Friday, February 24, 2012

Stop Thief!!

Stop! Thief!

My mother, Maxine, died two years ago today. I posted this on my Facebook page and decided to write another “Maxine” story. The first thought that crossed my mind was when someone snatched Maxine’s purse….so that is the one that I will write.
Anyone who knew Maxine knew that she liked to shop.

  Whenever she would visit friends or relatives for a weekend, she would need a new outfit. She wasn’t like some people who buy a lot of clothes and never wear them. She just never had to wear the same outfit for weeks. She also liked to shop for fabric which she used in sewing more clothes…designing her own patterns or changing patterns she bought so that all of her clothing had the “Maxine Touch.”

One early evening my mother and her friend, Betty, drove to Franklin Park Mall. They often returned empty handed, but made sure to enjoy a treat while out….usually a hot fudge sundae. Betty stopped by my mother’s house as she was the one who usually drove. Maxine was not comfortable with her own driving skills (this is a whole different story….her driving escapades) so Betty wisely chose to be the driver. Mother had only gotten her driver’s license after my father died….she was 67 at the time. (This does not count the short time she had her license in Indiana when we lived in the country and I remember at the young age of five crouching on the floor of the back seat praying that we would make it home in one piece.)
Maxine and Betty

So, back to the story. Betty and Maxine were out for the evening. By the time they got back to Maxine’s house, it was dark. This was not unusual as they never felt unsafe, even though many women their age might want to be home before dark. They were both in their mid-seventies…Betty two years older than Maxine.

Betty drove up the short driveway; Maxine got out of the car and turned to walk up the steps to the house. With no sound to warn her, someone came from behind, grabbed her purse, ran down the drive, jumped into a waiting car and sped away. Mother screamed.

   “I never thought I could make such a scary, guttural sound come out of my mouth,” she would say later. “I’m sure I sounded like some wounded or trapped animal. I must have screamed out all of my fear because the next thing I remember is jumping back in the car, looking at Betty and saying, ‘STEP ON IT!’ as she was wheeling out the drive.”

“Let’s get ‘em!” Betty said as she kept her eyes on the tail lights in the distance….hands gripping the steering wheel, and leaving rubber as she put the car in drive and began the chase.

“Don’t get too close, or they will know we are following them!” Maxine said. “Oh no! They just turned. We can’t lose them!”

Betty turned, gunning the car so that she would not be stopped at the light that was just turning yellow. And it is here that I would love to embellish the story with a car chase through the streets of Toledo…but I can’t. It would not be right to change the story (although, I think Maxine might have made it a bit more exciting). What you read is what really happened.

They were approaching another light and the thieves were going to get stuck at the light too…still unaware that they were being followed by two “little old ladies.”

“What should I do, Maxine? Should I ram them…smash into their car?”

“Oh my, no! You can’t ruin your car. Sneak up slowly and let’s get their license tag number. You remember the letters and I will remember the numbers.”

And…this is what they did. The light turned green and they watched the thieves drive away. Betty returned to the scene of the crime, where mother’s neighbor, Harriett ran out her door to see what had happened. She had heard mother scream, but by the time she had opened her door, she only saw Betty’s car speeding down the road.

Mother began to shake as the realization of what had happened returned to her. Harriett and Betty walked her into the house where they called the police.

A policeman arrived, took down the information. He said that there had been other such purse snatching incidents…that the thieves would follow women as they left the mall and one would get out of the car, grab the purse while the other was in the getaway car. He gave instructions of what mother should do and expect. She was not to go pick up her purse or any of its contents if someone called to say it had been found. She was to tell the person that she could only pick it up at the police station…that the police would come to get it.

In the next month, two people found items from mother’s purse…her license and some credit card and billfold with no money in it. The police told mother that they traced the license tag of the car and found that it belonged to someone who said he had loaned his car to some friends that night. Mother thought that that would be the end of the investigation and was glad to at least have her license and credit cards.

Two months later, Mother got a call that said that the thief had been apprehended. There was nothing else that she needed to do, but they wanted to inform her. Soon after, she received a letter from the police department. I don’t know the exact wording, but this is part of what it said.

“Although we are grateful for the information you gave us to apprehend the two men who stole your purse, we do not encourage citizens to take such risks as you did.”

I know she kept the letter, and I will probably find it as I finish unpacking all of the boxes I still have stacked in the closet. She was quite proud that she and Betty probably saved someone else from getting robbed by these two men. Betty and Mother would often tell this story…laughing at the split second it took to decide whether they should ‘RAM ‘EM’ or not. I’m glad they chose to take down the license tag number…but I, too, am proud that my mother and Betty had the courage to act and be a part of catching those two purse snatchers.

This story is in memory of Maxine, who died two years ago today, and Betty who died earlier this year at the age of 94. Two incredible women with lots of spunk, energy and adventure…especially on that eventful night.


  1. Jackie,
    Spunk and energy seem to run in the family. ;o) I love the stories you have of your mom. I can just imagine these two chasing the car through the streets. These stories are a great way to honor such a wonderful lady. Thanks for sharing them.


  2. I'm very impressed by your mother and Betty's response to the situation. I don't think I'd have the guts to do what they did.

    Another well-written story, Jackie!