There was a time in my policing career when we were run ragged by telephone calls of bombs being placed in buildings. We would have to go in and vacate the building and do a search. I’m here to tell you that it is no fun opening and closing doors to closets, not knowing what is behind them.
I remember one cold December night when my partner and I received a bomb call. The high rise on North Fifth Avenue had been built. They had only one unit at that time. It was one of those nights when it was down in the 20s and a thin shower of sleet was falling
We checked out and entered the building’s lobby. We could not see anyone around, so we began to search. A couch was at the lower end of the room so I started toward it. I was almost to the couch when a man rose up from behind it. I knew him, he was one of our old drunks. He waved his hand and started toward me. It was all he could do to stand up. When he got close, he smelled like a rotgut whisky barrel. He began to laugh and fell down on the couch. “You come for me?” he asked. We knew him as Pee Wee. “Pee Wee, what are you doing here?” I asked. He muttered something that I didn’t understand. I again asked him, “What are you doing here?”
“I called and told them that an old bum was in the lobby of the High Rise, to come and get me,” he said.
I walked over to my partner laughing. He looked at me shaking his head. “If you’ll tell me what’s so funny I’ll help you laugh. It’s not any fun standing around in an area where there is a bomb.” I remember telling Pee Wee to tell him what he had told Dispatch when he called them. Pee Wee looked like he was scared. I went over and put my hand on his shoulder. “Pee Wee,” I said, “tell my partner what you told the dispatcher at police headquarters.” He looked at him and said, “I told the lady that there was a bum in the lobby of the High Rise that needed to be removed.”
We loaded the bum from the lobby and took him to jail and put him to bed. We got a good laugh thinking that there was a bum in the lobby of the High Rise instead of a bomb.
It’s no fun going through a building hunting a bomb. I worked for a construction company that built the First Avenue Theatre. I was one of the last persons to come out of the building when it was turned over to the owner. I received a call that there had been a bomb call from the theater. We met the manager at the front of the theater, and he said a call had come in saying that the theater was going to blow up. When he asked what the caller was talking about, the caller had said that he had placed a bomb in the building.
The first thing you have to do is clear the building. With all the people out of the theater, we began a search. Having helped to build the building I knew every nook and cranny. Some two hours later there was a crowd of people and they were upset we had found a small black bag. It had been placed inside of a towel holder.
With the bag out of the building and the people back inside, we moved the bag away from the building and down onto the railroad tracks. It was debated as to who would open the bag. In those days there was no bomb squad. The men in the patrol car were all we had. Very gently my partner, who lost the coin toss, began to cut it open. With it open I took a look. There was all kinds of women’s make-up stuff in it. We wrapped it up and carried it back to the theater.
We entered the lobby to hear a woman carrying on. She was giving the theater manager a hard time because her make-up kit had been stolen. I walked over and put the black bag down on the desk. She turned three shades of red and sat down in a chair. We knew that we had found the person who had called in the bomb threat. We found out that she had placed her make-up kit in the towel holder. We also found out the reason for why: she had broken up with her boyfriend and he had got him another girl and came to the movies.
We turned her over to the investigators. I don’t really know what they did to her. I still often think that going through a building looking for a bomb is no fun.