Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Prominent grandfathers

Last Thursday, I had a speaking engagement at Eastmont Towers, a senior living center here in Lincoln. I arrived to find a much bigger crowd than I had expected—probably a little over a hundred. In the front row were Edith and BIll Cascini, long-time friends. Edith was the librarian at Northeast High School during my youth. Mrs. Cascini has a dry wit and a wry sense of humor. As a high school debater, I lived in the library during every free minute, and she had a big influence on me. We were chatting as the audience gathered, and the Cascinis told me that I would have a tough act to follow. The previous program featured an entertainer from Omaha who arrived in costume and song, and put on a great show.

When the program started, I mentioned the tough-act-to-follow remark, and told the audience that I could sing, too. So I serenaded them with a verse of Saloon—one of several goofy songs my Dad loved to rock his grandbabies to sleep with (and a habit he passed on to me). I don’t think they were expecting that from the chief of police—either the song, or the singing. Everyone survived, though.

I had a great time talking about how things have changed since I first met Mrs. Cascini in about 1968. Phones had dials and were found in booths, televisions had tubes and needed to warm up, and so forth. I gave them a short glossary of terms that did not exist in 1968: crack baby, meth head, registered sex offender, child care center. I talked about the new challenges for police officers that have resulted from massive cultural changes over a single generation. To set the stage for this discussion, we talked about how the physical environment has changed. I borrowed a gig from the morning talk show hosts on KLIN radio, John Bishop and Jack Mitchell, by taking the audience on an imaginary 1968 group walk down O Street from 9th Street east to our present location at about 63rd. Everyone had a great time reminiscing about all the places they used to go.

After the program, several people stayed around to chat, but one resident waited patiently until the smoke had cleared entirely, then introduced herself. Mary Hunt explained that her step grandfather was Pete Johnstone. Moreover, her great grandfather was James Malone. Peter Johnstone was the Lincoln police chief from 1919 to 1930, a dynamic period when the police force became motorized. He was chief when the infamous Lincoln National Bank robbery of 1930 went down at 12th & O Street. He “resigned” shortly thereafter. James Malone was the chief during three separate periods prior to that, and led the controversial Last Posse. He also figured prominently in the Sheedy homicide as a detective. Mary is not web-enabled, so I have mailed some photos and stories of her grandfathers that I am sure she will enjoy.


ARRRRG!!!! said...

I figured you would sing this song.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder about LAST POSSE Chief. I had that on my books to read list but I lost it and forgot the name of it. Thanks to you I have added it to my new list. One of the older fellows that worked at the State Pen has put together an archive of materials about the Pen from territorial days to the present. I wish I could remember his name but I can't.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Because of the bank robbery in 1930 I remember Detectives helping open banks around Lincoln accompanied by an old Thompson .45 cal machine gun just in case history repeated itself 40 years later. Kind of a hoot when you think about it. Speaking of history, it appears that every Chief from Joe Carroll back through history wore a nice Stetson hat. The uniform of the day has certainly changed.


Steve said...

We need more Stetsons and more posses (and more Judge Roy Beans).

Anonymous said...

Came across your site, I am interested in James Malone, he investigated a double murder at a railroad yard while being a detective for the Burlington RR (in between his time as chief of police, 1909-1911, 1914-18. since the suspects would not confess, the judge closed the hearings. they were set free, and so the murder never even made it past a coroners inquest before that same judge, Chief Malone believed it an Italian Vendetta, and stayed here several days and did much foot work. no record of this most bloody butchering of two railroad workers exist in any county records, only several newspaper accounts. was hoping you may know if Chief Malone's papers have been kept somewhere? I'm at a researchers dead end.