The Story of [the late] Dorothy Balmain – Part 1

One girl is killed and two other girls injured in a hit-and-run with a drunk driver.  The incident created quite a spectacle in the community, involving a suspicious medical exam, two NYC night club “entertainers,” a former-prohibition-agent-turned-speakeasy-owner (and his thuggish bartender), death threats, and a possible police cover-up.  

This is a series of articles in Pop’s scrapbook. It apparently affected him enough that he kept every article that was written about this incident.

11/26/15 The Story of [the late] Dorothy Balmain

On August 25, 1932, Evelyn Kelly, Gertrude Pugh, and Dorothy Balmain were walking together along Edgewater Avenue when they were struck by a vehicle driven by Harvey Lyons.

The Players

Evelyn Kelly was about 15 years old.  Her father was Michael Kelly, a newspaper employee, and her mother was Veronica.  She had three brothers and a sister. The family lived on Edgewater Avenue, only a few feet from where the girls were struck down.

1930+ Evelyn Kelly census

 

Gertrude Pugh was also around 15 years old.  She lived with her mother Harriet and two siblings: a sister and a brother.

1930+ Gertrude Pugh census

Dorothy Balmain was 14 years old.  She lived with her mother, Irene (Seaman) Balmain – a widowed telephone operator – her brother Robert, and her sister Frances, both several years older.  Dorothy’s father, Robert, worked in a saloon before his death.  He and Irene were married 24 Oct 1907 in Kings County, NY.

1930+ Dorothy Balmain census

Harvey Lyons was born in New Jersey on 27 Feb 1889 to parents William Lyons and Ida Truax.1 2  At the time of the incident, he was a 40-year-old truck driver.  He apparently had no children, but was first married to a woman named Sarah, then to a woman named Florence (to whom he was married at the time of this incident).  He was driving the vehicle involved in this incident, and apparently had three passengers: Robert Berry, Anita Corbin, and Dorothy McCoy.

Harvey Lyons 1930 census

 

Anita Corbin and Dorothy McCoy were both 22 years old and worked at a night club in New York.  They lived at the Hotel Embassy at 70th and Broadway in New York City.

Harry Eicholz was a lunch stand operator in Ridgefield.

Ridgely Armstrong was a former Prohibition Agent, and at the time of the incident was the proprietor of the Ridgefield Inn on Bergen Turnpike.

John Mannion was bartender at the Ridgefield Inn on the night of the incident.

Dr. John V. Lynn was the physician who examined Mr. Lyons at 10:30 p.m. on the night of the incident.

Sgt. Charles Erickson and Patrolman William Heilman were members of the Ridgefield Police department.  Sgt. Erickson was working the desk the night of the incident.  Heilman was one of the officers searching the area of the incident during the investigation.

Coming Up Next:  Part 2 – What actually happened?

 

  1. “New Jersey Births and Christenings, 1660-1980,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FCLB-MY3 : accessed 22 November 2015), Harvey M. Lyons, 27 Feb 1889; citing Rfd., Bergen, New Jersey, reference v 31 p 46; FHL microfilm 494,213.
  2. His WWI draft card says he was born in 1890.

Walter Thwarts a Prowler

Another commendation from a Ridgefield citizen for Walter’s exceptional police work … in sending two police officers to check on a woman who saw a prowler outside her kitchen window.  

11/23/15 Walter Thwarts a ProwlerLetter to Council Extols Boro Police

Cops Responded Immediately When Sought for Aid

The efficiency of the Ridgefield Police was given corroboration Tuesday night, at the council meeting, when a letter was received from a resident of the borough complimenting the prompt manner in which the department responded to a call for assistance.

A verbatim copy of the letter follows:

“Gentlemen:

“On Thursday night, January 14th, a prowler was observed looking into the kitchen windows of my mother’s home.  Mrs. Stansfield immediately telephoned the police and within three minutes, two officials from the Department were at the house investigating, but the offender, apparently realizing that he had been detected, had in the meantime, disappeared.

“May we not express our appreciation of the prompt action of Sergeant Gallagher and the two officers who answered the call, and congratulate through your Honorable Body, the Police Department on their efficiency and alertness.

“It is comforting, indeed, to know that in a case of emergency, an immediate response can be expected of our local Police.

“Yours very truly,
“CHESTER T. STANSFIELD.”

 

Below is a copy of the actual letter that was received.

1932 01 18 letter of thanks from Chester Stansfield

Walter Named Secretary

I guess being an officer in one organization wasn’t enough for ol’ Walter.  This article was likely published at the end of 1932, since Walter was scheduled to take office in 1933.

1932 - Walter Gallagher named Secretary to Pension FundNAME PENSION BOARD

The following have been named to serve on the Ridgefield Police Pension Fund Commission for 1933: Mayor Emil Berger, Samuel Hendricks, representing the citizens of the borough; Sergeant Walter Gallagher, as a representative of the Police Department and Tax Collector P. A. Meserole.

Gallagher will serve as sercretary [sic] and Meserole as treasurer.  Sergeant Gallagher was recently chosen a trustee of the Beregn [sic] Police Mutual Aid Association as representative of Local 45, Police Benevolent Association

 

Youths Charged with Car Theft

Am I the only one who – thanks to “My Cousin Vinny” – hears “yoots” whenever I read “youths?”  

Anyway, here’s another article where Pop feels “compelled” to be a hero. Again.  I believe this article is from August 1933.

YOUTHS CHARGED WITH CAR THEFT

1931-1935 Youths Charged with Car TheftSay They Took It From White Beeches Club

Two youths, picked up in Ridgefield yesterday as suspicious persons, were surrendered to the Haworth police last night to answer a charge of stealing an automobile.  The prisoners gave their names as Edward Fischer, 21 years old, 62 Grand Avenue, Dumont, and Arthur Stean, 18, or New Jersey Avenue, Bergenfield.

The car which the police charge the pair with stealing belonged to C. T. Gay, 1 Harriet Avenue, Palisades Park and was taken Thursday, Aug. 3, from in front of the White Beeches Golf Club. Haworth.  According to Chief Edward Menze of Haworth, the car was driven to Maine by the youths, where it was abandoned.  The boys then hitch-hiked back to New Jersey and were apparently on their way home when caught in Ridgefield.

Both boys, said Menze, have confessed to stealing the machine, claiming that they merely took it to have a “joy ride.”  They have been booked on a charge of the larceny of an automobile and today will be turned over to County authorities.

The Haworth police chief claims that Fischer has been implicated in several robberies in the vicinity of Haworth and Dumont.  Stean however has no record as far as the police can learn.

The capture of the two was made by Sergeant Walter Gallagher of the Ridgefield Department who learning from neighboring police that two suspicious looking characters were headed for this borough immediately went out in search of the pair.  He located them sitting on the tracks of the Northern Railroad of New Jersey apparently asleep.  When he approached the two he was compelled to rouse them from their slumbers.  A few minutes after they left the track a New York bound train passed the spot where they were found.

When questioned the boys would admit nothing and immediately Sergeant Gallagher sent out an alarm which brought Chief Menze of Haworth to Ridgefield.  He recognized Fischer as a youth whom he had arrested before and began questioning the two.  After several hours, Menze says, they confessed, claiming that they abandoned the car on a road in Maine when one of the tires went flat.  Before the arrest of the boys the car had been located and will probably be returned to the owner shortly.

 

Vice President Walter Gallagher

Apparently being elected Vice President of a county-wide organization was a pretty big deal back in the day … or maybe it was just a slow news day.  Either way, Walter’s in the newspaper again:

 

Sergeant Walter Gallagher of the Ridgefield police department, was elected vice-president of the Bergen County Police Mutual Aid Association yesterday at a meeting held in Garfield.  Gallagher is the first policeman from Ridgefield who has ever held office in the association.

1931-1935 Walter Gallagher elected VP

Taken For a Ride (continued)

The story of how Walter became a superhero was apparently published in more than one newspaper. This is the second (unidentified) article I found relating the events of that day (and apparently the Great Bear Spring Company is still around. You can read the history of it here):

‘RIDE’ VICTIM IS RESCUED BY COP

Ridgefield Is Roused As Autoist Chases Foe

1932 - Ride Victim is Rescued by Cop p1Shouting that he was being taken for a ride, John Ponzi Marchese, 210 Twenty-first Street, West New York, caused the arrest in Ridgefield last night of Adolph Solimine, 520 Ninth Street, West New York.  Solimine was booked on a charge of assault and battery and committed to the County Jail, Hackensack.

Sergeant Walter Gallagher, who was off duty, heard howls and then saw Marchese dash out of the woods near Gallagher’s home on Virgil Avenue.  He ran into his house, grabbed his gun, and reached the street just in time to halt Solimine, who was pursuing Marchese in an automobile.  Pointing the gun at Solimine, the sergeant ordered the man to stop.  Solimine submitted to arrest.

Marchese said that on New York Avenue, a thoroughfare on which there are no houses and which is fairly well hidden by woods, Solimine hit him in the face.  Marchese said he attempted to jump from the car, but Solimine grabbed his coat and ripped a pocket off.

Fleeing through the woods shouting “Where is a cop? — that man tried to take me for a ride”, Marchese reached Virgil Avenue, where he was rescued by Gallagher.  The shouting brought a score of residents from their lawns and porches, fearing someone would follow the man with a machine gun.  A search of Solimine’s car and clothes failed to reveal any weapon.  Both men said the trouble arose out of an alleged loss of about $700 which Solimine accused Marchese of taking from him.  Solimine, who says he is employed by the Great Bear Spring Water Company, Ridgefield, said he “made book” until recently on horse races.

1932 - Ride Victim is Rescued by Cop p2He said he employed Marchese and, one day, allowed him to “take the wire” over which results of the races were received.  By waiting for the results of some of the races and then claiming that certain persons had placed bets on the winners, Solimine charged Marchese was able to “beat” him out of about $700.  Marchese denied it.

Marchese accepted an invitation to ride with Solimine yesterday afternoon, but when he reached his home in West New York, Marchese said he was not allowed to get out of the car.  Instead, Solimine kept riding until they reached the lonely spot in Ridgefield, where he claimed he was punched in the face and after that jumped from the car.

Solimine maintained that he was going back to the Great Bear Spring Water Company to report to his employer and asked Marchese to take a ride with him.  He denied the assault and explained that his pocket was torn when he caught it on the car door.

As Solimine alighted from his car at Gallagher’s command he spoke in Italian to Marchese.  After that Marchese became reluctant to talk.  Neither man would reveal what was uttered.

Marchese, who is 33 years old, has, according to police, a record as an automobile thief.  Solimine is 23 years old and is said to be a former pugilist.  He said that he has been employed in his present job for five years.