Background photo of the beach at Whale Cove was made by Bryce Buchanan in 2004. (Via WikiMedia Commons, cc/by/SA)
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THE COPS QUICKLY learned that the sedan had gone on ahead. They were pretty sure that if they pulled up behind it in their cop cars, the driver would hit the gas hard and might actually get away; or a rolling gunfight might break out, and someone could get hurt or killed. So instead of risking that, several of the troopers who were in civilian dress hopped into the trucks and drove on into the night. They figured by the time the people in the sedan figured out that they weren’t who they thought they were, they’d be covering them with their service revolvers and the jig would be up.
The ruse worked. They soon caught up with the sedan, which had pulled over to wait for them, and by the time the people in the car realized what was going on, they were already looking into the barrels of .38s.
The Lincoln County jail facilities no longer being in suitable condition for guests, the bootleggers were brought to the Benton County jail in Corvallis instead.
IN COURT, THE Canadian gangsters and their local associates were affable and colorful. They promptly posted bond — Remaley used his one phone call to tell someone named Frank to grab $13,500 in cash and come to Corvallis to bail him out. Carrick, the one who had cut the locks off the jailhouse doors, cheerfully offered to fix the jail for them, free of charge; since he wasn’t going anywhere for a while anyway, he might as well make himself useful, and he held a boilermaker’s-union card. He could, he added, make the Lincoln County Jail break-proof if they wished.
He went on to compliment Lincoln and Benton counties on their accommodations. “If you want a real jail experience, go down to Louisiana, where they feed you molasses and cornmeal and sowbelly,” he said. “I know; I’ve been there.”
The men were all convicted, of course, on various liquor and prison-break charges, both federal and state offenses. But by the time they’d served their relatively short state sentences, Prohibition had been repealed, and the federal charges were dropped.
Several sources add a few final details to this story. According to these, the jailbreakers had in fact started a fire that damaged the Toledo jail heavily, and in lieu of prison some of the Canadians were sent back to Toledo to help repair it. When Prohibition was repealed in April of 1933, they were set free, and they headed back to Canada with many handshakes and expressions of friendship. It’s a fun little detail, but I haven’t been able to confirm it in any of the newspaper accounts, so I’m not sure it’s true.
Even without that detail, though, it’s a remarkable tale — one of the most audacious jailbreaks in history, perpetrated by one of the most colorful gangs of rogues ever. And they probably would have gotten away with it if they’d done a better job keeping their mouths shut while preparing for it — or if they’d contented themselves with just breaking their friends out of jail and left the booze alone.
But it’s worth mentioning that the whole caper could easily have gone bad — very bad. If the state cops had arrived in Toledo just 20 minutes earlier, there’s a real possibility that a gangland-style firefight would have broken out with the two gunmen in the Buick coupe. If that had happened, people would have been killed — probably some or all of the cops, possibly several of the jailbreakers.
It’s interesting to contemplate how history might have changed if those cops had left Portland just a few minutes earlier.
On the other hand, the gunmen in the Buick are like ghosts in this story; they’re mentioned in the newspaper stories, but they get away and no one seems the least bit interested in figuring out who they were or where they went with their sinister machine guns. The fact that of all the vehicles used in this story, only theirs has a brand-name attached to it, is also suspicious; when people are making up stories, they often add such “telling details” to enhance believability.
In any case, the story of the fast car full of machine-gun gangsters that disappears into the night and is never heard from again has a distinctly suspicious flavor to it. It’s exactly the kind of thing authorities might make up to drive home a message about what tough, desperate characters these bootleggers were. So, maybe it's all just so much “Reefer Madness”-style hot air.
We’ll probably never really know!