On this date in 1927, The Federal Industrial Institution for Women opened in Alderson, WV. It was the first federal women’s prison in the United States. The prison, which is now known as Federal Prison Camp, Alderson — and unofficially as “Camp Cupcake” — is still functioning as a minimum security prison for women. Notable former residents include Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally, Billie Holiday, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Sara Jane Moore, and Martha Stewart.
“I wish it were winter so we could freeze it into ice blocks and skate on it. And then melt it in the spring time and drink it!”
-Barry Badinrath (Jay Chandrasekhar), Beerfest (2006)
Happy Wicked Weasel Wednesday.
As I type this, the Midwest Rock-n-Roll Express (featuring Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Ted Nugent) is at the Glens Falls Civic Center. I had hoped to go, but my wife’s broken ankle derailed that plan. I guess it’s a good thing I hadn’t purchased the tickets yet. Oh well, can’t win ’em all. Maybe I’ll catch them next time they swing through the area.
On this date in 1953, a crew of robbers held up the Southwest Bank in St. Louis. The robbers didn’t get far with their loot; police officers confronted them as they exited the bank. In the ensuing shootout, a police officer and one of the robbers were injured, and two of the robbers wound up dead (one by his own hand). The story attracted national attention and was made into a movie in 1959 starring Steve McQueen. Officer Mel Stein, who shot and killed one of the robbers, played himself in the movie.
Check out this video about the robbery. It includes an interview with Officer Stein.
stltoday.com: A Look Back: Fast action foils bank robbery in 1953
On this date in 1934, the FBI went toe to toe with John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and their gang in a shootout that left an FBI agent and a bystander dead.
The gang decided to hide out at the Little Bohemia Lodge in northern Wisconsin. The owner of the lodge managed to get word to the authorities. FBI agents were dispatched to the scene.
As the agents approached the lodge, the owner’s dogs began to bark. Since the dogs barked incessantly, their warning was ignored by the gang. A few minutes later, a car approached the agents. Thinking that the gangsters were inside, they opened fire in an attempt to shoot out the tires. Shooting high, which often happens when firing on full auto, they hit all of the occupants of the car, and killed one of them. To make matters worse, they had the wrong guys. Dillinger and his crew were still inside the lodge.
Barking dogs you can ignore, but submachinegun fire will get your attention every time. Dillinger and the boys heard the shots and knew that the heat was on. They opened fire on the agents from the lodge. After throwing some hot lead at the G-men, the gang bolted for the door. Dillinger and two of his guys turned one way and made a clean getaway. Nelson turned the other way, and wound up at a nearby house in a car with the owner of the lodge and a neighbor.
A car containing two of the FBI agents and a local constable approached Nelson. Nelson pointed his gun at them, and ordered them out of the car. When they complied, Nelson shot all three of them. Agent W. Carter Baum was killed; Agent J. C. Newman and local constable Carl Christensen were injured.
The final tally: two dead (one lawman and one innocent bystander), four injured (two lawmen and two bystanders), no gangsters in custody.