Another Story: Frank
In our town of 5,000 we had a police chief, 3 or 4 police officers, and 1 police car. We knew all the cops by their first names because that’s the way it was in a small town. When the cops were driving down the street, they would always smile and wave. Again, that’s the way it is in a small town. One of the cops was a young man named Frank Bennington. Frank was a tall, slim, good-looking guy who always had a smile and a good word for grade school kids like us. The thing was, though, that Frank had an edge about him and you knew he wasn’t anyone you would want to mess with.
I knew Frank when I was in grade school and then he was missing from the local scene for a few years. I guess about the time I’m 16 or 17, Frank is back in town and he is Chief of Police. He looks a little harder, tougher but still a nice man.
One evening, I walked down town and messed around and about 9 o’clock was walking back home. I got to the corner of 6th Street and State and looked to the west and saw a bunch of people standing around by the Scholfield-Hurst Ford dealership. This was kind of strange so I headed down there to see what was going on. There were a bunch of cars parked so that their headlights focused on the door to the Parts Department and people all around that were looking the same way. Out in the middle of the driveway was Chief of Police, Frank Bennington. Frank was wearing his side-arm like he always did but in his right hand he was carrying a shotgun…a 12 gauge pump. I asked one of the crowd what was going on. He said that our local switchboard operator at the telephone company had gotten a signal, and when she answered, no one responded. She listened for a bit and determined that at least two men had broken into the Ford garage and had knocked a phone off the hook as they commenced to rob the place.
I should explain that our telephone company was pretty small. I think there were a local operator and a long-distance operator on duty at night. To show you the size of our telephone company, the phone number for the filling station that also served as the Bus Stop for Greyhound and Continental Trailways was “2”, the movie theater was “11”, the Chevrolet garage was ”66”, and my aunt was “413”. Yes, life was simple then.
Getting back to the story…the operator listened for a moment, determined what was happening, and called the cops. Frank was at the station as was one other cop. They hurried on over to the garage and as they stood there and checked it out, a crowd immediately began forming. I was told that Frank had already yelled out for the men inside to come out with their hands up. I stood there and watched for a while and I guess that Frank got tired of waiting. He raised that shotgun to his shoulder and yelled “Come on out with your hands up or I’ll come in shooting!” The next thing we heard was “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! We’re coming out!” The two guys came dashing out the door with their hands up and were obviously scared to death. It turned out that they were two out-of-town punks from Wichita who thought our little old hick town would be easy pickin’s. It probably would have been, but for an alert telephone operator and a no-nonsense cop.
December 5, 2013