Being the titular head of the Lansdale Police Department offers me a glimpse into the darker side of our lovely Borough. While I take my responsibility seriously and crime is nothing to laugh at, there are some stories that provide a chuckle and others that trigger a hearty belly laugh. In short, it is human to err, but sometimes, one has to scratch one’s head and wonder what were these people thinking? In preparing for this blog post I decided to go back in time for these stories by interviewing those police officers who have spent more than a few years on the force, because time has a way of making light of certain situations. Just like idiotic things we did as kids that seemed downright dreadful at the time, these become the stories told around the dinner table decades later.
I started out by talking to Wally Hendricks who was the Chief of Police in Lansdale from 1961 to 1980. Wally Hendricks is now 87 years old and still has a twinkle in his bright blue eyes. He described Lansdale as a “quiet town with not much going on”, and it must have been so because he never fired a shot (well, not exactly, but I’ll come back to that), and he only drew his weapon a few times. When he started as a patrol officer in 1953, the weapon of choice was .38 Colt revolver. I asked Wally about the problematic areas of Lansdale to which he replied the area in and around 5th Street. When I prodded him a bit more about 5th Street, he diplomatically replied that those residents tended to be “exuberant”, and when I asked him to elaborate further his response was that “the residents there were exuberant with their neighbors’ wives” and very often that was the reason for domestic calls. “Did you ever get hurt in the line of duty?” I asked. Thinking for a long minute, he answered, “No. But I did have my glasses broken once during a scuffle.” Quiet town, indeed.
Knowing Wally Hendricks was the Chief of Police in the seventies, I asked him about the urban legend of the albino deer in Memorial Park being slipped LSD. “What killed them then?” I asked. Nonsense replied Wally. As there were no natural predators in Memorial Park, old age and blindness set in, and they were living a pitiful existence towards the end. Not wanting to see them suffer and keeping in mind, this was the seventies without much bureaucracy, he and the Head of the Highway Division (now Public Works) thought it would be best to end the suffering of the poor deer. With that, I will spare the reader the rest of the story and the demise of the albino deer in Memorial Park resulting in the discharge of the only bullet fired from Wally Hendrick’s .38 Colt revolver while on duty.
My next interviewee was Walter Drusedum, who served from 1953 to 1980. With the same demeanor as Wally Hendricks, of someone wizened by age, he also provided me with a few amusing stories related to his time on the LPD. One night he received a call from the old North Penn Hospital about their switchboard being torn to pieces and blood everywhere. Walter and his partner went out to the hospital and found switchboard wires in disarray and sure enough plenty of blood. Into the stairwell, they followed the trail of blood, but it slowly petered out without a trace. Exiting the stairwell and walking vigilantly along the halls, they heard moaning behind a closed door. Standing on either side of the door, Walter and his partner debated as to how to enter– quickly to subdue the perpetrator. On the count of three, they burst through the door and were blinded by bright spotlights. “What the hell are you two doing? This woman is in labor!” shouted the doctor (keep in mind that men didn’t participate in the delivery like they do today, but rather they stayed put in the waiting room). Later that night, they found the drunk sleeping outside the hospital. After questioning witnesses, Walter and his partner learned that their bloodied, mystery man was on the losing side of a fight that broke out at the Sons of Italy. Wanting to tend to his wounds, he stumbled to the hospital but finding no one at the emergency desk, he tried to figure out the switchboard to call someone. All those wires and all those drinks didn’t mix and like drunks do, he found a place to sort out all those wires and drinks on the cool grass.
I also asked Walter if he had discharged his gun. He fired two shots during his 27 years with the LPD. One Saturday night, he received a call from the station about a felony arrest warrant out for a certain car with license plate, so and so. While out on patrol near Hatfield Street just off North Broad Street, he spotted the vehicle. He turned the spotlight on the car, which then took off south on Broad Street. Away they went, speeding down Broad Street the widest and straightest boulevard in the Borough reaching speeds close to 100 miles an hour with sirens blaring. Crossing Main Street, there was a crowd on the patio of the old Rosedale Hotel (now Montellas Sports bar) cheering the chase. The chase vehicle smashed through the lowered crossing arms at the train tracks sending them flying into the air in pieces. Walter kept up. Entering Upper Gwynedd Township, the chase car lost control and spun out into the grass near Merck’s gate 3. Exiting his damaged car, the felon started running. At that point, Walter yelled stop. The felon kept running. Walter fired a warning shot well over his head. The felon kept running. Walter fired again. This time, sensing Walter was serious, the felon slowed and he laid down on the grass. Walter and his partner apprehended the felon and placed the handcuffs on him. However, when he stood up he tried to make a run for it, and his partner spun around and reached for the only thing he could, and he grabbed a thick chock of hair. But the felon kept running leaving Walter and his partner staring dumbfounded at a toupee. Fortunately, for Lansdale’s finest it’s difficult to run with one’s hand cuffed behind one’s back. The felon tripped and fell at which point he was subdued again and the toupee was re-attached, and he and his hair reunited were taken back to the Lansdale PD for processing.