Food, fun, robbers and reunions

Pat Haley - Contributing columnist

The day was bright and clear, the slight wind was what some call a “thousand-dollar breeze” when over 100 Haleys gathered at the Hills and Dale Metro Park in Kettering this past weekend for the annual Haley reunion. Cousins poured in from Illinois, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Delaware and Ohio to reconnect with family.

It is hard to describe a Haley reunion.

I was sitting quietly in a lawn chair taking everything in, as I took off my ball hat to scratch my head. Out of nowhere came a water balloon with a force that splattered the middle of my forehead and drenched me.

“You kids put those water balloons away!” Uncle Joe roared, just before a big balloon hit him between the shoulder blades causing water to run down the back of his shirt, into his pants, and clear through to his underwear, soaking him good.

“We’d better eat before one of the kids gets beaten” Uncle Ron suggested kindly.

“Let us pray,” one of the senior members intoned over the food. It was one of the shortest prayers we’ve ever heard.

“I don’t think I ever heard a Catholic blessing quite like that before,” my sister Rita whispered.

“Particularly the ‘let’s eat’ part at the end,” I replied.

The fried chicken was good, the barbecue was excellent, and the corn on the cob was special.

After the meal, it was time to sit back and enjoy the stories we knew were coming.

My grandfather, William Haley, had kept scrapbooks throughout his life. The pages were yellow and fragile, telling of things we could only imagine. A couple of articles caught our attention. One was about danger, while the other revealed a sad, pitiful story.

As we leafed through the book, we came to a newspaper clipping about my Uncle Edwin, whom everyone called Ted.

In November 1932, the Dayton Daily News told the story.

Ted was a manager of one of my grandfather’s gas stations at 401 South Broadway Street, a few blocks north of his parents’ home at 44 Hopeland Street in Dayton.

Shortly before closing time, a man with a mustache and sideburns walked into the small office of the gas station while another man remained outside in a Rickenbacker car, a few feet away.

The intruder held a gun in his right hand, which was shaking like Dennis Hopper’s in the movie, Hoosiers.

“Come with me. Get into the machine,” the bandit said, poking the revolver into my uncle’s ribs. Ted was pushed into the back seat and the robber slid in beside him.

“If you think this gun isn’t loaded, watch this,” he said, as he stuck the gun out the window and fired a shot piercing the side of a telephone pole.

According to the Daily News, the robbers persistently threatened Ted during the ride, and told him they would shoot him if he made an outcry.

The three men rode west on Germantown Pike for eight miles before turning onto a deserted road where the two men robbed Ted of 16 dollars.

After giving the men the money, they tied Ted to a tree like we see in the old cowboy movies. They used Ted’s belt to fasten his hands around the tree.

The two robbers ran to the car, and for good measure fired a shot at Ted before speeding away.

Fortunately, the bullet missed, and Ted was able to wiggle his hands free, and within minutes he called the police.

As luck would have it, the Dayton Police Department had purchased radios for their police cruisers two months before.

A general broadcast was made on the new radios giving the description of the robbers. Within 20 minutes, officers saw the two suspects on West Third Street and made the arrests based on my uncle’s description.

Many years later at another Haley reunion, one of Ted’s brothers asked him about the ordeal.

“I’m just glad I wasn’t wearing suspenders,” was all good-natured Ted had to say.

The other item of interest we found in Grandpa’s scrapbook wasn’t a story but a letter. A sad letter if there ever was one.

The original, handwritten letter was simply addressed to William Haley, Bloomington, Clinton County, Ohio, America.

“Dear Sir: Just a few lines concerning your cousin, Patrick Riordion, who is a patient in the lunatic asylum (as they were called back then) at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales. He has been here for two years,” the letter began.

The cousin was from Macroom, County Cork, near where my grandfather’s parents were born.

“He is feeling better, but has no clothes nor money, and wants to go home to Ireland, and a letter from you would help him. Sincerely, Arthur Bullock,” the writer wrote.

Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.

Pat Haley

Contributing columnist