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· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge:
The Day after the Fall Festival Frolic·
It’s Thursday, September 8, 1927 in Hutchinson, Kansas. Cora Brown, matron and cook at the Reno County Jail, 15 Ave B, east, hears the front doorbell ringing at her residence attached to the jail.
“Why, Anna Kelly,” said Cora, “it’s great to see you again! Come on inside and rest your feet. I’m about ready to take a cherry pie out of the oven. Do you like pie?”
“Oh, Cora!” said Anna, as she sniffed the delicious aroma in the air, “I was looking for Fay, but I’d love to talk with you over pie.”
“He’s not here right now,” said Cora. “I think he was going to stop by Methodist Hospital.”
“I didn’t see his car at the courthouse,” said Anna. “Is someone ill or hurt?”
“During the frolic last night, we had a neighbor discover his house being burglarized when he returned home,” said Cora. “It was odd. Every light in the whole house was on. Rather than call the police, the neighbor called Fay.”
“Was the neighbor hurt by the burglar?” asked Anna.
“No,” replied Cora, “but Fay discovered the burglar or the jigger man hiding in some bushes, and the man ran off. Fay thinks he was hopped up. During the foot chase, the man knocked down a boy who had been in the parade. Knocked him out. Concussion.”
“Is this a social call or is Fay in trouble with the police?” Cora asked, laughing, since Anna was the city’s police matron, Fay the county sheriff.
“No, not this time,” replied Anna, “but I think he may be able to help me find someone.”
“Maybe I can help,” said Cora.
“Actually,” said Anna, “the person I’m looking for is a friend of the boy who was knocked down by the drug addict who escaped.”
“Go on,” Cora encouraged.
“You’d think I’d be investigating the burglary, although the residents can’t find anything missing,” said Anna. “Instead, Chief Duckworth has me searching for the girl who was with the injured boy.”
“Is she a runaway? Bank robber? Murderer?” asked Cora, seeking more information.
“Worse,” Anna answered. “Officially it’s a complaint of underage smoking in public. Unofficially, the girl’s been accused of being rude to the wrong people. You know what I’m talking about. Their complaint reads: “She’s not just a flapper, she’s a floozy!”
“Politics and power,” said Cora. “Too often the two result in favoritism and injustice.”
“You know that I’m the first one to hold girls and women accountable for their actions,” said Anna, “so I’d like to visit with the girl and check on her home environment. Hopefully this complaint won’t get blown any further out of proportion.”
“We’ll see,” said Cora. “Sometimes the chiefs in this town don’t last too long. It depends on which way the wind is blowing.
“An employee at Rorabaugh-Wiley’s told me to talk to Fay; she said he’d know the girl’s name and how to contact her,” said Anna. “The department store’s window dresser is temporarily holding onto some property that belongs to the injured boy.”
Cora, 33, and Anna, 47, both police matrons, were women working in a world of lawmen. They were used to persuading cops and criminals to cooperate. Out of necessity, Cora and Anna were both emotionally strong and street smart.
Even though both matrons were in their first year on the job, they had people skills. Cora had been a long-time telephone operator; Anna was a hair dresser and ran a beauty parlor after her husband’s death in 1923.
“How are Lucile and Eli?” asked Cora. “I read about Eli all the time. He sure keeps busy directing the municipal band.”
“You mean, how’s my granddaughter!” replied Anna. “Just a minute, let me show you June Ann’s baby picture. She’s one-year-old.”
I’ll be right back . . . with pie,” said Cora.
Sheriff Fay Brown is visiting at Hutchinson’s Methodist Hospital, 724 N. Main.
“You’re the first sheriff I’ve ever talked to,” said Pearl Albrecht, 15, who had her short hair covered by a close-fitting red cloche that was pulled over her forehead. Her deep-red lipstick matched the same rich color of her bell-shaped hat.
“And last night was the first time I ever talked to Charles Lindbergh,” the sheriff replied, referring to the aviator costume Pearl wore in the parade.
“Thanks again for helping us out,” said Pearl. “I didn’t know if Delbert was injured or dead.”
“I don’t remember a thing,” said Delbert, who had his eyes closed and his head bandaged while lying in the hospital bed.
“You had yourself quite a collision,” said the sheriff. “Reminds me of a time a few years back when I was hit on the head with my own gun during a drunken fight in South Hutchinson.”
“Did you go to the hospital?” asked Delbert.
“Sure did,” said Fay. “My skull was fractured. I was off work for almost a week.”
“Pearl told me what happened,” said Delbert. “She also said that you made sure my plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, was safe. Thanks, it means a lot to me.”
“I hope I can get it back to you,” said the sheriff.
“What do you mean?” asked Delbert, concerned about his home-made prized possession. “I thought you said it was safe.”
“Oh, it’s protected from harm,” agreed Fay, “but the window dresser at Rorabaugh-Wiley’s told me she was going to use it immediately as a prop in one of their display windows.”
“I told her she needed to talk to you about that,” continued the sheriff. “But I also told her that you were being taken to the hospital.”
“Why would they want the plane as a prop?” asked Pearl.
“Oh, you know how people are,” said the sheriff, poker-faced, “anything that has to do with Charles Lindbergh attracts a crowd.”
“I understand that!” said Pearl as she relived the excitement of being in the Main Street parade the previous night. She felt like she was just as lucky as Lucky Lindy himself. He was a visiting hero all over the world, including in Paris, New York City, and even Wichita.
“The window dresser wanted to talk to me, but I was busy,” said Fay. Looking directly at Pearl, Fay said, “She asked me about you, but I told her I didn’t even know your name. Heck, at the time I wasn’t even sure if you were a boy or a girl.”
“Well, you know now,” said Pearl, who was dressed in a short skirt with the hemline at her knee, and no longer had her breasts strapped down in order to look like a man. “It’s nice to know a sheriff who helps people,” said Pearl.
“We help people all the time,” said the sheriff. “We help them to jail. We help them to the reformatory. We help them to the penitentiary.”
“I know you help people that are victims of crime,” interrupted Pearl. I meant, we feel that you care about us as people. And when Delbert’s better, we’re going to accept your invitation to visit the county hoosegow, meet your wife, and see if your dog, Old Pal, really looks like Rin-Tin-Tin the police dog.”
“We’ll plan on it after the State Fair,” said Fay. “If you’re lucky, Cora will serve freshly baked cherry pie, her favorite.”
“When did the window dresser want to talk to me?” asked Pearl. “You didn’t say. We didn’t damage her window. We were just looking.”
“While you were looking in the window, the employee was watching you and Delbert,” said Fay. “She has to check with the store management, but she wants to hire you to pose in your Charles Lindbergh outfit during a big, upcoming sale.”
Pearl opened her mouth. Her eyes got bigger. She tried to talk. She swallowed. Then she dropped her head. Tears soon fell to the floor as her body shook uncontrollably.
When Pearl finally looked up from her chair, Delbert was studying her, trying to decipher how she was feeling. He found out soon enough.
“Thank you Delbert,” said Pearl. “Without you, I would have never been noticed.”
Then Pearl stood up, walked over to Fay, and hugged him. She said, “Thank you for being a good sheriff.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.