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'Roger, 10-8 at 711'

  • ROY ACKERMAN PHOTO 1954: Rush Township Police Chief William Klotz, right, demonstrates a two-way radio with Tamaqua patrolman Harry Dornblaser. The historic image was taken on Aug. 1, 1954, on West Rowe Street near the Tamaqua police station.
    ROY ACKERMAN PHOTO 1954: Rush Township Police Chief William Klotz, right, demonstrates a two-way radio with Tamaqua patrolman Harry Dornblaser. The historic image was taken on Aug. 1, 1954, on West Rowe Street near the Tamaqua police station.
Published August 01. 2014 04:00PM

How does a cop arrest a culprit if there's no place to lock him up?

The answer is to find a nearby police station that has a jail.

But how does an officer do that when his access to communications is limited?

These were some of the questions facing William B. Klotz, Rush Township's first policeman and advocate for two-way police radios.

It's hard to imagine, but there was a time when police had no easy way to communicate between patrol cars and police headquarters.

In 1923, Pennsylvania State Police installed the nation's first statewide police radio telegraph system. Then, 10 years later, the Bayonne, New Jersey, police department successfully operated a two-way system between a central fixed station and radio transceivers installed in police cars.

Eventually, the idea caught on across the country and police radios became commonplace.

By 1961, police car radios had worked their way into American culture with shows such as the 1961 black-and-white television sitcom, "Car 54, Where Are You?"

Locally, one of the early police radio systems was begun between Rush Township and Tamaqua exactly 60 years ago.

On Aug. 1, 1954, Chief Klotz radioed an officer in Tamaqua, bringing Rush Township police into a new era.

Hometown resident Bill Klotz remembers those early days. His father was a pioneer of full-time police presence in Rush Township.

In fact, his father became a one-man police department in 1952, eventually named chief in 1954.

Klotz used his own vehicle as the police car for the first few years, attaching a temporary, removable sign on the car doors to identify it as a police vehicle.

But the implementation of a two-way police radio made it official. The event was a big deal.

"They held a celebration denoting that he got a phone in his car," said Bill, 69.

Tamaqua Evening Courier photographer Roy Ackerman was summoned to capture the historic event, grabbing a photo of Tamaqua and Rush Township police cars parked at Rowe Street opposite Tamaqua police headquarters and borough hall.

In the image, Chief Klotz is seen using a handset to transmit a message to Tamaqua patrolman Harry Dornblaser.

The advent of two-way radio and the creation of a police department was a big step for growing Rush Township, which had been relying on state police protection.

The job was the perfect fit for the man once known as Constable Klotz.

"He lived on Arlington Street (in Tamaqua) but then moved to Hometown when he got the job," said Bill.

"He'd come home and practice the codes, saying '10-8 at 711.'" The term refers to in-service location and phone number in an era when phone numbers were simple.

The convenience of radio communication meant better service and faster response.

For instance, if a criminal was arrested in Hometown, Klotz needed to drive the perp to Tamaqua because Hometown didn't have a jail.

The two-way radio allowed Klotz to inform Tamaqua he was on his way.

And those situations arose often because Klotz had a reputation for being a tough cop.

"He'd arrest anybody," said Bill. "He arrested the governor for speeding in the 1950s, but by the time he was back home, it was fixed."

The chief also was fair and applied the law equally to all. He took his job seriously and everybody knew it.

(That toughness rubbed off on his son. The younger Klotz went on to play left end for the legendary 1962 Tamaqua Blue Raiders football team which won Pennsylvania Eastern Conference football championship with 10 wins and one tie. He was employed for 35 years as a history teacher at Lehighton Area High School, where he also coached football.)

Bill said two-way radios also helped with police dispatches.

Before radios, police were summoned via overhead lights placed at strategic locations. If police were needed for dispatch, the red light was turned on to alert them while they were on patrol.

"There was a red light hanging by Berwick Street," said Tamaqua Police Chief Rick Weaver.

Weaver, too, is an advocate for efficiency in police communications. Weaver said the day is coming when local police calls will be digitally encrypted, similar to a system already in use by state police. This means citizen-owned police scanners, the type found in many homes, will no longer pick up police transmissions.

The advent of two-way radio communications changed the face of law enforcement, and Chief Klotz was part of the transformation.

"He was excited that he was able to talk with you guys," Bill told Weaver last week on the anniversary of the communications system between the neighboring municipalities.

Klotz maintained a strong presence in Rush Township. He went on to work with youth, helping to inaugurate the Hometown Safety Patrol and supporting many other safety initiatives.

A law enforcement job is an occupation in which a cop occasionally "takes the job home with him." Luckily, Klotz had a devoted wife who fully supported his career choice. The former Doris Steigerwalt, a Reynolds native, she stood by her husband every step of the way. She is now 89 and living in Nesquehoning.

Unfortunately, Klotz's stellar career in law enforcement was cut short due to health matters.

He suffered from diabetes, leading to uremic poisoning and kidney failure in 1958.

The community rallied to his aid. Fundraisers were held, such as one sponsored by the Beacon Diner.

But Klotz's health deteriorated. He passed away on March 21, 1958, at 35.

He was buried in row 27 at Sky-View Memorial Cemetery, Hometown.

The death dealt a blow to his son.

"I was 12 at the time," said Bill.

But there are strong bonds among the men in blue, and so a Tamaqua cop stepped in to help.

After the chief's death, Charles "Chick" Moyer, Tamaqua police chief, assumed the father figure role.

"That was his best friend. He raised me," said Bill, who keeps a photo of Moyer hanging on the wall of his living room.

We now have computers, television and Internet, and have come to take electronic communications for granted.

But 60 years ago today, the first radio transmission between two police cars from neighboring towns was big news.

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