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Drinkers kept the police busy in late summer of 1912

Published September 29. 2012 09:03AM


Drunks, both home-grown and as well as imports, kept local police busy during the late summer of 1912.

Even after Mauch Chunk Police Chief John Sandel asked for county detective Daniel Thomas' help in taming the problem, it remained a nasty situation. The drunkenness got so out of hand in Mauch Chunk that the issue was addressed at a council meeting in early August.

"(Councilman) McKinley said something should be done to protect the police from the insults they were subjected to by these drunks and it was intimated that drastic steps are to be taken to suppress the menace and nuisance," the Mauch Chunk Daily Times reported. "The members of council are very indignant over the bad reputation the town is getting on account of these import drunks and will stand back of Chief Sandel in his efforts to suppress them."

After hearing a report that women were afraid to walk the streets because of the insults from drunks, McKinley felt it was time "to nip it in the bud."

Council president A.P. Blakeslee summoned help from the state police to calm the obnoxious behavior. It didn't take long before the police rounded up a number of the rowdies and charged them with numerous offenses.

Two of the suspects, Anthony Sweeney and Fred Edding, were charged with drunk and disorderly, assault and battery, and resisting arrest and assault. The assault occurred when Chief Sandel was assaulted while taking them to the lockup.

They were held for court in default of $500 each.

Four others who were charged with being drunk and disorderly were sentenced to pay a fine of $5 each, pay the cost of prosecution and serve 30 days in the county jail.

After the initial roundup, police broke up another group of drinkers, and made two more arrests before a number of men scattered.

"About a score beat it over the dead line and succeeded from being ensnared in the meshes of the drag net," the Daily Times reported.

The writer then issued a warning to the outside intruders.

"No haven is to be shown the drunks," he said. "If they come to town and behave themselves they will not be molested, but they are not going to be permitted to menace and insult the community, and the sooner they respect the majesty of the law the better it will be for them."

After researching his law library, Squire J.J. Boyle came up with a plan to address Mauch Chunk's "menacing and rapidly-increasing drunk nuisance."

"The ingenious justice perused his law books to discover a more effective means of punishing them and unearthed an old law that permits him to commit them to the almshouse where they may be used in harvesting crops and doing general farm work," the Times reported.

Three men who were employed at Hauto Owen Caffrey of Wilkes-Barre, James Gildea of New York and Joseph Kanouse of Jersey City were the first three sentenced under Boyle's idea. They were each given 30 days labor at the almshouse in Laureytown.

Wild scenes in Tamaqua

Tamaqua officials were also kept busy dealing with drunks.

One of the scariest situations occurred at the Pine Street home of Mrs. Joseph Martz. After retiring at about midnight, she was asleep for about an hour when one of her boarders came home. Seeing a light on in her second floor room, the boarder first thought it was Mrs. Martz but after entering the room, she was astonished to discover a man hiding under the bed.

When the frightened woman ran down the hallway, sounding the alarm, the intruder made a dash for the door. Awakened by the shouts, Martz grabbed a revolver which she kept in her bedroom, rushed out and fired two shots just as the intruder was exiting the home.

The shots missed but thanks to a thorough description provided by the women, it didn't take police long to nab Joseph Renzi, who was a tailor by trade.

"After being put through the third degree, he confessed that he was drunk and did not know what he was doing," the Tamaqua Courier reported.

In late September, a day of hard drinking ended in one of the worst mob fights the area had ever seen. The Courier reported in its Sept. 23 edition that "a half dozen or more foreigners were slashed up in a fight on Elm Street, Dutch Hill, Saturday night following a drinking party."

The fight involved two factions the followers of Isadore Kerangue and those of George Wydie. The fight broke out after both groups indulged in some hard drinking in the cellar of a home, which one witness described as a speakeasy, on Union Street.

"All were drunk when the trouble arose," said John Klosos, who suffered scalp and thigh wounds. "After leaving the speakeasy, they went over to Joe Berniskey's saloon where they secured more drink. It was really in this place that the fight started."

The fight raged for over half an hour and the Courier said "the field of conflict resembled a slaughter house when they got through."

Kerangue was badly cut up in the fracas suffering a slashed throat as well as serious cuts to the nose and forehead but it was believed he would recover.

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