A Burning Cold Morning (Part 82)

That conversation burned in Leo’s mind for a couple of days as he became more and more determined to take another shot at finding Stanley.  Kittle told him that he knew little more about the man, that they had been matched up on the job completely by coincidence and the Clockmaker had not been very talkative.  Although Atlanta was the last known location, Leo doubted Stanley would have stayed around there for very long after the building almost went down following the explosion.  Thinking about that specific event really managed to get Leo fired up as he still harbored much anger about the Marlborough job and all the resulting loss of life, especially the children.  By May 6th he had made up his mind.  He was going to track Stanley down and finally make him pay for everything that had happened in the past and most especially for the Marlborough.  It was going to take some extra cash to do that though so Leo began to plan out a bank job to fund his revenge mission.

The fact that he ultimately decided to commit this particular crime  in Minnesota may attest a little bit to the tight financial situation into which Leo had found himself.  Considering his history in Minnesota it was not a good idea for him be involved in any crime at all in the state.  Leo knew this and mostly abided by that limitation.  It was enough that some federal agencies had information on him, but also true that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was very familiar with him and likely to consider him as a suspect, especially in a bank robbery.  Leo was, however, already spending too much time away from both of his domestic situations and had limited funds due to the financial strain.  He decided that it was worth the risk to hit a bank in Minnesota, promising himself that it would just be the one time.  He had evolved as a bank robber after all and could manage it, especially if he went outside the limits of the bigger cities.  

Loretto MN in 1960s courtesy MNHS
Loretto MN in 1960s courtesy MNHS

He did not go very far though, as he started to case the State Bank of Loretto, which is located just outside of the Twin Cities area.  It was, and still is, a very small town having only about 350 residents in 1967.  Leo had a bit of a problem remaining inconspicuous in such a small community and actually reverted back to his salesman routine, telling people he met that he worked for King Manufacturing.  He had a whole story about King working with a construction company in St. Paul to locate areas for new development.  Although that seemed to mollify the people he spoke with it also made him memorable to them when they were later questioned by the police.  By May 11th Leo figured he had all the information he needed and the next day, which was a Friday, he enacted his plan.  It was initially successful and he took off in a stolen vehicle with over eight thousand dollars, one of the biggest heists he had ever pulled off.  He made his getaway, stopping briefly at the house in St. Anthony before leaving on the morning of May 13th.  Unfortunately for Leo, the bank teller in Loretto had picked his mug shot out of picture lineup shown to him by the state police.  Several other witnesses corroborated that information and added a few more details.  By the time that Leo left his house that spring morning he was already a suspect, albeit initially an unnamed one.

There is very little information about this initial search for him and it is a hard to explain why Amanda never received a visit from law enforcement as they tried to find her husband.  Leo and his address do appear in some public records of the time, although there are several addresses associated with him and perhaps the police just never got around to chasing down the St. Anthony location.  It is also possible that the MBCA had information on his possible whereabouts in other parts of the country and decided it was more likely he had run off to one of those cities.  For whatever the reason, she was never contacted and Leo remained a fugitive, coming back for only two short days in the four months following the Loretto robbery.  He had a variety of excuses for this which he told to Amanda mostly in letters sent to their home, always accompanied by a packet of cash.  By this point she was growing suspicious of her husband, although those thoughts were limited to his possible involvement with another woman. 

All through the summer of 1967 Leo stayed mobile, traveling around the country on the hunt for Stanley while avoiding police and occasionally stopping in to see Tracy in Denver.  Although there were several occasions when he thought that he was just a day or two behind his former partner he never actually succeeded in tracking him down.  During most of this time Leo had what he calls in a surviving piece of writing, “a burning bank robbery bug, not just for the money but the excitement of it, that flush I feel when I’m in the middle of a job.” He resisted those impulses, mostly due to the heat that he perceived to be on him, although his funds began to run dangerously low in September of that year.  His health had also been declining over the previous two years and, now in his mid-sixtes, he had noticeably aged.  Leo’s jaw remained strong but his hair had receded considerably, his cheeks were pinching in and wrinkles had set in around his eyes.  He regularly wore glasses and walked with a slight limp although his overall bearing remained upright and strong.  

Grey Eagle MN in 1960s courtesy MNHS
Grey Eagle MN in 1960s courtesy MNHS

It may have been his declining health and perhaps a little bit of desperation that caused Leo to decide to rob another bank in small-town Minnesota.  He was after all, familiar with the state and felt comfortable. This time he targeted the State Bank in Grey Eagle and made off with thirty-seven hundred dollars.  He was not immediately identified as the robber; however, two days later the state police named him as a fugitive from justice for the Loretto and Grey Eagle robberies.  The chase was on for real this time and Leo left Minnesota, likely determined to never return.  

…to be continued

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 81)

The time period from his loss of the King Company job and the start of 1966 were filled with longer and longer absences from home, an increase in diabetic symptoms and attacks, more crime and a return to his womanizing ways.  He did maintain his cover while back in St. Anthony with Amanda and Sharon, getting right back into the groove of home life for the limited amount of time he spent with them.  He read his newspapers, went to church, worked at his role as a father and purchased gifts for Amanda.  He did still frequent the Gay 90’s club where he was a popular regular and as one former manager put it, “he loved that place and we loved him.”  When he was not with his family in Minnesota he had his other side on full display as he frequented clubs in many cities, had a large cache of girlfriends and spent his days plotting crimes.  When he did pull off a job, he was increasingly direct and stern when committing those acts, not suffering fools or any attempts by victims to deviate from his instructions.  He did not kill anyone but several people suffered pistol-whipping or gut punches after he judged them to be non-complaint.   

In late December of 1965 Leo was hospitalized in Montana after a severe diabetic incident and did not get released until ten days later.  When he was finally out he walked away from the hospital feeling uncertain of his future.  Beneath his tough demeanor even Leo knew that this last incident was a dire sign and that he may not have much longer to live.  Although he never had followed medical advice very well he had thought he was getting along well enough with his combination of partial compliance with doctor’s instructions, home-made remedies and general tough-guy refusal to be sick.  He was not so sure anymore about his immortality and quickly spun into a depression.  Eventually he made his way back to St. Anthony and although he never told Amanda the details of his hospital stay, she could tell that he had been sick and was not doing very well.  It was in January of 1966, while home with his family, that Leo met Tracy King one night at the Gay 90’s.  He was still feeling low and a bit depressed and they quickly started dating.  

The relationship accelerated quickly, much past the point Leo usually stoped at with his girlfriends and in May of 1966 he agreed to take her with him on his next trip.  He had already staked out a possible bank robbery in New Mexico which is where they headed.  The job was successful and that night Leo, flush with cash and with crime fueling his good spirits, got caught up in the mood and agreed to marry Tracy.  He thought better of that by the next morning and realized he was in a bit of a situation. He had to admit to himself that he did have deeper feelings for her than was usual and also that he enjoyed her company quite a bit.  She was young and full of energy, thought him to be quite the dashing gentleman and fit in well when they went out to clubs and dinner.  Deciding that he wanted to make her happy, Leo paid a man in Albuquerque to pretend he was a minister, after which he took Tracy to a park where that man performed the ceremony. 

Immediately after that they traveled to Denver, Colorado as Tracy stated she wanted to move there because she had family in the nearby area.  Leo set her up in an apartment and gave her some additional money for living expenses.  Telling her that he would be on the road quite often but would ensure that she was well-taken care of, he then departed and was back in St. Anthony by early June.  As he whiled away some time in his domestic role Leo came to realize that he had complicated his life quite a bit and that his expenses were going to go up considerably.  Having to maintain two residences, juggle his relationships and make time for everyone, along with plotting and committing enough crime to pay for it all, was going to be a challenge.  Leo felt certain that he was going to be able to make it work.  He did well for almost a year and although he was not getting rich from crime he did manage to make enough to keep both his Minnesota and Colorado lives rolling along smoothly.  

1967 Buick Skylark

1967 Buick Skylark

On May 1, 1967 Leo was in Carson City, Nevada and involved in a car theft scheme that he had set up.  In an unusual move for him there were some other players involved in this caper, mostly because it had expanded rapidly and Leo needed experienced car thieves to keep up with the demands of the chop shop he was working with at the time.  One of these men, Charlie Kittle, who had just joined up with the car-theft crew had also known Leo in the 1920’s back in Bakersfield.  A comment by Charlie one cold afternoon stunned Leo and brought some old feelings and memories back up to the surface.  The two of them were hanging out at the chop shop after Charlie had turned over a Buick Skylark he had taken from a grocery store parking lot.  

“What brought ya out here to Carson City anyway?” Leo asked.

“Hell, I was running from a botched job in Atlanta.  Big mess really, on a safe cracking gig.  Damn explosives malfunctioned and almost took the building down.  Two guys killed right there.  I ran for it but the noise had drawn a crowd out in the street.  Musta’ been twenty folks that saw me clear as day.  This is about a far away as I could get.”

“Sounds like one hell of a mess indeed,” Leo replied as he lit a cigarette.

“No kidding.  Your old buddy was to blame for it, too.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, you know, that wacko clock-maker you hung out with in Bakersfield back in the day.  It was his job. He’s the one that lit up that building.”

…to be continued

Local Bands – Twin Cities

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Hello – I am doing some research and planning into a forum to highlight local bands in the greater Twin Cities area. This may be developed in connection with an Internet radio station. Please contact me at jackmesenbourg@icloud.com if you are interesting in contributing streaming music, sitting down for an interview or otherwise being involved.

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 80)

As that year moved into spring Leo felt that he definitely needed to get some additional money stashed away to ensure that he could properly provide for his growing family.  This marked a period of time in which very slowly but steadily his time and attention were more focused on the planning and commission of crimes.  Although he still stuck mostly with bank robberies there were some occasions when he returned to stealing cars or grifting.  He ran a few fake jewelry schemes in Nevada and New Mexico, including one in which he narrowly escaped capture in Reno.  He had been running that operation under an alias of course but the close call did scare him enough that he mostly stuck with banks and cars after he managed his getaway from the police.  Leo, when home, played the part of father in a forced but kind way, trying to interact with Sharon especially when she was playing outside in the yard or at the park.  That seemed to be much more comfortable for him than other parental tasks such as teaching life skills, reading stories or enforcing discipline.  He and Amanda continued with a strained, lukewarm relationship and Leo spent most of his free time pouring over out-of-town newspapers.  He often would leaf through eight or more of these every day, seemingly skimming the pages in a manner that made no sense to his wife.  She questioned him about it a couple of times but his non-responsive answers made it clear he was not interested in discussing it with her.  As it seemed harmless enough she just figured he was restless to be back on the road or was looking for information to help him with sales opportunities while he traveled.  

As the end of 1962 approached, Leo’s performance for King Manufacturing had hit a low point.  Internal documents reveal that the executives in the company had been aware of the decline going back to at least 1957.  It seems as though they had held several meetings to discuss Leo’s roles with the company and the possibility of firing him had come up first in 1959.  That time he was saved mostly by his prior reputation, although he was confronted with the issue and made aware for the first time about the company’s concerns.  He turned things around starting after that meeting and lasting through the fall of 1960 when things began again to decline.  There were some highs and lows in his performance after that, seemingly always just enough to head off another confrontation.  However, by November of 1962 the company general manager had seen enough and called Leo back to Flint for a meeting.  He arrived over an hour late blaming an issue with his vehicle.  As always, Leo was sharply dressed and still exuded confidence and charisma. 

His issues were of course caused by the criminal activities which were taking up more and more of his time.  Bank robbery had become an extremely risky thing to do as law enforcement tactics had evolved as had bank technology and security.  Leo found himself having to do more extensive planning and surveillance than ever before to ensure success, all of which took him away from his real job of selling for King Company.   The general manager started the meeting with an abrupt statement.

“Right now Leo, you are basically here to convince me not to fire you.”

Leo blinked back in reply, took a deep breath and replied, “You know, after all this time, that’s a bit of an unfair way to jump on me.”

“Yes, well that may seem so, but the issues with your productivity really have to be faced by you and quite frankly, by us.  You have been with us a long time, eighteen years in fact, and there were some great times in there.  Your record as a sales manager back then and for many years, really top-notch stuff Leo.  That’s not now though, and your previous success has well, basically it is why you still have a job right now.  But you’ve burned up all of that goodwill and consideration.  These last years have been several variations of poor or awful and we need to move on.  Look at this report on your productivity.”  He slid a few sheets of paper across the large wooden desk toward Leo. “Your run is done, maybe you can find another start at something else, get your fire going again like back in the day with us.”

The GM steepled his fingers together as he finished speaking, peering at Leo over the top of his reading glasses.  Leo looked down at the top page of the reports, saying nothing and not picking them up.  Several tense seconds clicked by on the wall clock behind the desk, the GM continuing to stare at him.  Finally, Leo looked up and delivered a very impassioned response, citing a long litany of good deeds done for the company mixed in among details about the increasingly difficult sales scene in the United States.  He went on for over ten minutes and finally the GM gave in and stated, “exactly one more chance Humbert, just this last one.  Go out and save your career and you better start at it right now.”

Nothing came of that chance as Leo was much too involved in casing a bank in Billings, Montana to spend much time selling. On March 3, 1963 the GM called him at his hotel and stated he needed to see Leo again back in Flint.  When Leo told him that he was working a “hot sale” and could not return immediately, the GM replied that Leo needed to be sitting in his office on March 6th or he would be terminated.  That day passed without Leo showing up and so ended his career at King Manufacturing. 

He did not inform his family about losing that job and continued to act as if he was still a traveling sales manager.  It was now necessary for all of his income to be made from crime as he had no intention of trying to arrange another legitimate career.  This actually made him happier as he had grown increasingly frustrated with the normal business and work world.  The seven year period where he had been devolving slowly back into his old lifestyle had made him realize that it was the only situation with which he was actually content.  It was high stress, dangerous and exciting, all things which he felt suited him perfectly.  

…to be continued

A Burning Cold Morning (Part 79)

He spent the next three months mostly on the road, returning occasionally to both Amanda in St. Anthony and also his room at the Durant where he maintained an address to look good for the company.  However, by the time that November of 1944 rolled around, Leo had realized that King Company hardly cared where he lived as long as he continued his high level of success and was present at the mandated quarterly meetings.  Realizing that the hotel room was just costing him money and that Amanda was getting increasingly upset about the amount of time he was away, Leo abandoned the room at the Durant and was thus able to spend a little more more time in St. Anthony.  

The next ten years passed quickly and were largely uneventful.  In fact, although he did pull off a very occasional bank robbery to reset his financial situation, for the most part Leo just worked hard and stayed successful.  He actually turned out to be a rather remarkable salesman who established close relationships with a large range of customers, including municipalities and construction firms.  This resulted in large profits for King Manufacturing and kept Leo in a position of prestige.   Along the way on his travels he did cross paths with some former cronies and was invited to join up on several capers, all of which he turned down.  If Leo was going to do any crime at all, he was going to do it by himself.  

There were a few other items of interest in Leo’s activities between 1945 and 1955.  One was that he gave almost eight thousand dollars to victims of the Marlborough Fire, usually by leaving small packages of cash wrapped in brown paper inside of a mail box.  Much of this money he directed at children who had been injured but it is believed that he managed to give some money to every victim that he was able to locate.  He also took at least two more trips to try to find Stanley, all of which proved fruitless and he was unable to find even the smallest indication that his old partner was still alive.  He became increasingly convinced that the Clockmaker was dead, especially as he heard many stories about how Stanley really liked to wait around and watch his bombs explode.  Perhaps he had perished in one of those explosions.  Leo also kept up some very infrequent contact with Olivia, although he never put a return address on his envelopes and as far as is known, she was not aware he was living in Minnesota.  He also engaged in a new hobby when he had free time, which was researching biological and other kinds of chemical warfare.  There is not much information on what drove him to this although some speculation is that he was telling King Company executives that he had been involved with it in the military.  Perhaps he decided that he needed to be more educated about the topic so he could effectively sell that kind of false story.   Finally, Leo was keeping up his tours of the strip clubs, not just in Minneapolis but everywhere that he went, although the Gay 90’s remained his favorite place.  In all of those clubs he was known for being generous to the women who worked there, buying them gifts and drinks while dating them as frequently as he could arrange.  He told many stories about his past to these women, sometimes about his true and exaggerated criminal activities and other times he stuck with his carefully crafted fake life story.  

By the time that 1955 had started Leo was deep into his split lifestyle and starting to think again about the allure of the criminal world he had enjoyed so much before his long prison terms.  He and Amanda had a strained but warm relationship as Leo always showered her with attention and gifts during the short periods of time he was home each month.  It was during one of these times, toward the end of February, that Amanda met him at the door as he was returning from walking down to the newsstand.  When he looked up at her and their eyes met he realized that she was smiling more brightly than she had in quite some time.  It was an odd enough event that is stopped him right in his tracks, fedora halfway removed from his head and the stack of newspapers still tucked under this arm.  

“What? What is it?”

“Oh, Leo, I hope you, well, it’s great news.  I just hope you are as happy as me.”

“Well, what is it?”

“I’m pregnant,” she replied and then burst into tears although the smile remained on her face.

Leo did not immediately go to her side as he felt like he had just walked into a solid brick wall.  This was not something that they had wanted to happen although they had spoken about it several times over their decade of marriage.  As far as Leo knew, they had been in agreement about it.  He was not suited for the role of father, of that he was certain, and besides he was almost never at home.  Now though, he was going to have to step up and be one, a fact he realized and accepted in the space of just a few short moments.  Then he stepped over to Amanda, pulled down the hand she now had covering her face, and told her how very excited he was to hear the news.  

Things changed after that, as they do for new parents, although not all of the changes would be considered typical.  Leo still traveled of course although now he was much more punctual about getting back to St. Anthony, foregoing all of his stops at strip clubs and to visit girlfriends.  He had internally re-dedicated himself to his family and Amanda was much happier.  He also became very worried about the money, wanting to make sure that he was able to provide the best for the new child and also his wife, expenses that were not going to all be covered by his King Company salary and commissions.  He planned, although did not commit, several bank robberies and was much more aware of possible opportunities to make money, all ideas which he carefully filed away as he fought to contain his impulses. 

On November 19, 1955 the daughter of Leo and Amanda, who they named named Sharon,  was born and they both were proud parents, a fact which is obvious from the letters they wrote.  Leo even penned an unusually long one to Olivia detailing his daughters, “perfect little blue eyes and long eyelashes.”  As the year came to a close the Humbert’s seemed to be a happy, successful and growing family, Amanda a new and excited mother, Leo a reformed and eager father, and all of them together and living well on 39th Avenue. 

Inside Title Page Who's Who

Inside Title Page Who’s Who

 

Leo's Entry in 1960

Leo’s Entry in 1960

The beginning of the next year would see the trend continue, with Leo making his first appearance in the “World Who’s Who in Commerce and Industry,” a listing that would continue for many years, at least up until 1966.  That entry, which was submitted by his bosses at King Company, contained many of the false facts that Leo had created for his sanitized life story.  It even included the detail that he had been in the Army from the 1920’s up through the early 40’s, conveniently covering his years of criminal activity and imprisonment.  Listings in other years had incorrect addresses, a variety of invented roles including a mention that he was a traveling lecturer and researcher in chemical warfare while still also being employed by King Manufacturing.  It should also be noted that some of these later editions of the publication actually list his wife as deceased, a fact that Amanda was not aware of although the reason for it may be obvious from some of Leo’s later escapades.   And yes, although Leo was a rededicated family man in early 1956, that was not going to last.  

…to be continued