My Dad, Bert’s Flivver, And Dutch Schultz
July 6, 2010 in The Past
Some of you know of my evil doppelganger, a wretched hack named Mike Jahn. A few others know that he learned the ink-flinger’s trade by imitating his respectable and honored newspaperman father. Well, Mike was going through his dad’s papers over the weekend and found this, which the old man wrote for the Long Island Press, in the 70s the nation’s fourth largest afternoon daily, which toward the end of his career he served as editorial page editor. Mike had heard the story many times, but didn’t see the actual print version when it was published in 1974. Those years he was busy slaughtering trees so as to print “The Six Million Dollar Man” books, which unaccountably were deemed worthy of slaughtering trees for. It recounts an event that occurred during the storied 30s. Mike was glad to find it. He was also surprised to be reminded that he shared his old man’s fondness for commas.
Dutch Schultz Remembered
by Joseph C. Jahn
During the Prohibition era, my town on Long Island was a port of call for rum runners, foreign and domestic. We also had a doctor without portfolio who patched up wounded gangsters.
So it is no wonder that one evening I went to Mike’s Soda Shoppe on Main Street and unexpectedly found myself sitting on a stool next to Dutch Schultz, the gangster, who, history should record, was sipping a chocolate malted.
So was his burly bodyguard, one stool removed, who had a bulge in his right hip pocket that was not caused by a hankie.
Although this was very early in my journalistic career, and my beat was sports, I was sufficiently aware of front page news to know that Dutch was on the lam because a rival thug, Legs Diamond, wished to rub him out.
Also, the Feds, who couldn’t shoot straight on a bet, were looking for Dutch, not because he didn’t keep up with protection payments — a city problem — but because he didn’t pay his Federal income tax.
Therefore, a stool next to Dutch Schultz at that point in time was no place for a clean-cut, well-bred, God-fearing and nervous country boy. So I concluded that I needed a haircut.
From the barbershop I phoned Bert Carey, local reporter and photographer for our mutual employer, the Brooklyn Eagle. Bert joined me almost before I hung up. There followed a stakeout of Mike’s Soda Shoppe, then a cautious tailing of Dutch and his companion to a hideout in an unoccupied mansion in darkest Oakdale
They were in a sleek, high-speed bulletproof Lincoln, we in Bert’s well-ventilated old flivver. Fifteen minutes later they were seated in a darkened room on a sofa facing burning logs in a fireplace, and we were peering through a partly opened window. Bert’s flivver was down the road, it’s motor running, which was a good thing.
“When I nudge you, rap on the window, and then run like hell,” Bert whispered, aiming his camera’s lens toward the shadowy figures. He nudged, I rapped, a flashbulb went off, and I took off for the car, one step ahead of Bert. Moments later we were westbound on Montauk Highway, throttle to the floor. Moments after that we heard the deep-throated roar of a high-powered motor far behind us, but gaining.
Well, I said to myself, this is a fine fix. And it would have been if Bert hadn’t known back roads that led to Bloody Mary’s speakeasy. He drove the flivver in her barn, and we burst into Mary’s kitchen.
“I’ll have a hamburger and a shot of rye,” an unflustered Bert said to a flustered Mary. He had several of both. So did I. Hours later we resumed our journey, taking back roads to Brooklyn, where Bert’s film was processed while he wrote the story.
So it came to pass that the next day the Eagle reported exclusively that Dutch Schultz had been found and had a photo to prove it. Admittedly, the photo was fuzzy, but who wouldn’t have taken a fuzzy picture under those circumstances?
I do not recall that Bert won any prize for that scoop. He certainly didn’t get a raise; just having a job was a triumph in those days. But Dutch Schultz didn’t win anything either. He had paid a good buck to a God-fearing local realtor to rent an old mansion he had to abandon. More important, within a month Dutch was completely deceased, having been rubbed out in a beer joint in New Jersey.
My reward for riding shotgun with Bert? Mike put a gold star on the stool I occupied so briefly that fateful evening. But that too was rubbed out. In fact, it didn’t last as long as Dutch.
[this story is copyrighted]