· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge:
Knock, Knock, Knock·
It’s Wednesday, September 21, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas. A civil process server is attempting to deliver divorce papers to Harvey E. Albrecht.
“Knock, knock, knock,” was the sound heard by Stearman as he attempted to get some rest. It was the second time he’d heard the sound of impatient knuckles pounding on his neighbor’s door. Working at night, being a day sleeper, was a challenge. So many interruptions.
At 64 years of age, Reno County Deputy Martin Joliffe had seen about everything imaginable during his career as a sheriff and peace officer, including years as a parole officer working at the reformatory.
As a civil process server working for Sheriff Fay Brown, Jolliffe delivered papers. A majority of the legal documents involved financial debt. Some led to evictions by landlords. Other times, a home or farm was sold at a sheriff’s sale because a mortgage wasn’t paid.
On Wednesday, September 21, 1927, Deputy Jolliffe attempted to serve a summons in regard to divorce papers on Harvey E. Albrecht at the home of the defendant. “Knock, knock, knock,” the sound of Jolliffe’s knuckles on the wooden door at Albrecht’s residence, went unanswered.
After finding no one home, Jolliffe left a note on the door and continued his paper route.
At the same time, in a coincidental moment, a city officer was serving a municipal summons to Mary Adella Albrecht, at the sheriff’s residence, 15 Ave B, east, in regard to her daughter, Pearl, who was 15 years old. The alleged violation was underage cigarette smoking in public.
Within reason, police officers are given flexibility or discretion to do their job. If it had been up to Anna Kelly, police matron, she wouldn’t have pursued this specific underage smoking complaint. Kelly knew that Pearl Albrecht was attending school, working part-time, had an improved attitude, and was living at Sheriff Brown’s residence due to family troubles, specifically because of her father battering her mother.
But, Kelly had lawful orders. An influential businessman had asked Police Chief George Duckworth to investigate an “incorrigible young flapper smoking cigarettes in public,” the night of the downtown Frolic.
Deputy Jolliffe had learned that the last day Harvey Albrecht worked at the Carey Salt Mine was on Monday, two days earlier. Currently, Albrecht’s Ford Model-T was parked in front of his house. No one responded to the deputy’s knocks at the door, or to his telephone calls. Joliffe considered: Is he inside? If not, where is he? Maybe Albrecht’s wife would have an idea.
Jolliffe stopped by the county jail and said hello to his old friend, Jailer Jess Blanpied. After a brief visit, Jolliffe talked with Mary Albrecht in the sheriff’s residence. As soon as he introduced himself as a process server, Mary had a question.
“Have you served my husband his divorce papers yet?” she asked.
“No, but that’s why I’m here,” said Jolliffe.
“You’re spending time on my 15-year-old girl smoking fags two weeks ago but you can’t find my husband who works at Carey Salt?” she asked.
“Ma’am, I don’t have any knowledge of papers for your 15-year-old girl,” said Jolliffe, “and Harvey hasn’t been to work since Monday. If he’s home, he’s not answering the door.”
“Oh,” said Mary, beginning to see a fuller picture. “Is our car in front of the house?” she continued.
“The green Tudor Sedan?” asked Jolliffe.
“Yes, that’s ours,” replied Mary, then asked, “Have you called our telephone number?”
“Repeatedly, no answer,” said Jolliffe. He then inquired, “If Harvey’s not home, do you have any idea where he might be?”
Mary thought for a minute. “If the car’s at the house, I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve got a key; if you want to unlock the door and search for him, I’ll get it for you.”
“If you’re not busy right now, would you accompany me to your home?” asked Jolliffe.
“Sure,” agreed Mary, “I have a couple of personal belongings to pick up there. Give me a minute.” Mary found Cora and gave her an update prior to departing with the deputy.
Delbert and Pearl had attended the State Fair on Monday, the free day for students, but instead of examining the carnival or the booths, their eyes were in the clouds. They searched for their planes giving sky rides, and reviewed their life-changing experiences at Albright Airfield.
“I want to be an airplane mechanic,” said Delbert, “and maybe someday, an engineer or designer.”
“I’m not sure what I want to be,” said Pearl, “but the sky’s the limit.”
Pearl Albrecht had settled into a productive routine of attending Hutchinson High School and working part-time modeling at Rorabaugh-Wiley’s department store. A few times, rather than wear her Lindy outfit, she had been asked to showcase the latest fashionable outfits that already fit her flapper style. She welcomed the change.
Recently, at the Oxford Café where Jewel Albrecht was a waitress, she witnessed a serious assault. An upset man entered the restaurant looking for an employee who had kissed his wife, also an employee. The husband gave the alleged kisser a choice, leave town or become his punching bag. After the accused refused to leave Hutch, he was beat so bad he was hospitalized.
Mary was healing physically and emotionally. She and Cora worked together, shared stories, and grew closer. Cora appreciated the respectable companionship.
As Jolliffe and Mrs. Albrecht approached her house on Avenue A, west, they agreed to walk to the door together, but for only Jolliffe to enter. The idea was to minimize any potential confrontation between Mary and Harvey. After all, said Mary to the deputy, as she lightly touched her nose, “Harvey keeps his shotgun by the front door.”
Mary remained on the hot sidewalk while Jolliffe stepped to the porch. “Knock, knock, knock,” his knuckles sounded. Jolliffe announced his presence to a closed door: “Mr. Albrecht, deputy sheriff, open up.”
With no response, Jolliffe slide the key into the lock and turned it. Then he rotated the knob and pushed the door open. Suddenly, his nostrils were on alert. He prepared for what he knew was next.
“Mrs. Albrecht,” Jolliffe said, “please wait in the car while I search the house. I’ll come out to talk to you when I’m done.”
The deputy took one step into the residence, closed the door behind him, and pinched his nostrils. It was a recognizable odor. Half-heartedly, he said to an empty house, “Sheriff’s Office, anyone here?”
Jolliffe discovered what he had expected. A man, lying face down on a blanket, was dead.
Until next time, happy writing and reading.