and the Profit of Eleven Burglaries


By Diane Milhan

Diane says: I live in Mount Airy, North Carolina, and treat patients in a private acupuncture clinic. I am writing a novel about the trial and electrocution of my grandfather’s brother in Sing Sing Prison in 1920 and a novel about the death of the children of Isadora Duncan.

April 12 to May 1, 1919 Rochester, New York 

Robert LeCompte: Elmer pulled off that job hisself. Got pinched by hisself. He had my gun. I have told you everything else. I have made a clean breast of things. I was not there.

A gold watch worth 25 dollars. The first burglary on April 12 was in the home of Arthur Nash, a real estate agent, who had arrived from Russia in 1894 and lived with wife and daughter. 

Goose Egg. The second burglary on this same night was at 431 Grand Avenue, nine houses west. This was the home of E Bosse, a self-employed tailor. Both of his wife’s parents were born in Germany and the couple had a 17-year-old daughter named Marion, who attended the University of Rochester. In the home, the furniture was draped with fabric, but no garments the boys thought worth the exercise of stealing. 

A package of Murad Turkish cigarettes and a Red Dot cigar tin with five moldy cigars worth 15 dollars. The final break-in of the night was at 425 Parsells Avenue, north on Denver and west on Parcells, just past the house that Elmer lived in with his sister and brother and grandmother. Louis E Heindl, a native Rochestarian whose parents were born in Bavaria, resided in his in-laws’ home with his wife and daughter, 24-year-old Helen.

 A soprano ukulele worth three dollars. The next night at the home of Fred Deininger at 274 Barrington Street. Deininger’s parents and his wife’s parents were born in Germany. Deininger had recently sold his bake shop to a larger company. The family had a 19-year-old daughter, Kathryn Louise. 

* * *

           Pattern showing here? Head of household speaks with an accent that could be taken as German and the presence of a younger woman that could be imagined as overture. This at a time after the war when German American businesses and homes were still vandalized. The boys, Elmer Hyatt and Robert LeCompte, had both been members of the New York National Guard, but were never called to France. A singular disappointment for Elmer. Burglary of these four households was an adventure to crow about, still pursuing a defeated imagined enemy sharing heated thoughts of flesh. What strange combination of hate to the Huns and hope for the hump. What motivates these boys?  The first evening had actually started earlier in the afternoon when the two boys found a way into No 33 School on Grand Avenue and rummaged classrooms for trophies. 

Nothing worth carrying off. No 33 School on Grand Avenue. No objects enticing enough for a 16- and a 17-year-old to haul off. When the evening was so young, why carry around stuff you do not want anyway? However, reprisal for no scorable booty was imposed by writing profanity on chalkboards and by scratching onto a small tablet the words “some chicken.” 

Robert LeCompte: I am telling you, Captain. Elmer thought he was a cock a doodle rooster. In a henhouse school. “Some chickens” my ass. Elmer thinks he is so game with the girls. Always on the make. I said, ‘What are you smiling about so big’ and he squawked that he could hardly guess what the girl who picked up the tablet would feel. That was when I whipped the silly look of his face with my fist and knocked him a few times in the noodle as if that could wake him up to think like me. Nitwitted little wanker. Anyways, he wanted to fly out of there. 

The burglars take off Easter Week and go to the Saturday Victory Loan Parade down mainstreet, celebrating the National Guard soldiers who are still returning home from France. Some of these celebrated soldiers were their friends from the 3rd Guard at the Armory. 

Robert LeCompte: Elmer was dying to see our old guys from the Armory, the ones coming back from France. There would be whippet tanks, fully equipped. A battlefield prize of war. And a German tank captured by the 27th Division. But his brother was not in the parade. He stayed in France, holding down the German population. The parade made Elmer screech at me. Did I see this and did I see that. He asked me about the revolver that I said I had. I told him that I made the story up. It was not true. I did have a gun. I sang just to piss him:

They breached the line in a Tiger tank, 

One to drive and two to wank,

 Hinky Dinky parlay-vous. 

Nothin’ but the smell of lavender on their shoes. Burglars passed on Carpo-Naptha soap at the first home and on Shinon Silver Polish jar at the second. Two homes with women living alone. Tuesday, after Easter, into the home of young widow, Clara Howard at 242 Brunswick Street. Saturday night on April 26 at the home of Elizabeth Moore at 179 Grand. Just lady stuff. 

Robert LeCompte: Elmer was really pissed that we had not got any goods that evening so we hauled down to the railroad yard at Havens. I knew that the yegg had pilfered my shooter. Elmer thought that I did not know, but how could I not miss the revolver. Was I surprised when he whipped out my revolver and held it to the belly of a conductor, working alone in the yards.  The man started to push back against Elmer, but Elmer was determined to hold onto the man to pinch his receipts from the day. When the conductor broke free and backed away, Elmer only aimed the gun at the man’s feet. The punk stood there and watched the man climb the fence and drop to the other side. 

Jack squat. The first two houses on Tuesday evening, April 29, were entered but nothing was taken. The Shumway house at 100 Brunswick followed by a long walk west to Campbell home at 245 Glasser Street. The burglars headed west again and crossed the Genesee River walking along the mule pathway of the Erie Canal aqueduct. 

One man’s shirt size 17, one necklace with pearls, and a black cow hide traveling bag worth 50 dollars. Down Shumway to Canterbury on the same night to the home of Dr Edwin Ingersoll, an ear, nose and throat physician who had spent seven months treating mustard gas exposed soldiers in France. A 17-year-old servant girl named Elenor lived in the house.

The chunky skeleton key that opened the front door. Two nights later, Thursday, 1 May, 709 Garson Avenue was entered with a key, but nothing was stolen. Key later found on front porch. James McNany was foreman at Morgan Machine on University Avenue.

Pair of opera glasses and a gold ring worth 15 dollars. Same night, next door at 715 Garson, home of William Milander, a locomotive engineer. Both of his parents were German born. What did they miss? Milander later tells the police that the burglars missed 600 dollars in bills and 400 dollars in Liberty Bonds in a drawer that was not opened. What might have been different if the burglars had scored that money? 

Robert LeCompte: Elmer would still not shut up about the army tank from the parade. He thinks about guns and war and getting to the army rumpus in France to fight Jerry like his brother, but that will never happen. He could not even make it in the Guard because of his eyes. He griped my ass off so bad that he would not give me the gun back that I told him if he was so cocksure to go do the job hisself tonight. He crowed that he would go out without me. And me stoney broke, I could really use some stuff to pawn. By hisself and without me to guide him, it means that he will stay up where we have already been hitting the same area. I told him the idea was bad and he would get copped. But besides that, I was going early to see Louise, who told me that she had surprises for me. I told him I would meet him later but I was not going to promise to show up. 

Four cigars, two oranges, and a can of Borden’s evaporated milk.  One dead policeman with a bullet to the heart. One bullet to the lower chest of Elmer. Friday, May 2, at 290 Garson Avenue, the home of the Lovetts. Here lives a 20-year-old daughter. 

Robert LeCompte: No, sir, I was not there, I was not anywhere near where that shooting went down. I was away with my girl who spends sweet money on me. Elmer went to that house alone. I was with him the night before but not on that night. I have told you everything I know about that night because I was not there.