paul sann journalism, letters, writing


              New York Post Thursday, June 18, 1936

Boy Bandit Feels Ashamed
    Of Failure As Holdup Man

By Paul Sann

He Muffed $50 Carried by Victim
He Stuck Up--Finds the Tombs Lonely

    It's the failure to make good that hurts Johnny Millen, not the fact that he got caught.
    Johnny, nineteen, was remanded to the Tombs yesterday by Magistrate De Luca on an attempted robbery charge. He was awfully mortified when he had to admit that his career of crime embraced just two holdup attempts which netted him not a penny.
     In fact, after the second holdup attempt failed he was so disgusted that he threw a fake gun he had been using into the East River.
    Johnny came here from San Pedro, Cal., a year ago last March, leaving behind his mother, six brothers and five sisters. He wanted a change of scenery.
   "I got a job as a helper on a truck," Johnny said today. "I worked it six or seven months, on and off. Then I quit. I got a job unloading banana boats on Pier 7, East River."

Supported by Seaman

   "Then that blew up. A fellow down at 39 Ludlow Street--I don't know his name--supported me for a while. He was a seaman I met on the docks. I got tired of chiseling on him and planned a coupla jobs."
    "You decided to commit a crime?"
he was asked.
    "Yes," he said, looking grimly through the heavy mesh grating which separated him from his interviewer in the Tombs visiting quarters. "I needed money. I wanted to blow this town. There's so many people walking the streets without dough, so much unemployment."

Ashamed of Failure

    "What did you do?"
    "On June 6, near midnight, I went down to 55 Delancey Street and walked into the hall. There was a tailor coming down the steps.
    "I had a blunt instrument in my hand. I pushed him up against the wall and frisked him. Then I heard footsteps and beat it. When the cops told me Monday he had $50 in his pocket I felt very ashamed."
    The tailor, Isaac Konelsky, has identified Johnny as his assailant: He told police Johnny held him up with a gun and struck him over the head.
    Four nights later, Johnny ventured forth again.

 Next Victim Broke

    "I had to get some dough," he said today. "Around midnight, June 10, I walked down to 81 Bowery and stuck up a guy, but he didn't have a dime."
    (The "guy" was William Clark, eighty-one, who is on old-age pension.)
    This so annoyed Johnny that he went right down to the East River and threw his gun, or blunt instrument, as he calls it, away, and determined to go straight.
    "Some guy on the Bowery who was gettin' a bonus owed me $100," he said. "I figured I'd get this ant blow. But the cops got me when I went down to meet this guy with the money."

Discloses Romance

    Johnny was doubtful about "going straight" when and if he serves time for the crimes with which he is charged. He's got a girl in San Pedro and would like to get a good job and make enough to marry her.
    "But what's the use of lookin' ahead," he says. "Things are too rotten. Besides, me and the girl are too young to be in love. We know that. We're just friends."
    The girl is the only person in San Pedro who knows Johnny's whereabouts, but she doesn't know he's in trouble. The last time he saw his family was Christmas eve, 1934.

Runs Away to Frisco

    That night, he ran away to San Francisco because he was tired of school (he was then in the tenth grade, equivalent to the fourth term of high school here), and his brothers wanted him to go to college.
    He got a job on the San Francisco waterfront and finally wound up as a cabin boy on the Grace liner Santa Rosa, headed for New York.
When it landed, March 12, 1935, Johnny got off and hit the big town.
   Now he's a headache for the Grand Jury.


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