A scary brush with Public Enemy No. 1
By IDA CHIPMAN
John Dillinger was Public Enemy No. 1 in the mid-1930s.
PLYMOUTH -- Public Enemy No. 1 John Dillinger has his own place in Marshall County legend.
The story starts with Win Morrow.
Win was a two-term Marshall County sheriff. In 1925, he was appointed by Charles H. Glaub as chief of police.
He never wore a holstered gun while he was the sheriff or police chief. As chief, he had one deputy and one car.
He never learned to drive. When he had to go someplace, his 16-year-old son, Fred, drove the police car.
Word went out that John Dillinger was planning to rob the Plymouth bank at Michigan and Garro streets, the present location of the City Offices. Win set up a stakeout in a second-story room across the street, now the County Historical Museum.
The robbery never came off.
But if it had, armed with a shotgun, Win was ready.
Another near miss with the Dillinger mob was averted only by the quick thinking of Everett Truman.
Everett owned and operated the Hudson Automobile Garage, at what is now the Plymouth Glass Co., west of the Brass Rail restaurant and bar.
Hudson had recently come out with a car called a Terraplane. The model claimed to be the fastest automobile on the market.
Win and Everett were good friends. It was Win's habit to stop by the garage every afternoon to have a cup of coffee and visit with his buddy.
One afternoon, a carload of strangers pulled into the garage to have some repairs done on their shiny new Terraplane.
One passenger, sitting in the back seat, had a Tommy gun on his lap.
That was a good indication to Everett that these customers were not to be messed with.
According to accounts by his son, "he was scared to death." He almost fainted when he recognized the driver as John Dillinger.
The men got out of the car. The snap-brimmed hats, cigarettes dangling from their lips and the bulges under their armpits confirmed their identity.
Dillinger, Number One on the FBI's Most Wanted List, had recently escaped from jail in Crown Point, Ind.
He said to Everett, "Car's engine missing. Needs work."
On that day, the garage had an old Franklin car in one of the two bays. The Franklin had enough undercarriage clearance that Everett figured, if he had to, he could dive for the pavement and crawl under the car for refuge.
But he also knew that one of two things could happen if Win should stop in for his coffee while the gangsters were there.
Either they would see his uniform and start shooting, or Win, unarmed as usual, would recognize Dillinger and attempt to single-handedly put them under arrest.
Which would be the silliest -- and the last -- thing he would ever do. Either way, there would be a shootout, a bloodbath and somebody -- maybe two somebodies, possibly one of whom would be cowering under the Franklin -- would be killed.
The odds weren't good.
Frantically, he worked to fix the car. No mechanic in history has had fingers that flew like Everett Truman's did under the hood of that Hudson.
But he finally told Dillinger the car had a burned-out valve, and it would take him two weeks to fix it.
"Can't do it right now," Everett is alleged to have said. "How old is this car?"
"Got it two weeks ago," was the terse answer.
"OK," Dillinger told Everett. "Just patch it up and I'll take it back up to Chicago to have it worked on."
When Win got there for his leisurely cup of coffee, he learned his friend had probably saved both their lives, even if, technically, he had obstructed justice in so doing.
Later, when Everett had settled down, he checked with Boswell, a South Bend Hudson distributor.
They had no record of selling to John Dillinger, but they did recall selling a Terraplane to a John Smith, a nice fellow who had paid $1,100 in cash for a car and had ordered it to be souped-up to go 100 mph.
Plymouth Police Chief Win Morrow narrowly escaped a confrontation with the Dillinger gang.
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