If you missed Parts I-V including Westside Story – On The Road 75 Years Later – Alternate Ending, click the link if you wish to catch up with the full story.
Yes, it is true. Some gangsters tried to rob and kill me and three of my pals back in 1965 while we were walking on Fullerton Avenue Beach at Lake Michigan in Chicago. Eventually we returned to our home states of New Jersey and Washington; alive I might add. But before we could return home, we were in for some more drama.
Jim Singer and I received subpoenas commanding us into Criminal Court as witnesses for the prosecution in The People of Illinois versus the Chicago Muggers.
The word on the street, well at least the word on Deming Place, the street in front of our row-house, was some guy in a suit had been nosing around the neighborhood making inquiries about us.
We sensed the killers had family money and we were concerned these thugs might be connected to the Chicago mob. With the threat of the mob hanging over our heads, we went to our landlord, paid him his due and told him we were moving out in the middle of the night. We took it on the lam like in an old Spencer Tracy movie.
An elderly lady down the hall had loaned us her deceased husband’s 45 revolver. We knew Chicago’s strict gun laws did not allow us to possess a firearm, but we were in a situation where no matter what we did, trouble might come knocking.
Because Jim is from New Jersey, it seemed natural that he would handle what my dad called the “equalizer”. Jim slept with the 45 under his pillow.
Thirty years later Sergeant John Solheim, a famous retired gunfighter, who was known as a cop’s cop, provided me with a life principle that supported our decision to disobey the Chicago gun law.
Sergeant Solheim’s word is highly credible because he personally has narrowly survived several gun battles during the course of his law enforcement career.
Sergeant Solheim taught me, “I would rather be judged by twelve than carried by six.”
In plain English, if guys are trying to kill you, you better do what you need to do to save your bacon and leave the details to the Monday morning quarterbacks.
Let me say it again in another way. I would rather be judged by a jury of 12 peers than be carried by six pall bearers.
Previously I told you about John W. Hannon, Jr., who rescued me administratively by setting me up with a meaningful summer work assignment.
Jack rescued me a second time along with my roommate, Jim. Jack very possibly saved our lives. When we moved out of the apartment in the middle of the night, we laid low with Jack and his parents in some quality digs up north, so I realize the proper word is residence, but back in 1965 my favored word was digs, because I was young and thought I was cool and hip.
In the next scene Jim and I are riding a Chicago bus to the court house. I chose to ride in the very back seat facing forward. As I sat in the back of the bus, I could not help but think of Rosa Parks, who ten years earlier, refused to give up her bus seat to a white man on December 1, 1955. Prior to 1965 whites sat in the front of the bus. Jim Crow Laws mandated that Blacks, or “coloreds” as they were referred to during this period of history, sat in the back of the bus. Jim Crow also mandated that a Black give up their seat to a white person. I am white and distinctly remember choosing to sit in the back of the bus.
A man wearing a loud sport jacket sat with me on the bench seat. It was so long ago, all I can call him now is Mr. Sport Jacket. Mr. Sport Jacket and I engaged in conversation exchanging ideas regarding the bad behavior juvenile delinquents were capable of. Jim did not join in the conversation because with all his missing teeth, his mouth was wired shut.
Jim had so many missing teeth we figured the tooth fairy would bring him a pile of cash, but she was scared off when she found the 45 revolver under Jim’s pillow.
Mr. Sport Jacket got off the bus. Jim and I rode to the next stop and got off. We quickly realized that we had overshot the runway. We should have gotten off with Mr. Sport Jacket.
We walked back to the previous bus stop and on to the court house.
What we discovered next was mind blowing. Mr. Sport Jacket was the defense attorney for the two muggers who had tried to kill us.
The judge stopped the trial and all three; the judge, defense attorney and prosecutor, retired to the judge’s private chambers. When the judge returned to the bench, he indicated that because this was a criminal trial, the court normally did not concern itself with civil legal matters. Having said that, he stated the court had a unique proposition for Jim and me.
The court was prepared to approve a plea agreement if Jim and I authorized the agreement. The defense lawyer stated he hated to see two young men, who had made a drunken mistake, ruin their chances to attend college. The defendants were prepared to pay all of Jim’s dental bills plus $500 cash. They were prepared to pay me $250.
There is irony in the fact that Jim and I made off with more money than the muggers got during their robbery.
After ending my summer internship, Jack and I boarded a jet and flew out to visit Washington DC, New York City and Long Island. It turns out I was a much better jet setter than hitch hiker.
Later in life I made two additional meaningful trips to Chicago. I will save my Chicago Route 66 and Buddy Guy’s Legends Blues Club stories for another time.
Jack, thank you for being my friend and may you rest in peace knowing your pal, Joe, still loves Chicago.