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Winona police gun squad

Things didn't warrant calling out the police gun squad, but the streets of Winona were lively Halloween night 80 years ago.

This story originally appeared in the Winona Republican-Herald on Nov. 1, 1938

It is good window washing weather, and the water doesn’t freeze the way it does after some Halloweens.

All over Winona today clerks, store owners, professional window washers and housewives were busy erasing the marks of the night’s fun.

False fire alarms, opening of fire hydrants, dropping storm sewer gratings into the sewer inlets, removing manhole covers and other interference with the operation of city departments kept police, firemen and street and water department workers on the jump.

Halloween is the big night of the year at the police station. Everybody works, both the day and night forces, and there is lots of business.

The telephone and call box system rings almost continuously and there are squad cars coming and going all evening. The regular cars are supplemented for the night by nearly a score of private cars.

In fact, the cops on Halloween, although they will not admit it, have more fun than the kids. They look and act very serious but when two or three of them, including Chief H. C. Rlebau, have time to get together, they immediately start telling tales of what they did when kids on Halloween.

Last evening a reporter joined Squad Car No. 1, assigned to cover emergency calls directly from the station. Most cars on Halloween are assigned to certain districts in the city. The entire city was the beat of this car. It was driven by Patrolman Thomas Mrachek, the first patrol wagon driver Winona ever had, who still can drive just as skillfully as he did in those early automobile days. Patrolman George Lord was the second man in the car. Here are the high points of a few hours of the evening.

7:17 p.m.: Fire alarm, Wabasha and Franklin streets. Behind the last fire truck with siren roaring. It’s a false alarm. We patrol the area, looking for the guilty kids, break up several groups attracted by the fire trucks, but all say they did not pull the alarm.

The reporter grabs one little fellow by the arm, and in policeman fashion asks him who pulled the alarm.

“Won’t talk.”

“I won’t talk,” he shot back. “You’re a cop.” So we let him go.

8 p.m.: Big fight at 1014 West Howard street. A mad race across the city to find the number was a vacant lot. Some prankster fooled the police.

8:20 p.m.: A car in middle of street between Fourth and Fifth on Chestnut. There it was, with all its lights on, standing in the middle of the street. We pushed it to the curb and left it.

8:25 p.m.: Fire alarm, another chase after the fire trucks to Carimona and King streets. The fire trucks stop at the corner where there is a crowd. Another false alarm. Another hunt for kids. It was supposed to be three small boys.

Poles across street.

9 p.m.: Two telephone poles across Zumbro street at Howard. The poles were removed and put along the curb. We break up several mobs of kids coming back by getting out of the car and yelling “Police.” You ought to see them run.

9:15 p.m.: Mob of kids on Market Street soaping windows and yelling. Housewives very excited. They all run except four whom we load in the car and take to station. They are turned over to the chief for a very serious lecture. The rest of the group follow to the station and watch developments from across the street.

9:45 p.m.: Big mob of boys throwing eggs on West Second Street. We find about 75 boys out in street arguing with an oil station attendant. They run when police car arrives and circle around several blocks. We break up group at courthouse. Pick up five of them in car in front of Winona Theater and take them to station. Sergeant puts them in “bull pen.” The rest follow to station, where they come in to investigate, in groups of five or six. Each group as it comes into station is added to those in “bull pen” until it contains about 40 boys, who decide they will stay. Sing they do until late into the night, when they are released two by two.

10:22 p.m.: Fire alarm — Howard and St. Charles streets. Another false alarm. Fire chief and squad car chase three boys into Milwaukee railroad yards. The boys get away.

10:45 p.m.: Hydrant opened at Fourth and Wilson. Nobody there, but fire hydrant shooting water high in air. This was the first of several hydrant calls. The water was shut off by police or firemen.

So on throughout the night. Each call brought new thrills and more excitement for the Halloween kids. Damage in the area covered by Car No. 1 was small. It was a big night of fun.

Police blamed to Halloween pranksters theft of Dr. W. F. C. Heise’s car about 9:45 p.m. from in front of his house at 259 East Broadway, and declared that two girls were seen running away from the car after it had been driven without lights for many blocks before it struck a fire hydrant and telephone pole about 9:50 p.m. at Sanborn and Chestnut streets.

The front of the car was slightly damaged and the rear end was damaged when it was backed over a boulevard and into the pole.

The driver of the car is believed to have had little previous experience in driving, judging from the way it was backed over the boulevard.

A gang of youths went around the city lighting fires in piles of leaves raked into streets or onto boulevards.

Most of the damage was done in the East End, police said, and in a number of alleys leading into Vine and Liberty streets fences were ripped down in many blocks.

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