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Fascinating True Stories from the Flip Side of History

Tried to Hide Her Report Card

 

So, did you ever receive a poor grade in school and were too afraid to let your parents know? This happened to 11-year-old Nellie Stevens of Indianapolis, Indiana.

She had been missing from her home for six days and a statewide search failed to find her. Luckily, on October 25, 1937, 15-year-old Frank Carleton followed a barking dog to a spot behind a vacant house and found Nellie lying on a blanket beneath some shrubs.

Nellie was rushed to City Hospital suffering from hunger, exposure, and shock. Her feet were frozen, but a full recovery was expected.

The cause of this whole mess? Nellie was too afraid to show her report card to her foster parents.

My 4th Grade Report Card
This is my real 4th grade report card. My teacher was Mrs. Goldsmith during the 1972-73 school year at the Kenneth L. Rutherford elementary school in Monticello, NY.

Teacher Punishes Students with an Electric Chair

 

25-year-old H.T. Upsahl, a science teacher in Barnesville, Minnesota, had his own ideas of how deal with classroom discipline. As a result, he was arrested on October 21, 1924 and charged with assault. You’re probably thinking that he hit a student, but that isn’t it at all. He was accused of using an electric chair to punish his students.

The complaint was filed by the father of 14-year-old Earl Tenneson, claiming that his son suffered severe burns on his body “through high voltage applied to the chair” back on October 16th.

Upsahl Electric Chair
This is a photograph of the actual "electric chair" used by Mr. Upsahl to punish his students. An artist has added the sketches of the teacher and students. From the November 12, 1924 publication of the Albany Democrat on page 6.

In his defense, 25-year-old Upsahl said that several students had volunteered to try out the chair, all without harm. “We’ve rigged up a common office chair to test a coil of very high frequency for experimental purposes.” He continued, “It is impossible to hurt anyone with high frequency.”

Upsahl warned the boys that if they misbehaved, they would get the chair. Three did, including the younger Tenneson, and all willingly accepted the punishment.

The charges against Upsahl were dropped after the state’s attorney, G.W. Hammett, determined that the boy had not been seriously burned. Barnesworth administrators took no action to dismiss Upsahl.

Le Mars Trilogy: Part 3 – Maybelle Trow Knox

 

During desperate times some people are forced to do desperate things. The trick is to not get caught. Let’s just say that Maybelle Trow Knox was not very good at that last part.  An interesting story that involves a speakeasy raid, double identities, forged documents, a missing mom, and more…

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Her First Husband Was Still Alive

 

Just twelve days after the wedding between Ann Ross Birdwell and Jack Marshall, the couple received word that Jack’s nephew Gene was alive and was about to be released from a prisoner-of-war camp in Japan.

The problem was that Gene was not only Jack’s nephew, but he was also Ann’s first husband. After receiving word the previous October that her husband had been killed on a flight over Borneo, she decided to marry her late-husband’s uncle. Now she was in quite a pickle.

Eights days after receiving the news – on September 7, 1945 – the newlyweds had their marriage annulled by a judge in Kansas City. Ann was once again the legal wife of her first husband Staff Sergeant Gene D. Birdwell

Staff Sergeant Gene D. Birdwell
Staff Sergeant Gene D. Birdwell awaiting a physical at the Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. Image is on sale on E-Bay. Click on image to see full listing.

Sees Dead Husband on Movie Screen

 

The marriage between Bobette and Joseph Griffin was annulled by Superior Court Judge John C. Lewe on November 20, 1936 in Chicago. The couple had married back in July and split up two weeks later on August 1st, shortly after leaving a movie theater in Washington, DC.

One would think that they must have had a big fight or something similar, but it was nothing like that. While watching the movie “The Great Ziegfeld,” Bobbette was shocked to see her first husband Thomas W. Murray up on the screen. They had married in New York in 1929 and separated in 1931.

“In 1933 the papers carried his name as one of the killed in the Los Angeles quake.” Bobbette continued, “I was shocked. I called Murray in Hollywood. I left Washington that night.”

After the annulment, she planned to divorce her first husband and then remarry Mr. Griffin “If he still wants me.”

The Great Ziegfeld
Movie Poster for The Great Ziegfeld. A check of the Internet Movie Database does not show any credit for Thomas W. Murray. He could have been an uncredited extra or worked under an assumed name.

Thought His First Wife Was Dead

 

Back in 1915, Albert F. Rudesheim married Miss Julia Mocska in Schenectady, New York. Their marriage was a happy one, but after the birth of their second child, Julia suffered a mental breakdown. She was committed to a mental institution in Utica, NY.

Albert opted to head west and landed in Denver, Colorado. While there, he learned through his brother that his wife had passed away, which was confirmed by a newspaper clipping.

In 1924, Albert was married once again to Miss Marie Delores Hertzog. Together, the couple had a baby boy.

Then, in 1928, his mother, who was on her deathbed at the time, revealed that his first wife was still alive.

On October 4, 1929, Albert filed papers to annul his second marriage so that he could take care of his first wife and their two children, now aged 10 and 13.

Of course, one can’t help but wonder why he didn’t stay and care for Julia and the two children the first time. Seems a bit suspicious to me…

Marriage Annulled

Le Mars Trilogy: Part 2 – Farmers in Revolt

 

 

The Great Depression was an awful time for farmers in Iowa.  It culminated with the near hanging of a judge in Le Mars. It just happens that the farm involved was owned by the T.M. Zink estate, the same man who left his savings for the establishment of a womanless library.

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Waiter Drugs Non-Tipper

 

In late February of 1964, Daniel Price, the manager of the Occidental Restaurant in Washington, DC received several complaints from customers who had become violently ill after eating a meal there.

He investigated and determined that each of the patrons had been served by the same waiter, 23-year-old Herbert A. Talmud.

Around the same time, Talmud approached the restaurant’s assistant bookkeeper John R. Hughlett and said that their office manager Simone Moran’s illness would quickly pass.

That’s when Talmud offered him five packages of a powder that he said he had put in Ms. Moran’s teas for $1.00.

Unbeknownst to Talmud, the manager Price had already contacted the police. They instructed bookkeeper Hughlett to buy the packs, which he d30id.

Analysis of the powder determined that it was an emetic that induced violent vomiting and that an overdose could be fatal. Talmud was arrested and charged with assaulting Simone Moran with a poison.

Not surprisingly, it was discovered that Talmud had been dismissed by the previous two restaurants that he had worked in after they received complaints from customers of being ill.

Talmud underwent a twenty-day psychiatric evaluation and was found to be “of sound mind.” He was sentenced to 90-days in prison or a $200 fine.

Vintage Occidental Restaurant Postcard
Vintage postcard showing the Occidental Restaurant and other Pennsylvania Avenue attractions. Waiter Herbert A. Talmud was accused of poisoning the food of customers of the restaurant while working there.

Permitted to Wear Van Dyke Beard

 

On July 24, 1955, the New York State Labor Department ruled that a man who had been fired from his job as a swimming pool attendant was entitled to receive unemployment compensation.

Why was he fired? He refused to shave off his Van Dyke beard, which he had grown in order to obtain employment as an art class model.

The local labor department refused to allow the unnamed man to receive unemployment benefits, so the pool attendant – slash – artist’s model appealed to the state.

In the ruling, the arbitrator handling the case said that his firing was “An unwarranted infringement upon his privilege as an individual in a free community to present such an appearance as he wished as long as it did not affect his duties adversely and did not injure the employer in his business reputation.”

Anthony van Dyck Self Portrait
The Van Dyke beard is named after 17th-century artist Anthony Van Dyck. He painted this self-portrait in 1633.

Pushes Cart 13 Miles Off Course

 

56-year-old George Kuscinkas had been down on his luck since he emigrated from Lithuania to the United States back in 1915. Fast forward to March 16, 1950 and we find George unemployed and living in a flophouse in the Bowery.

While visiting a poolroom on East Tenth Street that morning, a man asked him if he wanted to make some money. All George needed to do was push a cart and deliver a load of art supplies. He agreed, was handed a slip of paper with the address on it and off he went.

He started out at 11:30 that morning but never arrived at his destination. The shipper, Philip Birn of the S. Rood Company contacted the police to report that both the courier and the goods were missing.

George was finally located by a detective early the next morning. Believe it or not, he was still pushing his cart.

George Kuscinkas pushing his cart loaded with art supplies.
George Kuscinkas pushing his cart loaded with art supplies.

He had zigged and zagged all over the city showing person after person the slip of paper that had the address on it. It was estimated that George had pushed the 630-pound (286-kg) cart approximately 13-miles (21 km) in total.

Confused, he stopped that detective at 3 AM and showed him the slip of paper. It read, “Morilla Co., 328 East 234 St.’ The officer called in and found out that an alarm had been issued locate George. That’s when it was realized that everyone had been misreading the handwritten address. It read as East 234 St, but really said East 23rd Street.

George and the missing supplies were transported back to their intended destination and the whole matter was cleared up. Mr. Birn rewarded George with $25 for his efforts (approximately $250 today) and the press chipped in to give him an additional $5.

He planned to use the money to get a shave, a haircut, and to “sit down for awhile.”

Le Mars Trilogy: Part 1 – T.M. Zink’s Library

 

The first of a 3-part series on Le Mars, Iowa from the 1930’s. Le Mars was thrust into the national spotlight by the actions of just one man: a successful lawyer named T.M. Zink, who left nearly his entire estate for the establishment of a very unusual library. Was Zink was truly mad or was he simply playing a good practical joke on the world?

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Twilight Zone Chooses to Keep Rod Serling

 

One of my favorite television shows of all time is the Twilight Zone and would be very hard to imagine it without the on-screen presence of its creator, Rod Serling. Yet, few people realize that he did not appear on the show during its entire first season. Serling only did the narration.

At the end of the season, the show’s sponsors – General Foods and Kimberly-Clark – opted not to renew their contracts with the CBS network. Without a sponsor the show would have almost certainly been canceled.

According to a June 7, 1960 New York Times article, CBS concluded that the only way that they could convince sponsors to keep supporting the show would be for them to secure the talents of a big-name celebrity host. Their choice was actor Orson Welles. Luckily for those of us who are big fans of Rod Serling, Welles declined the offer.

It was speculated in the article that General Mills and new sponsor Colgate-Palmolive agreed to advertise on the show because of Welles’ supposed involvement, but that was never confirmed.

Instead, Rod Serling was informed that he would provide both the introduction and closing to the show.

Rod Serling Twilight Zone
It would be hard to imagine The Twilight Zone without its creator Rod Serling.

Kids Trapped in a Toolbox

 

On Sunday March 12, 1950, three Hinsdale, Illinois children – 12-year-old Sharon Drallmeier, her 9-year-old brother Richard, and their 7-year-old neighbor Thomas Hayes – failed to return home after a movie.

Alarmed, the two fathers went to the theater, but the children were not there. Police were contacted and the community began a search for the missing children.

As Mr. Drallmeier began to search a nearby house under construction, he kicked a large toolbox from which he heard the kids shouting. He opened it and all three children were found inside.

It turns out that while the kids were on their way to the movie, Thomas, the neighbor, had fallen into a pond and was soaked. Fearful of going home in such a wet condition, he climbed into the toolbox. The other two climbed in with him when a sudden gust of wind blew the lid shut.

Unable to open the lid, they frantically screamed for help before giving up and going to sleep. The children had climbed into the toolbox between 2:00 and 2:30 in the afternoon. They were rescued at 7:30 that evening.

Wife Serves Husband Dog Food

 

On October 27, 1937, Stanley Ditzel, a switchboard operator at the West Orange, New Jersey Town Hall received a call from a woman asking to be connected to the Board of Health.

The line was busy, so she explained her situation to the operator. It seems that shortly after her husband left for work, she went to feed the dog and realized that it was the chopped meat she had intended to use to make breakfast patties for her husband.

Yes, she made her husband’s breakfast from the meat inside of a can of dog food…

Both the husband and the dog were unharmed. The operator assured the wife that it was perfectly safe. I’m guessing that he didn’t mention to her that most dog food back then was made from horse meat…

1958 ad for Friskies Dog Food with Horse Meat
Note the line in this ad that states "Bulldogs and all dogs love the lean red horse meat in canned Friskies!" From the February 24, 1958 issue of Life Magazine.

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

 

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker is the only woman in United States history to have been awarded the Medal of Honor, only to have it rescinded later in her life. Some would argue that she was way ahead of her time, while others see her as a crackpot. Continue Reading