· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge:
It’s Sunday night, September 11, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Mary Adella Albrecht has been battered by her husband, Harvey, in their home.
“Mom,” said Pearl, “will you let me go to Delbert’s house and see if we can borrow their car to take you to the hospital?”
“There’s no need. The bleeding’s stopped and this ice will help,” said Mary, as she pressed a dishtowel with rusty red bloodstains to her face.
“How can you stay in the same house with him?” asked Jewel, spitting out the words in disgust. “He belongs in jail.”
“This time I’m getting a divorce,” Mary told her daughters. “Pack your bags tonight. Keep them under your bed. We’re leaving tomorrow morning after your father goes to work.”
Pearl, 15, and Jewel, 18, agreed that their mother’s decision was long overdue. The brutal beating that their father had inflicted on their mother was the worst act of violence they had ever seen.
“Pearl,” said her mother, whose face was so swollen she could barely see her youngest daughter, “tomorrow I’m contacting Anna Kelly, the police matron. I have her telephone number. Maybe she can help.”
“I guess I’m not going to school tomorrow, am I?” asked Pearl, understanding that they were operating in crisis mode, but still needing her mother to confirm it since she was disorientated by the shock.
“No, honey,” said Mary, “Sorry. Tomorrow I’m going to report this to the police and then we’ll find a place to stay.”
“He’s the one that should have to leave,” said Jewel, raising her voice, speaking about her father. “He’s the problem, not us. Why should we have to leave our own house?”
“He’s a man,” said Pearl, without emotion. “That’s why.”
It’s Monday morning, September 12, 1927. Anna Kelly, police matron, is calling Cora Phares Brown, matron and cook at the Reno County Jail.
“Hello, Cora,” said the voice on the telephone line. “This is Anna Kelly.”
“Anna,” said Cora. “Good to talk to you again, so soon. Did you find Pearl Albrecht?”
“Yes, I did,” replied Anna. “In fact, I’ve been speaking to her mother this morning in my Convention Hall office. Both her daughters, Pearl and Jewel, are with her.”
“As I look out our window, I can almost see you from here,” said Cora. “Can I help you, or do you need to talk to Fay?”
“I want to talk to both of you, but I thought I’d start with you,” said Anna. “Mrs. Albrecht’s husband beat her up last night. Pearl intervened in the attack.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that!” said Cora. “How is Mrs. Albrecht? And, was Pearl also hurt?”
“Mary’s nose was fractured and there’s extensive bruising around her eyes,” explained Anna. “I’m worried about Pearl. She’s concerned about her mother, angry at her father, and upset at missing the first day of school.”
“Do you need Fay to help arrest Mr. Albrecht?” asked Cora. “Last week, after Fay returned from visiting Delbert, we realized that Pearl’s father, Harvey, works at Carey Salt with my brother-in-law, Syd Hamilton.
“No, we don’t need help on an arrest,” said Anna. “Mary has made a police report about the assault and battery, but for now she’s not inclined to file a formal complaint. If Harvey goes to jail, there won’t be enough family income. Instead, she wants a divorce.”
“I see,” said Cora. “Do Mary and the girls have a place to stay? Relatives in town?”
“No place yet,” said Anna. “But that’s why I’m calling. I know from time to time you’ve helped people out by putting them up in your guest rooms.”
“Yes,” said Cora, “one of the advantages of not having children and living in the sheriff’s residence, is that we have extra rooms for guests. I think Fay would be in favor of us taking in the Albrecht’s. Let me call his office,” said Cora.
“Thank you so much,” said Anna. “I’ll wait to hear back from you.”
“It sure is kind of you and Fay to let us stay here,” said Mary, 51, to Cora, 33, referring to the sheriff’s residence, attached to the county jail at 15 Avenue B, east.
“Our pleasure,” said Cora. “It’s the least we can do for you and your girls. Sorry the rooms are so warm. This September heat wave is hotter than usual.”
“I never imagined that we’d be homeless or that I’d be seeking a divorce,” said Mary.
“Those are two things we never expect,” replied Cora. “Let’s give this some time and see how things work out for you. How are your injuries?”
“Better, thanks,” replied Mary, as she lightly touched the bandages on her nose. “I hope you’ll allow me to assist you with the meals and the cleaning while we’re here. I want to be helpful.”
“When you’re feeling better, I’d appreciate that,” said Cora. “But right now your job is to heal and take care of your girls.”
“At least Pearl can go to school tomorrow,” said Mary. “Although, she’s pretty upset.”
”She’s confused about this, but she’s a survivor,” said Cora. “We’ll see if we can help her out. Fay says she reminds him of his youngest sister, Cloe.”
“How old is Cloe?” asked Mary.“
“She died in 1918 at age 25 during the Influenza Epidemic in Kansas City, Missouri,” answered Cora.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” replied Mary.
“Cloe was a handful,” said Cora. “Pearl’s hair looks so cute cut short,” continued Cora. “Fay told me she was all dressed up like Charles Lindbergh for the Frolic parade.”
“Yes,” answered Mary, “along with half the world, she’s obsessed with Lucky Lindy. You must have heard that her interest in him has led to some part-time work at Rorabaugh-Wiley’s. Did Fay tell you?”
“He mentioned how this got started after a window dresser saw Pearl in costume, looking in their display window,” said Cora.
“It’s really improved her attitude,” said Mary. “Well, until last night. I don’t want her to lose this job, especially if it’s because of me.”
“Mary,” said Cora, “don’t blame yourself for your husband hitting you. It was cruel of him, inhumane.”
“I think Jewel will be okay,” said Mary. “She’s a little older than Pearl.”
“Jewel’s a waitress at the Oxford Cafe, right?” asked Cora.
“Yes, she works hard,” said Mary. “I don’t know how she does it all day.”
“She’s young, that’s how,” said Cora.
“I feel so old, useless, and broken,” said Mary.
“You’ll be feeling much better as you heal,” said Cora, “and being separated from Harvey will give you room to breathe.”
“Fay,” said Cora, “I talked with Syd today about helping out Mary and the girls.”
“You did?” replied Fay. “Did you tell him about her plans for a divorce?”
“I told him that Mary and the girls were staying here,” said Cora. “I figured he might be able to at least help brighten Pearl’s day.”
“What are you talking about, Cora?” asked Fay.
“Ray Streeter has been in charge of advertising at Carey Salt for 25 years,” replied Cora. “He’s also been financially interested in the new municipal airport and the Hutchinson Airways Corporation. Since airplane rides are being offered again this year during the State Fair, I thought I’d share a marketing idea with him.
“Are you thinking of us purchasing an airplane ride for Pearl?” asked Fay. “If you are, count me in.”
“Maybe Pearl can get a ride as part of a job,” said Cora. “I was thinking that since the new corporation is trying to promote flying and it’s offering flying lessons, Pearl could be used in the advertising. With Rorabaugh-Wiley, she’s helping them sell merchandise. Why couldn’t Pearl promote airplane rides from the state fairgrounds during the fair? Of course, she’d be in her Lucky Lindy outfit. Maybe she could pass out fliers.”
“Hmm,” said Fay. “I like it; she’d love it! Great idea! What did Syd say?”
“Syd said that after all the years he’s worked for Carey Salt, he hardly knows Ray Streeter, but he’d mention it to him,” said Cora. “He also told me that everyone at work knows about the domestic troubles going on between Mary and Harvey. You can’t keep a secret in a mine. And,” Cora continued, “Syd thought Ray might want to do something to help the Albrecht family.”
“How does this get Pearl an airplane ride that takes off from the airport if she’s on the fairgrounds doing advertising?” asked Fay.
“It’s just a possibility,” said Cora. “Ray’s the professional advertiser, but don’t you think a photo of Pearl dressed up like Lucky Lindy, up above Hutch with the fairgrounds below, would be the perfect picture to run in the Hutchinson News?”
“Yes,” said Fay, “Indeed, I do.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.