(To listen to the audio of this blog post, use the purple play button.)
· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge:
“When I First Met Harvey”·
It’s Tuesday, September 13, 1927 in Hutchinson, Kansas. Cora May Phares Brown, matron and cook at the Reno County Jail, 15 Avenue B, east, and guest, Mary Adella Phillips Albrecht, are in the kitchen, washing and drying family dishes.
“When I first met Harvey, he was so sweet to me,” said Mary, remembering back twenty-five years. “He was a school teacher. We courted in a buggy, not a car, and chaperones were mostly required,” continued Mary as she started to smile, then winced from her injury.
“A school teacher,” Cora repeated. “Where did he teach?”
“In Dickinson County, outside of Abilene, when my youngest brother was a student at the public school,” said Mary. “Many of us from the Church of the Brethren attended our own parochial schools, but being out in the county, my father chose the closest one-room schoolhouse.”
“My sister, Occie, and I, attended a one-room school north of Turon,” said Cora. “Sometimes we rode a horse to school.”
“My brother, Luke, told me that Mr. Albrecht was a good teacher but he was different,” said Mary.
“What did your brother mean by ‘different’?” interrupted Cora.
“Luke said that during the winter, sometimes Harvey would put a box of ammunition on the wood stove,” said Mary.
“That is one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard,” said Cora.
“Yes, it is,” agreed Mary, “I asked Harvey about it. He said it was both a scientific experiment and a way to keep the students alert. But it didn’t keep us from getting engaged. We were married on Christmas Day 1902. I was 26, Harvey, 27.”
“Fay and I were also married on a holiday, Christmas Day 1916,” said Cora. “He was 24, I was 21. We met when I was a telephone operator here in town. I was living near South Hutchinson with Occie, and her husband, Sid. Fay was a merchant policeman, protecting Main Street businesses at night. Within six months of taking our vows, Fay was off with the Kansas National Guard to the Mexican border.”
“When I was younger, I was a member of the Christian Endeavor Society,” said Mary. “It provided a structure for church youth to work together to know God in Jesus Christ. I eventually helped teach Vacation Bible School.”
Fay and I are members of the Christian Church,” said Cora. “He’s also a member of the Knights of Pythias and I’m a Pythian Sister. The order is engaged in altruistic efforts. The principals of purity, love, equality, and fidelity provide the Sisters a pattern for a good and meaningful way of life.
“Well, I appreciate your commitment to helping people,” said Mary. “You’re actions speak louder than words.”
“You’re welcome,” said Cora.
“The Brethern had to change with America,” said Mary. “Parochial schools were replaced by public schools, so the Brethren implemented Sunday School and Vacation Bible School,” said Mary, “and like I said, the Christian Endeavor Society helped during this transition.”
“I feel like a hypocrite,” continued Mary. “It’s not right for me to seek a divorce, but I don’t see a safe alternative. Sunday night, when Harvey put his hands on Pearl in anger, she could have been physically hurt. It would have never happened if she hadn’t been trying to protect me. Now, finally, I need to protect myself.”
“At least your girls are older and they understand the circumstances,” said Cora. “I wasn’t quite five when my father divorced my mother. He said that God permitted him to divorce since my mother was unfaithful.”
“Delbert,” said Pearl, “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”
“My parents said I’m not out of the woods yet, but I can go back to school now,” answered Delbert.
“Let’s get to work,” said Pearl, as she began opening a can of paint, and Delbert started cutting up cardboard boxes.
Before long, there were a half-dozen painted signs drying in Delbert’s garage. Printed on each one, the announcement said, “LOST – DARK MALE, GERMAN SHEPHERD POLICE DOG – name ‘Pal.’ Hair off tip of ears. REWARD, Fay Brown, Sheriff.”
“We’ve got to find Pal as soon as possible,” said Pearl. “It’s been three days since he disappeared.”
“I want to help Sheriff Brown and Mrs. Sheriff,” said Delbert. “They’ve helped us; now it’s our turn to help them.”
It’s Wednesday, September 14, 1927. The phone rings at the sheriff’s residence.
“Hello, Cora Brown, may I help you?”
“Hello, this is Ray Streeter calling for Mrs. Albrecht.”
“Mr. Streeter,” said Cora. “Sidney Hamilton is my brother-in-law. He works in your salt mine.”
“Nice to talk with you, Cora,” said Streeter. “We’re lucky to have Sid helping us out for all these years at the Carey mine.”
“You have the right number for Mary,” said Cora. “Give me a minute and I’ll put her on.”
Thank you,” said Streeter. “Please, give my regards to Fay.”
“Delbert,” said Pearl, with a huge smile, as soon as Delbert opened his front door. “Sheriff Brown’s got Pal back at home! He’s fine. He’s not hurt. He’s safe.”
“This is fantastic news!” said Delbert as he walked out onto the covered porch where he received an unexpected hug from Pearl. “Where was he found?” he asked.
“Do you know Janet Moon?” asked Pearl.
“No, I don’t think so,” answered Delbert.
“She’s in one of my classes at school,” said Pearl. “I heard her telling a friend of hers that she had a new pet, a police dog, that looked just like Rin-Tin-Tin. Janet and her family live on the corner of G and Walnut.”
“We didn’t put up signs that far south,” Delbert commented.
“No, we didn’t,” agreed Pearl.
“Tell me more,” said Delbert, as he sat down on the porch swing. “Did Janet return Pal to the sheriff?”
“No,” said Pearl as she sat next to Delbert, “I didn’t tell Janet about Pal being lost. I wanted to tell the sheriff first so he could investigate.”
“Is that what happened?” asked Delbert.
“Yes, everything turned out well,” said Pearl. “The sheriff didn’t mention my name. He just stopped by the Moon’s house and found Pal tied up in the backyard. The Moon’s said they didn’t know who to call so they had been feeding the dog. The sheriff said Pal was so excited, he started whining and barking.”
“Here’s a story with a good ending,” said Delbert. “I’m delighted for Mr. and Mrs. Sheriff, and for Pal.”
“You’re invited to a celebration at the jail tonight, I mean at the sheriff’s residence,” said Pearl. “After supper we’re having cherry pie. Mrs. Sheriff told me to tell you that there would be a piece with your name on it.”
Supper is over at the sheriff’s residence. Present are Cora and Fay Brown, Mary Albrecht, and her two daughters, Pearl and Jewel. Like old times, Pal, the police dog, is sitting on the floor beside Cora’s chair. Delbert Wright is expected shortly.
“Before Delbert arrives, I just want to thank all of you for your support,” said Mary Adella. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”
The room was quiet. Everyone was waiting for Mary to continue.
“I filed the divorce petition today at the courthouse,” said Mary. “It was the necessary thing to do. I realize this celebration tonight is about Pal’s return, but I want you all to know that because of your help, I feel like I’m also returning to my old self.”
“We’re happy for you,” said Fay.
“Yes,” agreed Cora. “Time heals and it’s only been a couple of days.”
“Mom,” said Jewel, “We’ll manage together.”
“Mother,” said Pearl with a wink, “What took you so long?”
“I have one more announcement,” said Mary. “This is for Pearl and Delbert. Sorry Jewel, I’ll have a surprise for you another time.”
“Pearl,” said Mary, the Hutchinson Airport and Hutchinson Airways Corporation would like you to help them advertise the airport and the flying lessons they offer.”
“How do I do that?” asked Pearl. “Wait, let me take a wild guess. They want me to dress up like Lucky Lindy.”
“Who told you?” kidded Mary. “Yes, they want to take a photograph of you in your Charles Lindbergh outfit, but where do they want to take your picture?”
Pearl thought for a few seconds. “At the airport?” she asked.
“Yes, go on,” said her mother.
Pearl’s eyes grew bigger. “In an airplane?” she said.
“Right again,” said Mary. “You’re on a roll. Don’t stop now.”
“Flying in an airplane?” questioned Pearl, holding her breath, waiting for the answer.
“Yes!” Mary exclaimed. “They want to take a photo of you while you’re a passenger in an airplane while it’s flying over the State Fair.”
Pearl stood up, cheered, and hugged her mother.
Old Pal growled at the disturbance.
“Pal, stop it!” ordered Cora, pleased with herself for following her instincts to help Pearl take another step toward a potential modeling career.
Mary added to her breaking news. “One last thing. Delbert, I’ve spoken to your parents. They won’t allow you off the ground until you’ve had more time to heal from your concussion, but I’ve been asked to find out if you’re interested in meeting the airport’s top airplane mechanic. While Pearl’s up in the clouds, you’ll have a chance to tour the airplane hangar and examine the airplanes. How would you like that?” asked Mary.
Delbert thought he had understood what Mary had said, but his concussion interfered with his hearing. Of course I want to inspect airplanes at the airport, he thought. He started to answer Mrs. Albrecht, but suddenly he felt dizzy. It was as though he was underwater and couldn’t breathe.
However, as his group of friends would comment later, “Delbert didn’t look in distress. Instead, he looked like he was about to enter a candy store with a ten dollar bill in his pocket.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.