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.

 

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.

 

Taken for a Ride

This unidentified, undated article is from between 1931 and 1935, when Pop was still a Sergeant.  

1931-1935 Taken For Ride, Ponzi Charges

Taken for Ride, Ponzi Charges

West New York Man Leaps from Car — Seeks Police Aid

Claiming that he had just leaped from an automobile, the driver of which was attempting to take him for a ride, John Marchese, alias “Ponzi,” of 210 21st street, West New York, ran down Virgil avenue, Ridgefield, yesterday afternoon, shouting, “Where can I find a cop?”

Sergeant Walter Gallagher, of the Ridgefield police force, working in his garden on his day off, hearing Marchese’s cries, ran out into the street, gun in hand.  The terror-stricken Marchese pointed to an automobile which Gallagher ordered to halt.

The driver, who said he was Al Solomoni, of 520 Ninth street, West New York, whom Marchese said was the man who had tried to take him for the ride, denied that such was the case, and said that he had merely offered to drive Marchese to a spring water plant in Ridgefield, to seek employment.

This Marchese denied, saying that Solomoni had driven the car to a lonely dead end street in Ridgefield, and that he had escaped by leaping from the car while it was in motion.  In substantiation of his statement he exhibited the pocket of his coat, the cloth of which had been torn still being in the car.

While Gallagher was questioning the men, Solomoni is alleged to have addressed Marchese sharply in Italian, and from then on, the latter became silent, and refused to answer questions.  He preferred, however, a charge of assault against Solomoni, and the latter was turned over to county authorities for investigation.

Upon investigation, the Ridgefield police learned that Solomoni is alleged to have been proprietor of a bookmaking establishment, where Marchese did odd jobs and occasionally had charge of race track wires.  A shortage of $700 having occurred in the place, Marchese is said to have been accused by Solomoni of taking the money.  This is believed to have been the cause of the trouble between the men.

“Ponzi” or Marchese is well known to them, according to Union City police, who say that he has been involved in a number of automobile thefts, and that he has a police record.

Man Seriously Hurt in Brawl

I think this article is from between 1931 and 1935, while Pop was still a Sergeant. Unfortunately, I was unable to narrow it further using the information on the individuals in the article.

1931-1935 Man Seriously Hurt in Brawl - no date Franino Crattey Kelly

Man Seriously Hurt in Brawl

Three Freight Jumpers Held After Fight in Ridgefield

One man is in Hackensack Hospital in a critical condition with a fractured skull, his alleged assailant was arrested and two men held as material witnesses as the result of a brawl in the Ridgefield yards of the New York Ontario & Western Railroad, at 2:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon.

Angelo Franino, 36, of 17 Murphy street, Newton, Mass., was struck on the head with an iron bar and brutally beaten.  James Crattey, alias Patrick Kelley, 50, of Roseland, Mass., is in the Ridgefield jail charged with atrocious assault and battery.  The witnesses, Richard Conors, 41, of Brighton, Mass, and William Donovan of Boston, are being detained in the Fort Lee jail.

The Ridgefield Park police received a tip of a disturbance at the place and upon learning its location notified the Ridgefield police.  Sergeant Walter Gallagher arrived at the scene and made the arrests single-handed.  Gallagher also summoned the hospital ambulance.

Gallagher said the men were riding freight cars and were temporarily stranded in Ridgefield waiting for another train.  While there Franino told his companions his money was stolen, accusing Crattey.  A general fight resulted during which Connors was struck in the face and lacerated.

Crattey was taken to Hackensack for questioning by the prosecutor’s detectives.  After a charge was made against him there he was returned to the Ridgefield jail.

Prosecutor’s Detective John Gallione was stationed at Franino’s bedside to obtain a statement from him.

 

Well Earned Praise

 

Obviously, some of this article was “deleted” before it was put into the scrapbook, so I have no idea what the story is about the $100 contribution or the shade tree request.  I’m not even sure when or where this was published.  I imagine it was in the local or county paper, and it had to be between 1931 and 1935 because Pop is still a Sergeant.

1931-1935 Lowe Paper praises police in robbery - no date (after became Sgt)

Ridgefield Citizen Praises Police for Rapid Work in Robbery Case

Lowe Paper Co. Only Bidders for River Street Property — $100 Contributed Toward Memorial Day Exercises — Residents Asks [sic] for Shade Trees

The hearing for the laying out and opening of River street from Russell avenue to Overpeck Creek passed without protest at the meeting of the Mayor and Council on Tuesday evening.

At 3:30 the time was declared open for bids for the 22 feet strip of property on River street.  Lowe Paper Company were the only bidders, offering $250.00 for the land.  A resolution was adopted accepting the bid.  The Borough Attorney is to draw up the necessary sale deed.

The lease of land used as a playground by the borough was ordered signed, with a few minor changes to be made in the lease.  The porperty [sic] is owned by Jacobus Estate.

Well Earned Praise

A. L. Diederich, Jr., in a letter to the Mayor and Council, highly commended the members of the Ridgefield Police Department for the great strides they have made in rising from a village constabulary to a department, second to none in the county.  He advised that shortly after a recent robbery in his home the culprits were quickly apprehended through the excellent work of Sargeant [sic] Gallagher and Patrolmen Lustmann and Kalbhenn, the capture being brought about by the use of finger prints.  He was very much pleased with the entire department and thought certainly the Mayor and Council should be proud of them.

Harriman Loot in Ridgefield

This article is likely from around 1932.  William Roth is found on the 1930 U.S. census as a 39-year-old male electrician living in North Bergen, Hudson County, New Jersey, with his wife Emma, both from Germany.  He arrived in the U.S. in 1913.

Allen Harriman, husband of the widow in this story, was the son of Joseph Harriman (cousin of future New York Governor W. Averell Harriman), who died in 1928 after an auto accident on Long Island.  His father Joseph Harriman was the president of Harriman National Bank & Trust.  Just the year before this incident, Joseph Harriman was arraigned on charges of bank fraud.  You can read more about his history here.

1931-1935 Harriman Loot in Ridgefield

HARRIMAN LOOT IN RIDGEFIELD

Jobless Electrician Is Held In Theft

Rare and valuable pieces of antique furniture, a moving picture camera and projector and other articles stolen last Thursday afternoon from The Crossaways, the home of Mrs. Allan Harriman, at Gigh Farms, Glen Head, L. I., were recovered yesterday in Ridgefield when police arrested William Roth at his home, 492 Columbia Avenue, just across the line from Cliffside Park.  Mrs. Harriman is the widow of the son of Joseph W. Harriman, the former banker who disappeared yesterday for the second time from a nursing home in New York.

Roth, police said, readily admitted the burglary.  After being booked on a charge of burglary and then fingerprinted he was turned over to the County authorities, who were ready to surrender him to the Long Island police if the prisoner waives extradition.  At Ridgefield headquarters Roth expressed his willingness to be returned to Long Island for trial without the formality of extradition proceedings.

The arrest of Roth was made on a “John Doe” warrant by Acting Chief August Kiel, Sergeant Walter Gallagher and Patrolman Arthur Kalbhenn of the Ridgefield Department, who were accompanied by Frank McCue, Chief of Police of Glen Cove, L. I. and Sergeant Detective James Farrell of the Nassau County Police Department.  Roth readily submitted to arrest, but before taking their prisoner to the police station, the officers searched the house taking with them articles corresponding in description to those appearing on a list given to to [sic] them by Mrs. Harriman.

The prisoner was identified as the robber by a young man, whose family it is understood will soon occupy the Harriman home.  The Long Island police refused to reveal the identity of this young man.  [except that they just said where he lives …]

According to the police this young man went to the Harriman home which is now unoccupied, but still contains the family’s furniture and personal effects last Thursday afternoon.  He saw a man removing furniture from the place and when he questioned him, the man, later identified as Roth, claimed he was a chauffeur for the family and was instructed to remove some articles from the house.

The young man though became suspicious and after jotting down the license number of the car used by the stranger, notified the police.  They immediately communicated with Mrs. Harriman, who claimed she had given no one permission to remove anything from her home.

An investigation by the authorities then revealed that a cellar window had been “jimmied” and a door leading into the house proper smashed.  A check up on the license number of the car used by the burglar showed it had been issued to Roth and immediately a warrant was sworn out charging burglary in the third degree.

While the value of the loot was placed conservatively at about $600 it is believed to be worth far more.  Roth maintained that this was the first crime he had ever committed, but police are working on the theory that he may have been one of a mob specializing in robbing homes of wealthy people now away for the summer.

This theory is strengthened by the fact that the prisoner when asked why he happened to select the Harriman home for the robbery he replied “I don’t know why but while riding through Long Island something came over me and I just drove in and did the job.”  While Roth stoutly maintained that he alone committed the theft, it is believed that he may have had the assistance of someone who informed him that the Harriman home was empty.

A search of Roth’s house, which he rents, according to the police revealed many beautiful dishes and rare articles of furniture in the attic.  They also say they found an unusually large assortment of valuable tools, many of which might be used in burglaries.

He claims he has not worked in more than a year and a half, but at the same time maintains two automobiles and the police say he has about $1,500 in two bank accounts at the Phoenix National Bank and the Irving Trust Company, New York.  He is 41 years old and is an electrician by trade.  Born in Germany he came to this country some years ago and when war broke out in 1917 became an American citizen and enlisted with the forces from this country.

He claims he has lived in Ridgefield about three years, but little is known of him here.