Willie the cop gets his badge pinned to his ass on Raleigh Street

One of the stories that has long been passed around West Duluth is that, many years ago, perhaps the 1920s, some guys from the ol’ Raleigh Street Gang handcuffed a cop to a pole or a post and pinned his badge to his ass.

Claire W. Schumacher’s 1990 book The Raleigh Street Saga: Shattering the Legend, includes interviews with numerous old coots from the neighborhood, including three people who mention the badge-pinning incident. Here are the quotes:

“One of the exciting things that happened, about Willie the cop – on the corner of 57th and Two Street as he walked his beat, the gang took his badge off and pinned it on his back end then tied him to the post. That was the last time he was on Raleigh Street or Two Street. They got him out of there because the guy wouldn’t have lived too long if he had stayed there, although he did get killed later, I think it was out in Gary-New Duluth.” — George Nyquist (b. 1914)

“They took Willie, the cop, one time and tied him to a pole with his own handcuffs. I was there! I saw it! You see, Willie was going to tame Raleigh Street-‘I’ll show those so and sos,’ he said. So they caught him and tied his wrist around a pole with his own cuffs and pinned his badge to his back end. There are stories about taking his gun, but as far as I know no one touched his gun.” — Jim Bracklin (b.1910)

“They pinned his badge right to his hinder — it was Billy McCullough who did it.” — Rex Gannucci (b. 1913)

There’s probably no one reading this who is old enough to lend any more details, but I thought I’d put it out there.

The photo above is from present-day 57th Ave. W. & Raleigh St. Of the four corners there, this one has a utility pole, so I used it to illustrate the story, but it is not necessarily where the incident happened … if it happened at all. As a reference point for drunks, I’ll mention that this is about one block away from the North Pole Bar.

By the way, to clarify the George Nyquist quote, Raleigh Street used be be called Two Street. It was (and is) two blocks from Main Street. No one seems to know why it was named Raleigh Street, although most would hazard the guess that it comes from Sir Walter Raleigh, although he has no known connection to Duluth.

14 Comments

Dave

about 13 years ago

Paul, sounds like an interesting read.  Where might one find this book?

Paul Lundgren

about 13 years ago

The Duluth Public Library has multiple copies. Since the book is 20 years old, it would be hard to find in a store.

Les Nelson

about 13 years ago

My grandfather Olaf Johan Tonder Benjaminsen Nelson told me that story back in the late 1940s. He was a Norwegian Immigrant that came to America in 1910. He worked for the Great Northern Railroad.

Paul Lundgren

about 13 years ago

Thanks to an alert reader with an apparently extensive newspaper archive from the early 1900s, I have confirmation that there was a patrolman named T. I. Willie in West Duluth.

In fact, at pretty much the same location the above incident is purported to have taken place, Willie the cop was shot at on Jan 9, 1922. 

According to the Duluth News Tribune, Patrolman Willie and George Peterson of West Duluth were talking at 57th Avenue West & Raleigh Street when Harry Willson approached them and allegedly said to Peterson, "You beat me out of $5; I will get you." Willson put his hand in his pocket and Willie the cop tried to stop him. Willson allegedly fired a gun through his coat pocket, and the bullet passed through Willie the cop's coat, missing his body. A tussle ensued and Willson was overpowered, handcuffed and taken to jail.

According to the story, Willson had been discharged from the Duluth Police force a month earlier, following an attack upon a sailor, W. A. Pettinger. 

Six months later, not far from the same spot, Willie the cop was hit over the head with a club while trying to arrest a drunk guy. I'll post that whole story tomorrow some time. It's delightful.

Paul Lundgren

about 13 years ago

From July 10, 1922 Duluth News Tribune:

Prisoner's kin arrested after attack on bluecoat

A near riot was precipitated late last night when Patrolman Willie of the West Duluth police station was about to place Tony Shiovitte, age 52, under arrest on the charge of drunkenness. Willie responded to a call from 117 South Fifty-seventh avenue West. Several friends came to Shiovitte's aid, according to police.

They formed a circle around the policeman and Shiovitte when someone reached out and hit Willie over the head with a club. Willie reeled but managed to extricate himself and the man he had arrested.

As a result of the attack on the policeman, Albert Matusio, a son-in-law of Shiovitte, is lodged in the West Duluth jail on the charge of interfering with an officer. Shiovitte occupies the cell next door on the charge of open drunkenness.

Paul Lundgren

about 13 years ago

As for the guy credited with pinning Willie the cop's badge to his ass, there is a News Tribune article from 1900 that mentions a guy named William "Billy" McCullough as the popular proprietor of My Office, a saloon in the Torrey Building described in the story as "one of the prettiest in the city ... fitted up in stained mahogany, which is tastefully trimmed and ornamental."

This may or may not be the same Billy McCullough. Hard to say.

What can be said is that among the whiskeys offered at My Office "as specialties for the Christmas trade," were Emerson's, Walker's, Seagram's and Uncle Sam's Monogram, together with Robert Crawford's best Scotch Whisky. It is also noted in the story that the bar sells "the famous Duluth beer, A. Fitger's & Co."

Patricia

about 13 years ago

I love when these kind of stories come in. It makes me want to know more about this area. I can't wait till the rest of the story tomorrow.

s.f. pangerl

about 12 years ago

I am in my mid-70s now. I lived on 57th & Nicollet Street. I went to Irving, West Jr and Denfeld. I am retired army and federal civil service. I now live in Washington State. The picture shown in this article is the old Koyo Colich store on 57th & Raleigh Street. I do recall many of the stories of what went on in our area when I was growing up.

Thank you for the memories.

T.R. Baker

about 12 years ago

Wasn't the building pictured the old Poodle bar owned by Art Shindler? The family still owns the building Mrs. Colich owned the building kitty corner on the SW corner and there is an old bowling alley in the basement. In the building pictured above the famous "Waiting for a live one" photograph was taken of 3-4 men leaning on the bar waiting for a live one.

s.f. pangerl

about 12 years ago

Does Marianne Colich live in California or was it her sister?

Paul Lundgren

about 12 years ago

I need some context for when there was a Poodle Bar on Raleigh Street. I can't find any evidence.

There was an Art Shindler who lived on Raleigh Street and was chief engineer at the Duluth Stream Cooperative Association from the 1950s to 1980s.

judy

about 11 years ago

It is not the grocery store, it was Pope's Bar. The grocery store was on the  other side of Raleigh Street on the corner -- kiddycorner from Pope's. The inside of this building is like stepping back into the 1950s. Nothing has been changed in the bar. I was in there a few years ago with owner Mary Shindler. I grew up with her kids and live right across the street from Pope's Bar on  57th Avenue West. Mary and  family lived upstairs of the bar back then.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

I'm getting confused. Fortunately, last summer I photographed the buildings on all four corners of 57th Avenue West and Raleigh Street.



The building above is the southeast corner (5618-20 Raleigh St.), which is the picture used in the original post. It was built in 1907 and eventually became the Raleigh Tavern, owned by Joseph and Mila Opack. Their daughter, Mary Opack, married a sailor by the name of Arthur Schindler, and they took over the building at some point. Arthur died in 1981; Mary died in 2007 at the age of 91. Their son Joseph is listed as the owner of the building now.



The Colich Grocery, operated by Kojo and Emily Colich, was on the northwest corner (5701 Raleigh St.). It later became the Locasto Grocery. The building dates back to 1900.



The northeast corner (5619 Raleigh St.) was the Raleigh Super Market in the late 1940s, but became apartments by the mid-1950s. The building dates back to 1890.



The triplex on the southwest corner (201 S. 57th Ave. W.) was built in 1887 and was apartments in the late 1940s.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago




Here are all four buildings as compass points.

NW | NE
SW | SE

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