Prairie State Bank Robbery

We were recalling things from the time the kids were small and Pat reminded me of this story.

We had gone back to visit with friends and relatives in our home towns of Augusta and El Dorado, Kansas. In Augusta, we were staying with my great uncle and aunt, Dave and Rachel Peebler. Our twin boys, Russ and Doug, were probably between 2 ½ and 3 years old. That would put us in 1961. Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave were always gracious hosts and fun to visit. Aunt Rachel was all excited about having an outing with just the boys and her so she could take them to town and show them off to her friends.

Aunt Rachel got all gussied up, jewelry included. The boys were all excited and Pat got them slicked up and they piled into Aunt Rachel’s car and she took off with them. She decided she would stop at the Prairie State Bank first and pulled into a parking place out front. I don’t know who she expected to see but I imagine that Roy Haines was still the bank’s president  and Noah Morris and Dixie Wisner and the other long-time employees were still there. I don’t know what happened to tip her off but as Rachel and the boys got to the door, she realized that the bank was being robbed. She whirled around and since she was holding hands with both boys, almost jerked them off their feet. She took off directly across the street and rushed through the front door of Larson’s shoe store. Russ Larson was an old friend and she yelled at him and told what was happening. He shooed them to the back of the store and then called the police. They waited for some time before leaving the store and making the rounds of Rachel’s friends. When they got home, all three were still wide-eyed and excited. They were all talking so fast it was hard to understand what had happened. We finally got the boys settled down and Aunt Rachel told the story with the boys chiming in with their comments as she talked.

I tried to authenticate this story by searching the Internet. I even found an abbreviated history of the Augusta Department of Public Safety but nothing mentioned this incident. After Pat and I discussed the story, we were talking with Doug on the phone and asked him if he remembered going to town with Aunt Rachel and seeing a bank robbery. He jumped right in by saying “Yes, and she rushed us across the street to the shoe store.” Doug will be 57 next month and remembers something that made a big impression on him when he was 3.

We just talked to Russ a few minutes ago. He remembers something happening but says that Aunt Rachel down-played it and he doesn’t know what it was. However, he says he does remember meeting a lot of people that day.

Dave Thomas
October 25, 2015

 

 

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The Slumber Party

 

Y-Teen is a Christian organization for girls created and guided by the YWCA. The club was organized in 1918 as the Girl Reserves. In 1946 the YWCA decided to modernize the club and make it more appealing and part of that effort caused the name to be changed to Y-Teen. At Augusta High School the club was well received and at one time had as many as 135 members. Two of the high school faculty members were designated as sponsors of the club each school year. The Y-Teens enjoyed a number of social functions each year. Two of the most popular activities were the Mother and Daughter Banquet and the Slumber Party.

We were sophomores in the 1951/1952 school year and when the date of the annual slumber party was announced several of us thought it would be a good idea to crash it. As we all know now, the brain of a teen-ager is not fully developed. That’s what causes them to come up with one dumb idea after another. I’m not sure what crashing the slumber party was supposed to accomplish. We might see 40 or 50 girls in their pajamas but that was about as titillating as it would get.

The slumber party was held in the high school gymnasium on the night of November 16th. After dark, we met at the school and immediately started making plans to crash the party. The first obstacles to consider were the two faculty sponsors, Edna Chapin and Averil Hawes. I didn’t know Miss Hawes but was well acquainted with Edna Chapin. At school, boys and girls alike were afraid of her. She taught Health and Home Economics and took them both very seriously. Her normal attire was a starched white dress that looked like a nurse’s outfit. She was normally tight-lipped and unsmiling and her countenance was enough to put the fear of God in you. In high school I was always tickled by the reaction of the other kids to her. You see, I knew she was just wearing her “work face”. Miss Chapin lived across the street from the high school and I grew up just a half a block from her. When we kids were running around the neighborhood, Miss Chapin often would come out with a plate of cookies or some delicacy she had just baked. I got to know her as a nice, warm, giving person. However, don’t forget that at the slumber party she was “on the job”.

Under cover of darkness, we split up and prepared to breach the walls of Miss Chapin’s fortress. A couple of the guys went to check the windows on the west side of the gym. The windows were in plain sight but no one ever paid any attention to them. An examination showed that the glass was all painted white and there was a steel mesh covering each window on the inside to protect it from hits by volleyballs and basketballs. This was observed through small places where the paint had flaked off. After seeing this, the guys headed back to the front of the building.

Some of the boys decided to try the main entrance doors that were located in the first floor hallway. Night lights were on in the hall but only gave off enough light to keep you from running into something. The guys had split up to try both entrances and just as they reached for the doors, the doors were opened from the inside! It turned out that some of the girls were just as excited at the possibly of a rendezvous as the boys were. At this moment, Miss Chapin and Miss Hawes arrived at the doors. What a sight! Girls squealing and trying to get back inside and the boys were yelling and trying to get some traction so they could get out of there. “Bedlam” is the word that fits this situation! It was like the Keystone Cops all over again.

The guys returned from their points of failure and humiliation and gathered in front of the building. As they licked their wounds, they were suddenly startled by one of them yelling “Here come the cops!” Sure enough, the cops were pulling into the parking lot and the culprits scattered like a covey of quail. Some headed for the bushes at the neighboring Junior High School and the rest were ducking behind trees and trash cans. The police caught two of them who were taken to the station and lectured before being sent home. Altogether, this was a mission that should have been aborted.

You’ve probably noticed that we didn’t mention any names in order not to embarrass any of the participants. Remember, however…we know who you are.

Dave Thomas and Keith Scholfield
October 28, 2015