Little Criminals

by Jack Keegan


The winter of 1933 and 1934 was one of the coldest on record. On March 8 the temperature dropped to Minus Seven and on the ninth slipped to Minus Ten and it remained very cold for several days. The Passaic River and Newark Bay were frozen over from, shore to shore with about a foot of ice. The United States Coast Guard dispatched an Ice Breaker to clear a channel for ships, tugboats and barges on both waterways.

With the breakup of the ice cover, many Ice flows began to travel up and down the river with the tide. Large ice flows moved along the shore, offering a great chance to ride them as they floated down the river. We skipped merrily from flow to flow, a somewhat dangerous sport, however nothing tragic happened. This was on the ninth of March.

The next day several of my friends and I, taking our sleds traveled to the side of the old Morris Canal, to enjoy the thrill of belly whopping down the embankment. As we were enjoying our pastime an Officer of the Law approached and we were told to follow him. When we tried to get an explanation of his conduct, he accused us of riding the ice flows on the river. In that he was wrong, the day before yes, but not today. No amount of talk on our part would change his mind. We were ordered to follow him down Read Street to the Third Precinct, pulling our sleds behind us. At the Station House we parked our Flexible Flyers and were ushered inside. Next we were interrogated by the Desk Sergeant, we were asked our names, addresses and telephone numbers if we had one.

At this point, into a holding cell we went. My friend Joe Ryan began to complain, that his father was a Committee man and would have something to say about our confinement. I told him that his talk would do us little good.

At this point another one of the lads began to cry, at this juncture in my most Philadelphia Lawyer Style, I tried to tell him that they could only hold us for so long before accusing us of a crime. It apparently satisfied him, crying stopped.

After many hours in the holding cell, Mr. Ryan's appearance gave us the opportunity to be relived from our confinement. We then retrieved our sleds and slowly trudged down the streets to our homes. We were never told what transgression we had committed.

This was my one and only encounter with the Men in Blue of the Newark Police Department.

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