· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge: Pedestrians Beware
It’s Saturday, February 12, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Sheriff Fay Brown pulled into the Standard Oil filling station at Sherman and Popular, Hutchinson, in his Dodge sedan. Before the service attendant had time to greet his new customer, another man approached the elected official.
“Sheriff,” said William Poling, 62, grain manager, “I’ve got a beef with the city, but you’ll do for now. When you get as old as me, you’ll understand how dangerous it is crossing Main Street in this town.”
“It gets congested,” said Sheriff Fay Brown, “it’s not just the automobiles, it’s the streetcars, and the trains.”
“I made a trip over the eastern part of the country last spring and spent considerable time in Springfield, Ohio, a town of 75,000 people,” said Poling. “Although nearly three times larger than Hutchinson, that town doesn’t have one-fifth of the automobile accidents that happen here.”
“Why do you think that is?” asked the sheriff, recognizing his fate. A sermon was about to begin, and he wasn’t even in church.
“I couldn’t help but contrast the traffic regulations in eastern towns with Hutchinson,” continued Poling. “The automobile driving here is reckless and as little regulated as any city I know of.”
Before the sheriff passed the buck or the blame to city hall, Poling explained his answer. “We need electric traffic signals here and we need them badly. It’s pitiful to watch old people attempting to cross the streets. The drivers in this town drive in a haphazard manner.”
“We do have some reckless drivers, even when they’re sober,” Sheriff Brown admitted.
“It’s a crime that the mayor would rather save money than make the citizens safer,” said Poling. “He’s risking the lives of people. During the busy part of the day, pedestrians must either wait on the corner or run across the streets and take a chance of being run down.”
“Yes,” said the sheriff, “I do believe some traffic signals would make Main Street safer. Some people consider a stop sign as only a suggestion, not the law.”
“Another thing that motorists do here,” said Poling, “is to speed up when they see anybody is trying to cross the street so they won’t have to slow down or stop. Ninety percent of the car drivers do that instead of applying the brakes.”
“One question,” asked Sheriff Brown. “I see your license plate is expired. Have you applied for 1927 yet? If not, you’re in violation. Seventy-five percent of the state fee goes to improve our highways and to help make them safer.”
It was Saturday night, February 12, 1927. The temperature was forty degrees, mild for mid-February. The weather forecast, however, advised light snow flurries overnight.
Fay and Cora Brown were headed south on Main Street, almost home, just a half-block away from their sheriff’s residence. The evening with Occie (Cora’s sister) and her husband, Sidney, had been a welcome and entertaining diversion from the duties of sheriffing.
“Oh, oh,” said Fay, as he neared the corner of Ave B. “There’s been an accident ahead. I’m going to stop.”
“A person’s on the ground,” announced Cora as she sat up straighter and leaned forward.”
Fay stopped the car, observing a police officer he knew. “Pete, you want any help?”
“Brownie, you working South Main tonight?” asked Pete Smith with a straight face, referring to Fay’s early days walking the night beat while on the police force.
“No, headed home, almost made it,” the sheriff answered. “Just wanted to be sure everyone was all right.”
“I’m no doctor, but this man’s got a broken leg, maybe worse,” said Officer Smith. “We’ve got an ambulance in route. He apparently stepped into the path of this here Chevrolet sedan. He just left the Owl Smoker pool hall, lives two blocks west on B. Someone called his wife. She could be here any minute.”
Cora read Monday’s newspaper with the notice of Henry Mack’s death.
“Oh, Fay,” said Cora, reading the article out loud: “Fatally Hurt When Struck by Motor Car, Internal Injuries in Death of Henry Mack.”
“He was taken to the St. Elizabeth hospital where it was learned his leg was broken and he was injured internally. His death was due to internal injuries, an attending physician said.
“In his report to police, Amos Waldon, 219 Avenue E, west, the driver of the automobile, said the aged man stepped in front of his car. Waldon’s car did not pass over Mr. Mack. The deceased is an employee of the Morton Salt Company. He was born in Russia on February 8, 1859, coming to Kansas from Nebraska in 1886. In the same year he married Mrs. Anna Peters. He is survived by one daughter, Mrs. F. M. Ball and five step-children…”
Cora asked, “I wonder if Sidney knew him from the salt mine?”
“It’s a shame he had to come all the way from Russia, to travel across the ocean, and half the United States, to get hit by a car in Hutchinson,” said Fay.
“Yes, to have an injury in the mine is almost expected,” said Cora, “to be killed walking home is a shock.”
Added Cora, “Anna, his wife, must be heartbroken.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.
The Kansas Authors Club www.kansasauthors.org is a statewide organization that encourages and supports great writing. It’s divided into seven districts. In Hutchinson, Reno County (part of District 6), we have monthly meetings at Hutchinson Community College. http://www.hutchcc.edu You’re invited. Questions? Contact Jim Potter, firstname.lastname@example.org