until age 14, and after attending a private school for his high school years, graduated from Harvard College.

FDR became governor of New York just before the stock market crash in 1929. He was re-elected in 1930 with the Great Depression underway, and his leadership in New York during that difficult time was part of the reason he was elected president of the United States in 1932.

President Roosevelt promised a “New Deal” to help lead America out of the Great Depression. This included, among other aspects, stabilizing the banking system and creating jobs. His administration created the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Civil Works Administration, which provided jobs building bridges, roads and airports, cleaning beaches and planting trees. The Tennessee Valley Authority created jobs that helped bring electricity and roads to parts of the country that didn’t have them.

FDR communicated with the country through “fireside chats,” speaking often to the American populace over the radio. FRD had integrity and his words had meaning.

Read More

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