Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year's Eve, 1961. "Another quiet night at the Border"

 May everyone have a safe and Happy New Year! 
picture 1
An advertisement from the Nooksack Valley Farm Review, January 1, 1942
Posted with permission from the Morgan family collection.
New Years eve 1961, was an important one to my family, the community and was nearly tragic.  My father, Burl Brooks Beane was the new Port Director at the U.S. Customs office on the border.  In those days it was usual for an officer to work alone on a shift at the border during the quiet times.   Burl decided to work the holiday night shift to allow the other men to be with their families.  It promised to be an uneventful and quiet night.  However, as outlined in the article below, there was a surprise in store for him in the early hours of the new year...
 Picture 2
Everson News, January 4, 1962
Posted with permission from the Charlie Patterson collection.
The transcription of the above article for easier reading is as following:
"There is more to inspection of cars than meets the eye at a border station,  Burl Beane, deputy collector of customs at Sumas, holds the rifles that were uncovered early Monday morning during an inspection and which led to the apprehension of three Canadian youths who later admitted being involved in a robbery of a store in New Westminster, B.C. New Year's Eve.  Besides the Enfield and Higgins rifles were a Burgo revolver, 100 rounds of ammunition and two hunting knives.  Driver of the car held the revolver on Beane after he ordered them out of the vehicle to explain the rifles.  Beane said, "You stay put when you have a revolver pointed at you."
Three Canadian youths who confessed to their part in a robbery of a paint store in New Westminster, B.C. New Years Eve, were caught in Sumas Monday at 2 a.m. after holding a revolver on Burl Beane, deputy collector of customs. 
Beane, who was working alone on the graveyard shift made an inspection of the 1955 Mercury and found two rifles concealed under a tarp in the back seat.  He ordered the youths to get out of the car and come into the station.  Beane reported they all got out of the car and stood for a moment, then one pulled a gun on him and said "stay right here". 
Beane said that the youth holding the revolver backed away like he was playing a role in a Western movie and kept him covered as they all got into the car and headed south.
And like a scene in Western Movie, Town Marshal LeRoy Witman was nearby.  Suspicious of the group as he drove by, he parked his car and walked to the station, noticing as he passed, the revolver in the pocket of the youth, the Canadian disregarding Witman, who was in plain clothes.  Witman was unarmed and as he entered the door of the immigration office he ducked behind the counter to search the drawers for arms kept at the station.  
As the youth drove away Beane got a revolver for Witman, who raced after the car which failed to negotiate a turn at the Milwaukee crossing a mile away and went off the road.  
Witman got to the car in seconds and ordered the youths out at gun point.  In the meantime Beane was on the radio alerting Deputy Howard Bowen, who was east of town, also the Border Patrol, the Sheriff's department and the Lynden police.
Deputy Bowen arrived on the scene and assisted Witman who had the youths "spread eagled" on the ground.  One of them remarked  "If we had the rifles you would never have taken us". 
Russell Bruce Vogler, 20, South Burnaby, B.C., Clifford George Foreman, 18, Rt. 3 Cloverdale, B.C., and Steven  A. Gilbert, 17, Langley, B.C., were brought back to the Border Station where Vogler confessed robbing the paint store where he had been employed  stating he divided some $200 with the other youths and said he had planned the "job" for weeks. 
They appeared before the U.S. Commissioner Richard Fleeson in Bellingham, Tuesday.  $5,000 bail on each for an assault charge was set by Fleeson.  The Canadians will be taken to Seattle by U.S. Marshall where they will await further action.
Witman and Bowen reported New Year's in Sumas was orderly, the party crowd was well behaved, just a little noise and cheer at midnight.  Another routine report.
This was before 2 a.m.!"
This is what the Everson News reported, however there was more to the story...
"After an evening enjoying social drinks with their wives at the Wee Drop Inn on Cherry Street in Sumas, LeRoy Witman (the city Marshal) and Fred Miller (owner of the Signal Gas Station in Sumas) were in the process of taking the Witman's babysitter home, when the men noticed the situation in progress at the Customs House.  After quickly dropping the babysitter off in the street and telling her to hurry home, Leroy (leaving Fred in the car) parked behind the Customs house and entered through the back door but couldn't find any of the police firearms in the usual spot because Burl earlier in the evening had rearranged the office.  After the three fugitives fled, Burl retrieved a revolver for Leroy to use in a pursuit which was quickly joined by Deputy Howard Bowen.             
In short order, after the perpetrators car went off the road, they were caught trying to flee into a field on the south side of Sumas by John Hide's house (now the caretaker's house for the Sumas R.V.Park) and were forced to lay face down, spread eagle on the ground by Leroy, Howard and Fred.  The law enforcement officers each held a gun on a perpertrator.  Fred Miller who wasn't armed, jammed his finger (pretending it was a gun!) into the back of the third man telling him not to move.  Fred held the fugitive in place with his 'finger' until the law enforcement officers could cuff and move him to the patrol car."
pers. comm. Burl Beane and Doug Miller.
The incident could have been tragic but all ended well. 
Picture 3

Fred Miller (date unknown)
Posted from the Crouse family collection (currently archived at the Sumas Library)
I wish the members of the
Sumas Police Force and First Responders, and our local Border Protection and Immigration officials
a safe 2015. 
Happy New Year!

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