I wrote this story a few months ago, so I thought I would post it for your reading pleasure. It is based on a fact and family legend. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or find problems. I am dividing it because it is about 5,000 words in length.
The Ganster’s Gold
On a cold late fall evening, on January 10 1934, a black Ford pulled into the alley behind the Bank of Oklahoma in McAlester. The car sat idling while three men thought about what brought them to this point in time. John Connely, the hometown fellow, Ted Simms from Bartlesville and Charles Aurthur, from Wellsville Ohio were banded together for this job.
Charles was a McAlester native also, and had many friends in the McAlester area. He had given a lot of thought about sharing
this information with his two new friends, but decided against it. The less they knew about Charles Aurthur, the better off he would be, but almost as important, they would be better off also.
They had been staying close to the bank the last three weeks, watching how the system worked and how closely the guards paid attention to what was going on around the bank. The guard spent most of his time flirting with the skirts, which came through the door, so he was no threat to their plan. It didn’t take Arthur long to see the type of system used for vault security. He was feeling more and more confident, because he knew this lock system well. It is the same system on the bank in Wichita Kansas. The job at that bank was only four months ago so everything was still fresh in his mind.
During the three weeks, the three “so called” friends were staying at the Hyway Lodge, just on the south side of town. John and Ted shared a room, but Charles had one to himself. He was quite the loner and only associated with people when he had to. He often thought how strange it was because he made friends very easily, and got along with everyone he met. He was an extraverted, introvert. He was also a conglomerate of how his world made him, and he really didn’t mind playing either role when it was required. Just the same, he preferred to be alone in his world. It seemed to give him more peace. In his line of work, peace was a commodity in short supply.
In the evenings, they would sit in Charles’s room and make their plans. The group had decided to have four cars involved in their get-away. They each had a car in town, but needed another if the escape plan was to work. Early in the day of January tenth, each of the men drove their car to Calvin, which is about 30 miles west of McAlester on Highway 270. John, the hometown boy, had an uncle living just south of Calvin, He made arrangements for the three cars to be left at the uncle’s house overnight. John told his Uncle Clarence, he had a job, because of the travel distance. The three men decided to meet in one place, so each could head home when their work was over. John did not know how long the job would last so the three parked their cars away from the house so if they arrived back in the middle of the night, the family wouldn’t be disturbed. Uncle
Clarence did not think anything odd about this arrangement, since the economy of the times often required men to travel a distance from where they lived, in order to get work.
The three men walked back up the road, after saying their goodbyes to the uncle and his family. Each man was lost in his own thoughts, and not talking to one another for the entire walk to the cars. They knew their life would to be changing. John and Ted thought how their world was going to be wonderful after the getaway and a cooling down time. They would have the money to leave Oklahoma, and start a new life. Charles knew what kind of life they were going to have, because he had been living it for the past year. His mind constantly having to stay alert, paying attention to details going on around him. If he had noticed anything out of the ordinary or just having a bad feeling, he wouldn’t waste time, and leave the area as quickly as possible. The life of a wanted man was no picnic by any stretch of the imagination. This little piece of knowledge was not going to be shared with his two comrades. Let them enjoy their thoughts while they could. This one job, would change their world, just as his world changed.
The decision to wait for the Greyhound bus on Highway 270, to take them back to McAlester was an easy one. They looked like any other person waiting for the bus to town. The bus ride was uneventful, and they arrived just as planned at the bus depot on Main and Cherokee. It was just getting dusk when they arrived and had to use up some time until midnight. They decided they would just walk back to their motel and get some rest. They had a long night ahead of them. The decision was made, on their walk back to the motel, to checkout at different times to help cut down on suspension. This really didn’t make much sense to Charles but he went along with it because there really wasn’t anything else to do.
They checked out an hour apart heading different directions but would meet up at the Hilltop Bar and Grill. The Hilltop was a hole in the wall bar, which was run by the town’s so called gangster, Angelo Perez. Mr. Perez was the type of fellow who liked to
flash his money, gamble on the horses and carry a big stick to knock heads with, if he thought it was necessary. It was the perfect spot to kill time, and have a couple of Crown Royal’s with Coke, and not be bothered. That is, if you keep a low profile and don’t get involved in anyone else’s business.
About ten until midnight, Mr. Perez said he was leaving because he had an errand to run uptown. Charles asked if Mr. Perez would give him a ride to the bus station. Perez must have been feeling charitable because he agreed. He and Charles went outside to the garage where a large black shiny Cadillac was parked. Charles was told to wait there while Perez pulled the car out of the garage. He motioned for Charles to get in the front seat beside him. Charles opened the door and set down in the leather seat. He was thinking this was odd because Perez didn’t let anyone ride in the front seat with him. The drive to the bus station didn’t take long. Charles looked at Perez and said “thank you for the lift”. He opened the door and started to step out and Perez smiled and said, “anytime Pretty Boy”. The car door was closed and Perez drove off, leaving behind his Oklahoma dust. Little did Charles Aurthur know but he was given part of his nick name.
McAlester was very quiet on this Tuesday night. Charles made his way back up main street headed for Grand Boulevard.
He knew the Geovonne Car Lot was sitting right on the corner which made it easily assessable. The group had
decided Charles would get them a nice car using a little bit of ingenuity. He found a 1933 Plymouth with a good heater
and radio. It did not take long to get it hot-wired, and he headed back to the Hilltop to pick up the other two guys.
John and Ted were sitting in the a booth placed so they both could watch the front door while they sipped on their drinks. Even keeping a low profile, they had enjoyed themselves that evening. Each one told about their life, and some of the funny stories which happened to them or someone else they knew. The front door opened and there stood Charles , so they knew their relaxing evening was over. They both got up and headed out the door. Charles pointed to get into the red Plymouth parked at the door. Connely, got behind the wheel since he was the driver. Each one was hoping no one was looking outside so they could not describe what car the three men drove off in.
The time had arrived and all was running according to plan. Simms was in charge of getting into the bank, since he had experience doing that sort of thing. Connely, the snot nosed kid and look out, was going to keep the car running to aid in the escape plan. Aurthur, was the vault man who would get in and get out as quickly as possible. They had everything timed out to the second.
They pulled up behind the bank and Connely jumped out first with his bag of tools. He had used his week to scout out the alarm system, and how to shut it off at the outside of the building. Since his brother was an electrician he had helped John learn the job of electrical work. It didn’t take him long to disconnect the system and head for the door. In under 3 minutes he had disconnected the alarm and had the door opened for Charles and himself to get inside. With bags in hand, they headed for the bank vault. John swiftly disconnected the door alarm and Charles worked the dial with his stethoscope. In another minute the safe door was open and not an alarm sounded.
The safe was loaded with money, but they decided to only go for the $50.00 and under bills since they would be the easiest to get rid of. They loaded three sacks and headed out the door. Charles was sure a security office would be making night rounds and discover the back door open. He would be making his rounds in about 15 minutes and that would be their head start.
Once outside Charles got in the front seat and Ted in the back. They headed west on Grand Avenue driving at normal speed.
They didn’t want to draw attention to themselves by speeding. They felt a little more secure once they had made it out to Wet Prairie without hearing sirens coming up behind them. They knew it would only be a matter of minutes before the robbery would be discovered. John put his foot to the accelerator of the red Plymouth and headed for Calvin. John would slow his speed as he went though the little towns of Arpelar, Cabiness, and Stuart. He just kept thinking no speeding because of the town constables. Past Stuart he had fifteen miles to go to Calvin. He drove like a madman up the hills and around the curves. He made it almost to his uncles and Charles told him to pull into a thicket of trees and kill the engine. They each gapped a sack,
containing their loot, and headed on foot to his uncle’s house. They did not want to leave the car there because that would have his uncle involved in the bank robbery and because of his family, that could just not happen. They had about a mile to walk before they got to their cars.
The walk to the cars was done in complete silence. Each man was thinking of his escape route and what would need to be done. Each man was going to go his own way with approximately $50000.00 dollars more or less. Since they didn’t stop to count their money, each got what was in the bag they were carrying. Charles decided he was going to ditch his car as soon as possible and head into the Kiamichi mountains on horseback. He had a friend that had a cattle ranch up in the hills who would give him a place to stay for a couple of days. This would give him some time to decide what he was going to do. Besides no one would think he would stay in the area. Ted was going to head north and try to make it to Canada and John decided he was going to head south for Mexico.