What do we have here… between 25 & 27 thousand people living together? We have the amenities most towns this size have, we have pole buildings in the downtown area, too many churches and car lots and our population of African-Americans seems to fall into the state’s overall population statistics… we’re 96% white.
With that we have our quota of prejudices between minority fractions that go beyond color. When I was much younger there was the “foreign factor” who pretty much ran bars and restaurants; this city was known for good food among the traveling sales people who covered the state selling product that is now bought online thereby eliminating that sales force.
Gradually those running the bars and steakhouses were claimed by death, they were not replaced by their children because their children went to college, got degrees and for the most part never returned here. Fast food filled the void to some extent; that along with far fewer steakhouses.
Now we have unrest in the city because of racial factions that do not assimilate into the local landscape. These are blacks that supposedly deal dope to the white population. To make it worse, they have focused on one bar in the city called Eleven. It is because of theses disturbances that occur with an inordinate frequency that the city has last night at a regular council meeting voted unanimously to not renew Eleven’s liquor license. One side of this equation we have the “D Boys”, on the other side we have the police and in the middle is Eleven.
I once interviewed a former police chief while he was in office about the drug situation in this city; he asked not to be quoted and I gave him that privilege. This is what he said; “NIACC has brought black recruits here to play ball, when the season ends they dump them. No continuing classes, these boys are dispensable, they served their purpose… but they didn’t return to Chicago, East St. Louis or Detroit. They stayed and went into business dealing drugs.” At that particular time he said there were 36 known drug houses operating in this city all run be ex-NIACC ballplayers.
Chief Lashbrook talks of the “old days” when bartenders took care of the problem; hogwash, the police took care of it. Lefty Lewis and Rudy Alman along with Dwayne Jewel were on the streets. No one, I repeat no one took those guys on. I opened my first bar in 1956 at 217 North Federal, a long time before the 70’s. The second bar we opened in ’61. No trouble. You want to know why? There were no “D” boys here. NIACC wasn’t recruiting in the large city ghettos. It was that college that polluted this community by bringing in young kids from these big city ghettos then dumping them when the season was over. NIACC traveled into some of the most drug infested cities in America to recruit boys to come here to play ball. Once the seasoned ended those players were dismissed. No earned credits, no more classes, they were literally dumped by the side of the road. Instead of returning they set up shop in various houses throughout the city. When interviewing a former Chief of Police he first asked that he not be identified, then this is what he said; “We currently have 36 known drug houses operating within this city, all operated by former NIACC athletes.” Today we are witnessing the blow back from that recruiting practice. The former Police Chief went on to say that business was so good these guys brought in their cousins to help run the business.
Life has changed drastically in the past quarter century; values have changed, priorities are self-centered and life is worth less. A little over a year ago a young boy was shot dead at a gas station on the North End so we don’t have to wait for that to happen – it’s already happened.
I attended the City Council meeting last evening, it was the first time in my life and I have operated businesses in this city for over 60 years. I wasn’t disappointed. It was an orchestrated lynching of a local merchant. Personally I thought it bore great resemblance to the Nuremburg trials of Nazi war criminals. The police had their dog & pony show all lined up, lights on, lights off. Lights on, lights off. McKelvey reminded me of that guy in high school who couldn’t get a date and now he wants everyone to pay for it. If he spent as much time and energy on busting the “D” boys as he did on revoking Barlas’ liquor license there wouldn’t be any drug dealers in the city. When you apply to be a “policeman” aren’t there certain specifications as to job description? Isn’t it pretty much a given that you’re going out on domestic disturbances and intervening in these matters will frequently result in physical altercations? Aren’t you expected to “quell” public mayhem and restore peace? McKelvey stated that the city only has 4 personal on duty during certain hours. Whose fault is that? Is that Barlas’ family’s fault? Hire more police. If we can justify spending $70,000.00 to move a wall so Bookmeyer can relocate his desk, hiring more cops shouldn’t be a problem.
What is really in front of us here, does anyone really know? To me it was a sickening display of incompetence by a police force that is ill equipped to do anything but maybe direct traffic. If you don’t want to mix it up with the “D” boys then find other work. George Barlas isn’t the problem, the problem is on the North End of this city and on the campus and in the dorms West of town. There are more drugs there than in all the pharmacies in the entire county. When I offered to get them a drug dog free of charge they said no.
Peter Children of Mason City