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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Eastern Washington: ‘Big Mac,’ a notorious safe-cracker, shared his surprising thoughts on booze and the tragic origin story of his life of crime

 (S-R archives)
(S-R archives)

J. Walker “Big Mac” Pleczonka declared from his jail cell that “booze and robbing banks don’t go together.”

He should know. He was a professional yegg-man (safe cracker), who was arrested near Ritzville when he and his bank-robbing pals skidded their car off a highway. Police found 2 ounces of nitroglycerine explosives in Big Mac’s shirt pocket, along with burglary and safe-cracking tools.

“How they escaped without being blown to atoms in the wreck is a miracle,” the sheriff said.

It wasn’t clear whether Big Mac had been drinking when the wreck happened, but he believed booze was a problem in his chosen career.

“The reason so many yeggs are failing these days is because they are mixing with bootleggers,” Big Mac said. “ … I’m a firm believer in Prohibition and the stricter it is enforced the safer and more profitable my profession will be.”

Big Mac, 25, said he had been a student at the University of California, but he turned “crooked” after he was arrested and jailed for what he said was a bogus burglary charge.

“It broke my mother’s heart,” he said. “And I, embittered by the injustice and ashamed to ever go home again, and drilled in crook lore in the penitentiary, decided I would get even with the law for what it had done to me.”

From the medical beat: A Wilbur farmer was at Sacred Heart Hospital, dying of tick fever.

He said he had been bitten “hundreds of times” by ticks in the past, without ill effect. But recently two or three tick bites started to swell, and he went to the doctor.

His condition worsened, and he was now in a delirious state.

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