My grandfather, Chester Davis West, was born in 1902. By the time nationwide prohibition hit in January 19, 1920 he was 18 years old and a bit of a free spirit. One of the stories that I remember him telling was about a group of them and an illegal bottle of liquor. They had gone up on one of the hills surrounding Bradford, on what I would assume was a warm sunny summer day to enjoy the day, the company and a bottle or 2 of the illegal beverage. As the day wound down, the celebrators realized that they still had a bottle leftover and no idea what to do with it. No one wanted to return to town carrying it, so the decision was made to bury the bottle on the hill, it would be there and ready for them on another day.
The alcoholic haze of the day seemed to have dimmed the memory of exactly where that bottle was buried. I am sure that it can be found to this day, buried in the exact same place. He told me he never could locate it again.
Bradford was well known at the time for its speakeasies, rumrunners, gangsters and entertainment. The little town boomed and bubbled with all kinds of excitement, having grown up with the oil rush, filled with rough roustabouts and speculators, some wealthy beyond belief, others still filled with waning hope.
Grandpa had mentioned gangsters in cars, shooting their way down Main Street; it seemed to be a bit of an exaggeration at the time. It was hard to imagine the sleepy little town, with life time residents, being a hot bed of excitement. They had referred to the area during the 20’s as little Chicago and there is a screenplay about the area that Carl Veno is looking to produce about it. One of the characters in the screenplay is Al Ritchie.
Al met an untimely death on Main Street, Bradford, June 5, 1931 after having been shot in the face. I did a little searching through ancestry’s newspaper archives to see if I could find a write up. The story of the notorious Mr. Ritchie showed up in the Reno Nevada Newspaper the day following the shooting.
Reno Evening Gazette (Reno Nevada) June 6, 1931
Gangster shot in Parked Car
Bradford Pa, June 6 –
Police were seeking Tony Lorenzo a baker, today for questioning in connection with the slaying of Al Ritchie whose career including activities on both sides of the law, as a bootlegger and as a county police officer.
He was killed yesterday by a man who fired through the open window of a parked car in which Ritchie and Tony Maccio were seated talking to a third man, Sarandrea, who stood at the curb. Ritchie was shot three times in the head. Maccio suffered two wounds in the back and is in a serious condition.
The shooting occurred a few minutes after Ritchie and Maccio had driven away from a street corner where Miss Evangeline Booth commander of the Salvation Army was addressing an open air meeting.
Ritchie, who was forty-five years old was formerly a saloonkeeper, later a bootlegger and at one time was an assistant county prosecutor and special investigator. He once wrote a magazine article exposing the operations of the so-called Black Hand Society.
Search for Lorenzo who came to Bradford four months ago to work in a bakery was begun after Maccio told the police that a man named “Tony” did the shooting.