Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

 Oct. 20, 2001

1933 showed a large 'Great Depression' crime wave in the area

Last week's Waverly Star revisited the shocking robbery of the Hoover Standard Oil Station in February of 1933, but that wasn't the last of it.

Throughout the entire year, many robberies and burglaries were featured every week in the Waverly Star. In May, Joe Decker was even robbed of twenty cords of firewood at his place on the lake.

The Hoover Station was robbed again Oct. 12. The burglars got away with a radio, a flash light, two quarts of oil, and one dollar in pennies.

The members of the Bonrud gang, who had held up the station in February, were tried and sentenced by Judge Qvale in Benson April 10.

Cleon Bonrud and Perla Oliva, both of Minneapolis, and Walter Christiansen of Watertown, SD were sentenced to serve from five to 40 years of hard labor in the Stillwater Penitentiary for the holdup of the Goggin Oil Station in Benson.

Blanche Bonrud, widow of the man shot by police chief Oscar Johnson of Benson, was sentenced to five years in the Shakopee Women's Reformatory. Mrs. Mabel Oliva was sentenced to not more than one year in Shakopee.

Margaret Bonrud, married to Cleon, was placed on probation for one year. She was 18 at the time of the robbery and had only been married to Cleon for five days when the robbery occurred.

Their trial and sentence took place only two months after their arrest, so they received a speedy trial and what we would consider light sentences.

The great Wright County crow hunt of 1933

From the Waverly Star, April 6, 1933: Men to put on a crow hunt here next Sunday.

"On next Sunday there will be a local crow, hawk, and owl hunt put on here. The hunters securing the largest number of birds will be treated to a good feed at the expense of the losers.

"All those interested in ridding the country of these pests are invited to sign up at Joe Decker's Pool Hall for the hunt."

From the Waverly Star, April 13, 1933: Crows must have read the paper.

"The crows must have read last weeks paper telling about the crow hunt that was staged last Sunday, and decided to stay in hiding until the hunters were out of the countryside.

"A very small number of birds were brought down, nine birds being the largest number to be shot by one person.

"Anyone who thinks the owl is a 'wise old bird' should go out after crows, and they'll come back telling you that the owl isn't so smart after all.

From the Waverly Star, May 4, 1933: Waverlyites to hold another crow hunt.

"Another crow hunt will be held, which will include a period of one whole week starting May 7, and ending May 14.

"John Main and George Berkner have been chosen as captains and they, in turn, will choose teams from the entrants.

"Anyone caring to take part in this hunt should sign up at Joe Decker's no later than Saturday evening, May 6.

"Gophers, owls, crows, and hawks will count in the contest. A hunt of this kind not only affords a great deal of sport, but it also helps the farmer to rid the county of these pests, which destroy thousands of dollars worth of grain yearly."

We interrupt this column to allow a dissenting opinion on the subject of destroying owls, hawks, and crows. Now comes Jeanne O'Leary, secretary of the Outdoor Audubon Club of Corpus Christi, Texas. . .

"Thank you, Jim. And thank you Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, for allowing me this space to educate the public, although my opportunity seems to have come about sixty years too late.

"If you will read to the end of this ugly crow hunt story, you will see that not one woman was signed up on either team.

"Over 100 hunters took part - and not one of the hunters was a woman. It's just as well. Only men could do such a stupid thing. Kill owls and hawks?

"Owls and hawks rid the world of more mice and rats than all the cats in the world. Rats and mice are the big grain eaters.

"Here is a history lesson: In India, during the Raj, birds were almost exterminated by Rajahs entertaining their British guests for sport and not for food.

"Passenger pigeons, a useful animal, were, in fact, hunted to extinction in the United States. The last passenger pigeon, 'Martha,' died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

"Another extermination occurred in North Carolina when green parakeets, endemic to the area, were poached and hunted out of existence.

"Their favorite food was sandbur thistles. Since the green parakeets are gone, we get sandbur thistles galore every time we go for a walk.

"The beautiful Carolina parakeet was in every state east of the Mississippi, but its very beauty was its downfall. People loved its feathers, and many a lady's hat was topped by a Carolina parakeet feather until they just - well - disappeared. Reported sightings occurred into the 1900s but, like "Martha" the passenger pigeon, the last Carolina parakeet died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

"The present-day Audubon Christmas Bird Count started out to be an annual Christmas bird hunt.

"Hunting in the beginning of the 20th century had degraded into market shooting in competitions to kill as many birds as possible.

"Now the annual Audubon Christmas bird count has shown us that we have lost over 50 percent of our birds in the last 30 years. This loss has been mostly due to loss of habitat (urban sprawl) and not just due to hunters.

"In fact, nowadays, hunters have become the birds friends, most notably in the activities of Ducks Unlimited, whose work to preserve wetlands and other bird habitat has actually increased the numbers of ducks. Good hunters tend to be good environmentalists.

"But the hunters of 1933 were sadly mistaken. Farmers had no better friends than barn owls. Interfere with nature and you pay a price every time, I say.

"I do appreciate my friend Berni Reardon's efforts against grackles, though, those ugly, wasteful trash birds. She never hesitates to use her .22 appropriately, and I applaud her for being a good shot, as well as being a great environmentalist. Her back yard is one of my favorite places to birdwatch."

The crow hunt, continued . . .

From the Waverly Star, May 18, 1933: "After the crow hunt was put off for a week due to wet weather, the teams were reorganized. Now George Berkner has resigned as one of the team captains and Marty May has taken his place. "

John Main's team: Leo Claessens, Jack May, Ben Greip, Jack McDonald, Conrad Gebhardts, Ed Smith, Andrew Arnold, Ben Smith, Tom Vealitzek, John Pietrek, Herman Kunde, Ed Gromotka, Martin O'Connor, Joe Hessel, Loren Akins, W. H. Boland, Ed Eddy, Ray Diers, Elmer Lammers, George Berkner, Roy Kreitlow, Henry Bremer, Elmer Eckelberry, Charles Pususta, Frank Bakeberg, Fred Nolan, Ed Boehlke, J. J. Smith, Tom Fitzpatrick, John Salonek, Ed Kuka, George Doerfler, Fritz Borrell, A. J. Kinkor, Walter Arnold, Bob Nolan, Lawrence Fautch, Andy Veraderko, Jack Fitzpatrick, Phineas H. Gagnon, Val Le Page, Axel Davo, Ole Wetter, Florian Henk, Wm. Burke, and John Klucas

Marty May's team: Charles Anderson, R. C. Drewlow, Henry Cullen, Jack Copeland, J. A. O'Connell, Adam Berkner, Frank Turck, Walter Boehlke, Amos Davo, Charles Reardon, B. R. Gritz, Jim McDonald, Ray Cebulla, H. H. Knoll, Ray Biggins, Martin Gritz, Walter Volmerding, Leo Klingelhoets, Joe Decker, Paul Raitor, George Dahlin, Charles Casey, Beryll Hayes, Elhart Diers, Wayne Davo, Walter Smith, John Tuckenhagen, Sidney Jenkins, Emery Jenkins, Isador Decker, Magnus Jorgenson, John Florek, Bill Donney, George Ferrell, Ray Le Nue, Leonard Erickson, Ted Kinkor, Clarence Smith, C. L. Strub, and Joe Rasset.

And the winner is . . .

John Main's team won. They shot 235 crows, 69 owls, 39 hawks, and 512 gophers. Johnny Main shot 48 crows to Martie May's 20 crows and 28 gophers. Martie's team lost even though they had George Berkner on their side.

The losing team had to treat the winners to a big meal, time and place to be announced. Was it crow they were going to serve?

In researching the Waverly Star for the entire year of 1933, there never was an item telling when this dinner took place. Could it be that the debt is still out there unpaid, something like the New Ulm Cannon Battery which never got demobilized?

Jerry May, Marty's son, did pick up the tab at Bill's Grill this summer when I had breakfast there, but it didn't seem the same.

The New Ulm Battery strikes again

Bishop Raymond Lucker's replacement, Bishop John Nienstedt, newly arrived from Detroit, was greeted by a cannonade from the New Ulm Battery, and stood there somewhat bemused by such a greeting.
Could it be that the New Ulm Battery was issuing not only a greeting but a warning of what could happen if Bishop Nienstedt decided to start up the inquisition again?

Quotes for the week

"Don't tell me worry doesn't do any good. I know better. The things I worry about never happen."
- Anonymous

"There has never been a good war nor a bad peace."
- Anonymous

Jim O'Leary
461 Claremore
Corpus Christi, TX 78412
(361) 992-2618

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