Criminals! Justly or unjustly prosecuted, famous or infamous (or both), driven by a variety of motives — they were running rampant through the pages of the Peterborough Examiner in the early fall of 1926. So read on, for police activities here, there, and everywhere, and also for a workplace tragedy in Peterborough, a trip to the fair, and other items!
There were no major international crises up for discussion in October of 1926, so the stories from abroad were “smaller” in scope than in some other years. And, for some reason, most of them seemed to deal with people being arrested (or at least seriously sought by the police). Chicago, at this time, was experiencing a long-running series of gang wars, and the October 13th Peterborough Examiner reported that the city’s police “had ferreted out the hiding place of ‘Scarface’ Al Capone,” although this turned out to be incorrect. Capone was being hunted in connection with the murder of fellow-gangster Hymie Weiss, who had been gunned down on October 11th; although it was widely suspected that Capone had ordered the hit, he was never charged.
Looking across the ocean, meanwhile, the same day’s newspaper reported that the Soviet government of Josef Stalin had accused former Bolshevik leaders Leon Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev of treason, and issued warrants for their arrest. Trotsky was sent into exile, and eventually assassinated in Mexico in 1940. Zinoviev recanted his opposition to Stalin, but in 1936 he was arrested and executed after a show trial.
There were courtroom dealings closer to home for Peterborians as well. On October 15th, in Barrie, three members of the Ku Klux Klan were convicted on charges related to the dynamiting of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in that city. Nobody was injured in the attack, and damage to the building itself was not serious. William Skelly, William Butler, and Clare Lee, whom the October 16th Examiner described as “local officials of the K.K.K.,” were sentenced to five, four, and three years’ imprisonment respectively, and Skelly was also ordered deported to Ireland. The Klan, which had been established in Ontario for several years, saw its membership and support in the province shrink after the bombing of the church.
The various police dockets, however, were not the only items of news at this time 89 years ago. Canada had just emerged from a year of parliamentary chaos (check out last week’s post for details), with a September election re-establishing William Lyon Mackenzie King as Prime Minister of a coalition Liberal-Progressive government. Conservative leader Arthur Meighen resigned after the defeat, and his interim replacement was to be Hugh Guthrie, MP for the Ontario riding of Wellington South. An October 13th Examiner editorial was only lukewarm, if amicably so, about Guthrie:
“While he has undoubted ability, a long parliamentary experience and good debating powers, his selection, even as a temporary leader, is a surprise to Canadians generally.”
Part of the problem with Guthrie was that he had begun his career in Parliament as a Liberal (he switched sides during the Conscription Crisis of 1917). In any case, he would run for the permanent position of Conservative leader in 1927, but was defeated by R.B. Bennett. Guthrie would later serve as Minister of Justice in Bennett’s government in the early 1930s, so we may well encounter him again.
To the City of Peterborough herself, then, and there was a tragic story on the front pages in mid-October of 1926. On the evening of October 13th, a worker by the name of Vincent Leahy slipped while carrying a heavy concrete form across one of dams on the Otonabee River, a couple of miles north of where Trent University is now. Leahy fell into the river and drowned, despite strenuous efforts at rescue by the other men working on the dam. The Examiner on the 14th described how he “made a valiant effort for his life, keeping on top of the water for a distance of nearly two hundred yards before he eventually threw up his hands and sank.”
There were also, you will be glad to know, happier local items to be found in the Examiner‘s pages. The big excitement around Peterborough was the Kiwanis Club’s Produced-In-Canada Exhibition, taking place at the Armoury downtown. The event featured fashion shows, exhibits of goods made in Canada, and all sorts of entertainment possibilities as you can see from the advertisement at the beginning of this post. The October 13th Examiner noted that “[v]isitors… will find that it is an easy matter to pass two or three hours there — and even then not see everything that is offered.” The newspaper went on with its praise for the Exhibition:
“It is providing Peterboro with a week of lively entertainment, it is creating an interest in Canadian-made products, and it is ensuring for the Kiwanis Club funds with which to carry on the organization’s splendid community work.”
You will note, by the way, a reference in that advertisement to the “Queen of Peterborough.” This was a certain Miss Eva Outtram, who had won a bond-selling contest connected to the Exhibition.
And another season of Peterborough baseball was in the books, and — after the city went title-less in 1925 — there was once again a champion to be celebrated. The Peterborough Royals, playing at the OBAA’s Midget level, had captured provincial honours early in the month. However, that was about it for significant sports news; the baseball season was over, and the hockey not yet begun.
And that will do also for another edition of this series, I think! Next week, we will continue on with mid-late October of 1927. In the meantime, however, you can read up on what was going on in Peterborough at this time of year in 1874!