Back in the Day: Oddities and Treats

I come across many interesting topics as I continue to read Monroe’s journals. I hope you find the local flight information I share today fun and interesting. The first incident was reported in the Monroe Sentinel and the rest in the Monroe Evening Times.

A gaggle of little girls decided to picnic in Wolcott’s grove on Saturday, May 13, 1876, packing plenty of good things to eat in their baskets and buckets. They hid them in a clump of bushes in a clean, cool place before playing. After playing for a while, they got hungry and “went to their makeshift pantry and found that some despicable person or people had stolen them”. Not content with taking their food, the thieves filled some dishes with mud. “The happiness of the day was gone for the little people – their joyful laughter and joy turned to disappointment and hunger; some of the little ones even cried. They returned home hungry, having fasted instead of feasting “with their picnic transferred by the imps of the old nic [the devil].”

Sneaky thieves stole $12 worth of clothing from the property of Mrs. James Cason on West 17th Street shortly after dark on Tuesday evening, May 21, 1912. The theft was committed by cutting the clothesline to the two ends and pulling out the line with all of the clothes attached. Ms Caton said she knew who the thieves were and would give them 12 hours to return the clothes before ‘arresting and prosecuting the culprits to the limit’. I couldn’t find anything more in the logs.

Mr. and Mrs. HA Reneau planned a party on the lawn at their home on 23rd Avenue South for the evening of September 22 of that year. Guests numbered nearly 60 and included the Gleaners, volunteers, Monroe Business Institute students and CB Bolender’s Sunday School class. About 20 boys entered the kitchen while the hosts enjoyed themselves. They stole three plates of cake, strewn sandwiches on the floor, and followed grapes into the kitchen and dining room.

It was the second time there had been an incident at the Reneau home. We thought that the culprits, who were known, could be punished and that we made examples of them. The police were called; they gathered the disbelievers. The Times reported the following day that the 30 boys involved in the kitchen incident “had settled with Mr. Reneau by signing a written apology and paying him twenty-five cents each”.

A newspaper article from April 13, 1921 began: “Here, Chief Mackey, it’s work for you!” Call the reserves! Cast the well-known dragnet. The crime wave seems about to hit our fair and law-abiding city! The newspaper mentioned, “Boys will be boys” as it described that they took cakes from a hostess as guests waited to be served. Miss Dorothy Tschudy had organized a card game the night before. After a pleasant moment, Miss Tschudy went to take the “two beautiful frozen cakes” out of the refrigerator. The cakes had disappeared without a trace.

It is unclear how the boys gained access to the cakes when the fridge was in the kitchen, a short distance from where the guests were playing cards. “There was no disturbance or noise and the thieves fled, leaving the hostess in an embarrassing situation and the guests minus some of the refreshments.” A note was left saying, “Thanks for the cake.”

“Cake thieves continue nefarious operations” was the headline of an article two days later. He went on to say that “unscrupulous bad guys are still at work in the city.” A cake stand with delicious frosting still hanging on it had been found in the schoolyard and taken into the building. Police were working on clues and warned the thieves would face severe punishment if found. I haven’t seen anything more in the papers.

Four months later, Deputy AE Mitchell arrested 14-year-old Alvin Divan of Chicago, who had visited his uncle, LaVerne Hoylen, four miles east of Albany in Rock County. The boy, who was in Monroe on Tuesday, August 23, explained to Mitchell, “I didn’t mean to steal a horse. I found it on the road without a driver and thought it would be nice to drive it. So I did.

After investigation, it was found that the mare and light buggy which belonged to the Welton brothers, who lived near Browntown, had disappeared from the square. Before she was found at Hoylen Farm, it was believed she had become restless, had become detached from her hitching post and had left for home where she had a foal.

“The boy is apparently not a bad boy and says he is sorry for causing trouble. Authorities are considering whether further prosecution will be necessary. Assuming the boy’s story is true, it is likely that he will be released with a warning that using a platform is not appropriate.

Monroe police announced on April 29, 1935, that they had apprehended the “jello thief” – a 10-year-old boy whom they turned over to the Green County Children’s Board. The boy had stolen $17 from purses in a church locker room on Sunday. Police were taken to a local elementary school where a new bat and ball indicated someone was “in the money”. He had also bought a toy airplane, a chocolate bar, a movie ticket and given money to his brother.

After questioning the boy, he admitted that he was the person who removed storm windows from homes on the north side of town and entered Albert C. Theiler’s home on March 31 where he “licked bananas from the jello” and left burnt matches. He was able to return the police $15.20.

None of these crimes were horrific, but illegal nonetheless. Looks like people haven’t really changed much in a century.

— Matt Figi is a Monroe resident and local historian. His column will appear periodically on Saturdays in The Times. He can be reached at [email protected] or 608-325-6503.

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