Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentines Are Not Always Chocolates and Flowers!

It was 10:30 on a bitter cold morning in Chicago. The date was February 14, 1929.

While children happily tore open their valentines in classrooms across the city, lovesick twenty-somethings waited impatiently for the postman, and middle-aged housewives wondered if their spouses would even remember what day it was, a very different scene was unfolding in a warehouse on North Clark Street.

But first, some background. It was during prohibition in the United States. At this time the bootlegging territory in Chicago was divided pretty evenly between two gangsters — George ‘Bugs’ Moran and Al Capone. But Capone wanted it all. He decided to take Bugs down. This was the plan. Capone knew that Bugs and his clan were meeting at their headquarters (a warehouse on North Clark Street), the date, and the time. Capone’s gang stole a police car and two police uniforms, and hired some gangsters from out of town, who would not be recognized, to play the roles of policemen. They arrived at the warehouse and pretended to perform a normal, everyday, police raid. Moran’s seven gangsters amiably complied, agreeing to stand facing the garage wall while being searched and relieved of their weapons. But instead of being taken to jail, the usual procedure, they were ruthlessly mowed down by machine guns and other lethal weapons.

The neighbors, hearing the gunshots, ran to their windows and saw two men in street clothes being escorted by two policemen to a police car. Assuming that everything was under control, they didn’t call the police, but went about their business. It was several hours later before the bodies were discovered. Only one gangster was still alive and he was unconscious. When he, the only witness to the carnage, came to and was asked, “Who shot you?” he said, “Nobody shot me,” and promptly died from his fourteen bullet wounds.

Although everyone in Chicago knew Capone was behind this heinous crime, no one could prove it. He had an airtight alibi; at 10:30 that morning he was being questioned by police in another part of town, on some misdemeanor. Bugs, on the other hand, was late for the meeting, and seeing the police car parked at the garage, decided (wisely) to skip the meeting, which ever after was known as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” It wasn’t until many years later that Al Capone went to prison on a charge of tax evasion.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Robin Hathaway

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