In my senior year at Providence College, my course load was light so I got a part-time job at the Pawtucket Times newspaper.
Mostly what I did was take obits over the phone, or put together the television listings, which included brief descriptions of shows and movies. To relieve the tedium, I occasionally made up a movie or two and listed my friends as stars. I would write something like: “Chan 4, 8 p.m. ‘Wild Nebraska Nights,’ starring Tom Cavanaugh – the electrifying tale of an accountant from Fon du Lac, Wisc., who manages to find happiness as a stand-up comic in Lincoln, Neb. Parental discretion advised.”
The most exciting story I ever covered in my career there was a daring bank robbery at the Industrial National Bank. The robbery actually occurred while I was at the police station at Seekonk, a small town near Pawtucket, looking for stories.
One morning, just after the bank opened, someone called and asked for the manager. The caller then told the manager, who had just moved to the area, that he was a state trooper. He said they had just received a tip that the bank would be robbed that morning. The caller went on to say that the police could do nothing until the person actually robbed the bank, but plain-clothes officers would have the bank under surveillance and would nab the robber as soon as he came out to the parking lot. The bank manager thanked the officer and said he would inform his tellers. A few minutes later, a man wearing dark glasses and a hoodie walked into the bank and announced, “This is a robbery,” and ordered the tellers to fill his large canvas bag.
Coyly winking to each other, the tellers happily filled the bag with money. When they were finished the man quickly left.
The manager and tellers then ran to the front windows to watch the police move in. But there were no police officers in sight.
“Maybe they’re going to nab him when he drives out of the parking lot,” he said.
But no nabbing occurred. You’ve probably already guessed that the bank robber was the original caller, and the state police knew nothing about it.
So, maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with Maine?
A few weeks later, the robber repeated his clever M.O. here in Maine, but the Maine bank manager was not fooled. He knew all the state troopers and police officers who patrolled the area. His brother Earl was the only full-time police officer in the town and was able to nab the robber in the parking lot after the daring robbery.
After covering Seekonk for several years, the excitement became too much for me and I got a job in the Ellsworth bureau of the Bangor Daily News.
I thought of all this last night when I noticed in the TV listings that the classic film, “Bright Nebraska Nights,” was going to be on Chan. 4 at 8 p.m. and parental discretion is still advised.
John McDonald is the author of five books on Maine, including “John McDonald’s Maine Trivia: A User’s Guide to Useless Information.” Contact him at [email protected]