Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Law Enforcement in Wenonah

There was a comment a few weeks back from a woman whose father was a former Chief of Police in Wenonah. There haven't been all that many Police Chief's in Wenonah. When I was young the Chief was Chief Haines. He lived in a home across the dirt road from the Wenonah Lake. He was a likeable guy whose primary job, so far as we kids could figure was acting as occasional crossing guard at Mantua Avenue. I'm sure he had other duties but honestly, crime was not a big issue in Wenonah until the late sixties and even then it was kind of tame.
When I got sick and went back to Wenonah they were just finishing the new Municipal building. Previously it was in the Fire House at the rear on the 2nd floor. Before that the Police Department was a two room building next to the Farmer's and Mechanic's Bank that eventually became the Village Shoppe. The Village Shoppe was owned by my friend Terry's mom, Mrs. Fleming.
You get the picture. We're talking lazy days with not much to do. Still this is a regular town with regular people which means there was domestic violence, drunk driving, even drug abuse. Every once in awhile a team of burglars would target homes in Wenonah over a two or three week period. Then there were black people and other undesirables walking through town. They'd be subjected to an interrogation to determine their destination and intent and sent on their way.
Any major crimes in Wenonah were for the most part swept under the rug. Which is not to say that there was no punishment only that the punishment might not involve jail time and might mean you got to move your ass out of town.
Still, there was the occasional radar trap on Mantua Avenue, speed limit 25 and built for 50. We'd sit on the bus bench at Lincoln and Mantua Ave and wave to the soon to be ticketed. Just behind them the old man we knew as "Parnelli" would speed through town at a blistering 7 miles an hour. Who's to say committed the greater crime?
Teenagers would occasionally act up and commit acts of vandalism. Eventually there was a Juvenile Board that would assess penalties for the crimes and misdemeanors of the malcontents that crossed it's threshold. Maybe you got caught soaping windows on Mischief Night, or trashed an empty house, or got caught drinking your folks liquor. Chief Haines would drag you in and you and your parents would stand one night in front of a group of people who would decide your fate.
Sometimes I think the worst punishment was that you would have to stay in Wenonah forever. Other times I think it was that you would be banished forever. Either one was a curse.

1 comment:

Jim Maddox said...

Woodbury Heights didn't have police in the 50s and 60s. If there was real trouble, you called Deptford or the State Police. Small stuff was handled by the town marshals. Marshals were like volunteer firemen; neighbors with badges and guns.