The chapters which are numerical are factual. The chapters which are alphabetical are fiction, though in some instances the fiction modestly drapes what is factual. I will post one chapter a week, alternating factual and fiction.
Mr. William Fitch was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and a Freemason. He worked as a foreman at Hill-Chase Steel which was only a couple miles from Armistead Gardens. He had a son and a daughter. He had named the son John Calvin Fitch. His wife, a former Methodist named the daughter Susannah in honor of Susannah Wesley. The daughter was a diligent student, was faithful in attending Sunday School and Church, and had high moral standards. The son was in the last year of high school, but it was questionable whether he would graduate. He had not been to Church in years and was only interested in having a good time.
John Calvin owned a 1938 Buick. It was pretty shabby and rusty when he got it, but he worked hard sanding off the rust and cleaning it up. He had much mechanical work to do, but he had a lot of help from his friends. When all the rust had been sanded and the body wiped down, he painted it with a rag and a can of outdoor oil paint.
John Calvin was forming a gang. The car took them to a place of crime they had already chosen, and it carried them away when the mischief was complete. On occasion they would go to a festival in one of the ethnic neighborhoods. One boy would snatch a handbag, pass it off to another gang member who would put it in a shopping bag and walk the other way. The “snatcher” didn’t run away but stood there while all around him were yelling and looking around. Working in pairs, they would only take four purses before leaving and going to some other place where there was a crowd. Back home they took the money from the purses, then put the purses in a burn barrel, poured a cup of fuel oil on them, and burned them .
On other occasions they would all go into a store. All but one would go into the back of the store and create a commotion so as to draw the clerk away from the cash register. The one who was alone and near the register would open the register, grab the money and stroll out of the store. If anything, such as someone entering the store, would hinder him from opening the register and taking the money without being observed, he left the store. When he left the store, whether with the money or without it, that was the signal to stop the commotion and leave the store.
There were a half dozen or more other well planned schemes used by these thieves. Since they were petty thefts and did not follow the same pattern each time, they did not draw much attention from the police.
In January most of the men in Armistead Gardens had been furloughed since mid-December and did not expect to be called back to work until March. The fuel oil barrels were empty and nearly every house was damp and chilly. As usual the oil barrels of the Freemasons, including Mr. Fitch and most of the other elders, were filled up by some oil company that usually did not service Armistead Gardens customers.
John decided to find a way to thumb his nose at the Church and the Freemasons. It was time for a Robbing Hood escapade. He took the members of his gang to several fuel oil companies and had them observe the daily routine. They noted that the trucks’ oil tanks were filled at the end of each day. The next day they scouted several other companies. They then waited for Sunday to carry out a carefully planned oil heist.
They found two oil companies whose trucks were not kept inside chain link fences. In the early hours of a Sabbath morning they went to these two companies, hot-wired several trucks at each location and drove them to Armistead Gardens. Each truck took one of the streets in the old section and went down the street filling every oil drum on the street. If anyone awoke and asked questions, they were told the oil was a gift from the Salvation Army. The trucks all finished their benevolence runs about the same time.
When the people arrived at the Presbyterian Church for Sunday School there was a lot of fussing. There was no place to park. Six fuel oil trucks were parked on the street in front and along the side of the church.
About the time that church was over, the street was jammed with police cars and pickup trucks bearing the same logos as the oil trucks parked around the Church. The police dusted the trucks for fingerprints. There were none since John’s men had all worn work gloves, just like all the legitimate drivers of these trucks. It was mid-afternoon before drivers were found and the trucks were returned to where they belonged.
There were many homes in the old section of Armistead Gardens warm as toast in the following weeks thanks to the Robbing Hood merry men.