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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Eastern Washington: A couple spent all night with gun-toting bank robbers as they waited for an automatic safe to unlock

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

“Keep still or we will blow both of your heads off.”

That’s what a gunman told Clarence Ostrum and his wife while robbing the Addy State Bank.

This was not an ordinary bank robbery.

It began at 12:30 a.m. when the gun-wielding trio accosted the Ostrums outside their garage in Addy, Washington, north of Chewelah. The Ostrums were returning home from an auto ride. The gunmen forced them into a car and drove them out into the country a few miles. They told Ostrum, the bank’s cashier, that they were going to take him to the bank and force him to open it.

Ostrum told them that they were “out of luck.” The safe, he said, was protected by a time lock and he could not open it until 7:30 a.m. The robbers talked among themselves and said they were willing to wait.

At 7:30 a.m., the gunmen took him to the bank and compelled him to open the bank and the safe. They ordered him to give them all of the cash, which amounted to about $4,500. The robbers forced the couple back into their auto at gunpoint, “while residents of the town looked on.”

That’s when they threatened to blow the Ostrums’ heads off.

The robbers sped south. About 4 miles south of Valley, they left the Ostrums on the side of the highway and raced away.

Ten minutes later, the Ostrums were discovered by a passing motorist. They were “in a somewhat nervous condition,” the motorist reported.

Two posses were on the lookout for the robbers, who were said to be “heavily armed.”

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