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The Carlisle Citizen
Carlisle , Iowa
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March 26, 2009     The Carlisle Citizen
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March 26, 2009
 

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4 Page Four • The Carlisle Citizen • March 26, 2009 Moments in History Stories from '~The Carlisle We Remember" by Jack Fry and Bill Schooler, Sr. The Great Bank Robbery of '46 by Bill SchooIer, Sr. It was a crisp November morning in Carlisle. The thermometer hung in the mid 50s, which forced the Saturday morning loafers in downtown Carlisle to re- treat to the warm show- room of Harry Wright's ga- rage, located at 80 School Street. There was plenty of room since there were no new Chevrolets on display. The year was 1946 and World War II had only been over for a short time. Auto- mobile production was just starting to crank out a few models, and they were snapped up as soon as un- loaded from the freight cars down at the depot. Across the street at the bank it was a busy Satur- day morning as usual. I was running a transit machine behind number one teller window, adding the morn- ing cash letter. The large pendulum clock on the wall ticked offthe seconds and as the hands reached 11:10 the front door of the bank swung open and the sound of machine gun fire rattled in my ears. I had only been out of the navy for five months, but battle sounds of the south Pacific still ech- oed in my head, and I "hit the deck" out of instinct. I crawled over closer to the counter where next to the cash drawer was a 45 Colt revolver. I reached for the gun and as my hand began to close around the butt with my finger searching for the trigger, a man jumped over the counter weight about 145 lbs. with dark brown hair. He wore a yellow scarf of some heavy woven material over his nose and lower face and up- peared to be in his early 20s. There in the lobby stood another masked man ner- vously waving a Thompson sub-machine gun. They herded the employ- ees to the north side of tbe lobby, where they lined us up against the wall. There was my father, Guy Schooler. executive vice president. Dwight Prall. teller. Earl Canaday. teller. Mrs. Pearl Wertman and myself standing there with hands high in the air. As we stood there, the bandit with the yellow mask. later found to be Joe Doyle Ban- rang, was emptying the cash drawers into a brown gunnysack. He also tossed in two of our 45 caliber re- volvers. The other gunman who was later identified as Jay Earl Willis was still brandishing the Thompson sub-machine gun in our faces and demanding that my father go in the vault and open the safe. Dad calmly told them that the safe was equipped with a twenty-minute timer and they would have to wait that long after the combina- tion was run. About that time I looked over the counter where I had been previously standing and there was one of our young bookkeepers, Florence Hindricks slumped over her desk. unable to move_ She of the bank opened and in came young Don Bartholomew with his pa- per route money, followed by his buddy, Jerry Powers. Willis grabbed him by the arm and told him to line up with the rest of us against the wall, but Jerry Powers, shouting, "You won't get me" ran from the bank door- way to the Post Office next door. This unnerved the bandits and Willis shouted. "'lets go buddy." Banning tossed the bag of money over the counter to his partner and they both ran out of the building. I rushed to the window on the south side of the lobby, parted the Venetian blinds and saw the perpetrators climb into a 1941 dark green two door Plymouth. I could see that there was no license plate on the car as they sped away. My father's 1939 Chevrolet was parked in front of the bank and after dad had reluctantly tossed me the keys I jumped in the car and started my pursuit. As I rounded the bank cor- ner Dr. Fred Wertman jumped on the running board, stuck his head in the window and asked if his mother was all right. Mrs. Pearl Wertman, an em- ployee of the bank. had not been harmed, which her son was happy to learn. How- ever, by that time I had picked up enough speed. Dec was forced to climb in- side the car and join me in the chase. We roared west on School Street by the time we reached the highway they were out of sight. We assumed that they had con- tinued on into Des Moines so we followed that route , , ! Wl& pls[o]s s uck in my face. "On your feet buddy!" was the order, and after looking at the business end of a 32 revolver and a Ger- man Luger, I dropped the gun and stood up. There was a man of medium build, about 5 feet 6 inches tall; had een slElng behlnd me until wt Ig a at. the counter placing checks into the ledger when the robbers first came through the door. One of the bullets from the machine gun had obviously struck her. Just then the front door Power & Light plant by the Des Moines River, then gave up the chase. However. we found out later that they had turned on to Scotch Ridge Road and had disappeared over the hill by the time we reached the highway. It was prob- ably fortunate for us that we lost them in the chase, because Willis later told authorities that he was in the back ~eat (,f the Ply- mouth wiq~ thu machine gun on guard against any- one in pursuit. We returned to the scene of the crime where everyone was still in a state of shock, Florence Hindricks was be- ing treated tbr her wound and was soon rushed to Des Moines General Hospital. The slug had passed through the upper part of her arm. bhattering the bone. She came close to los- ing her arm. but after sev- eral months of skilled medi- cal care she made a good recovery. Warren County Sheriff Lewis Johnson was soon on the scene, followed by state bureau of investigation and the F.B.I. Roadblocks were thrown up on all highways within 100-mile radius of Des Moines. but the search was concentrated in the hills south and east of Des Moines. During the day- light hours an army plane cruised over the area spot- ting green cars and radio- ing the location to the law enforcement authorities for checking. This was the biggest news story in Iowa since the end of WWII. The robbery was headlines in the Des Moines Register for three days. The F.B.I. went about their duties of dusting for prints, digging out the 45 caliber slugs from the counter and wall and inter- viewing all witnesses. I gave than an accurate de- scription of the car and they went to work searching the MginO fl Ofl [OF fl IN1 dark green 2 door Ply- mouth They went to every rent-a-car in town and all denied owmng such a model. However, the agents were not satisfied with the answers they got. so they returned to the car lots late that night. Searching with flashlights they found a '41 Plymouth with the license plate 77-17466 and upon closer inspection found that it was fastened to the bracket with baling wire. The next day upon ques- tioning the owner of the rent-a-car lot it was re- vealed that Joe Banning had signed for the ear at 9:45 Saturday morning leaving his address. They had returned the car at 12:15. only 65 minutes af- ter the robbery. The address was 203 E. Titus where Banning and Willis lived with Willis's sister. Mrs Zela Williams. With this "calling card." federal, state. Warren and Polk County police officials moved in Monday afternoon (twp days after the robbery) and camped on the doorstep of the Titus residence. They arrested Willis when he re- turned there Monday evening. He immediately con- fessed his part in the hold- up and named Joe Doyle Banning as his accomplice. He said that Banning had left town Monday morning after they had divided the loot. Tracing Banning from that point was no problem after Willis said that Ban- ning was planning to visit his mother in Texas for Thanksgiving. Willis' share of the money was buried two feet under the dirt floor in the basement of the house on Titus and some under the wooden .floor of the garage. The guns were also buried in a suitcase below the base- ment floor. Joe Banning carefully wrapped his share of money and sent it airmail tO mg m0thur in He took a bus headed for Fort Worth and when they stopped in Chillicothe, Mis- souri, he sent his mother a telegram, which said, "Do not open package until I get home." The FBI intercepted the package before it was delivered by the post office and were waiting at the home of Banning's mother, Mrs. Pauline Jostandt, when Joe arrived by taxi. The officers surrounded the cab and Banning, unarmed gave up without a struggle. Only one shot was fired as officers approached the youth, a detective acciden- tally firing his pistol. No one was injured. The total amount of the loot was $4,527.90, but the only money spent was Banning's $50 bus ticket to Fort Worth. The balance of the money was recovered. Joe Doyle Banning was the admitted ringleader. He was 19 years of age. Ban- ning st arted his army life al; the age of 15 when he en- listed as a paratrooper with his mother's consent. In August. 1944. He was released from the para- troops when his mother re- vealed his true age. Later he enlisted in the navy and served in the Pacific as a gunner's mate, third class. He had been honorably dis- charged in August 1946. After his discharge he worked at the Pittsburgh- Des Moines Steel Co. Earl Jay Willis was only 17 years of age at the time of the robbery and had had a similar career in the ser- vice. He volunteered and was inducted into the army in 1943. He was discharged in 1944 when it was discov- ered he was only 15. In the army he had won medals as a machine gun expert and rifle marksman. At that time the state penalty for bank robbery was life in prison and the federal penalty was 25 years. Both youths were cnnr ea unflcr [ [l ral statute and they went to prison, serving several years before being paroled. Florence Hindricks was only 19 years Of age when she was shot and although her arm was saved, it con- tinued to give her pain for many years to come. Health care costs continue to spiral out of control! Talk to your Pekin Life Insurance Company Agent -about a Consumer-Driven Health Savings Plan A health savings account can be paired with a lower premium, qualified high-deductible health plan to help people meet their deductible and pay their share of medical expenses with tax-free funds. Some of the many advantages are affordability, security, flexibility, control, portability, and tax savings. 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