On Saturday, April 19, the Stryker American Legion hosted a breakfast. This breakfast was open to the public, went from 7:00 to 10:00 in the morning, and featured quite a spread including: sausage, ham, bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, French toast, breakfast potatoes, milk, orange juice, and coffee – and it was all delicious.
After the breakfast portion of the morning was over, Bill Priest, a trustee with the Stryker Area Heritage Council, took the floor to give a presentation containing his research on a famous and accomplished journalist who also happened to be a Stryker native – Ralph Goll.
Ralph Goll was born in Stryker and it was there that he spent many of his early years. After that, he and his family moved around a little – inhabiting Swanton, Montpelier, and Nettle Lake. In his professional life, Mr. Goll lived in Toledo, Detroit, and Chicogo. Though he may be better known for his work writing for the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet radio show, Mr. Goll was a widely known and respected crime journalist of his time.
In Detroit, Mr. Goll reported on the killing of Jerry Buckley (a Detroit radio personality who had been railing against the mayor, calling him corrupt and untrustworthy on the airwaves). How the story goes is that the mayor who Jerry Buckley shouted about on his radio show lost the election. Then, later that night, Mr. Buckley was shot in the back of his head in the lobby of the hotel from which the show was broadcast.
Mr. Goll also published a story based on a Williams County murder case from way back in the day (and by way back in the day, I mean 1847). The story was called “Fiend of the Frontier” and it focused on the 1847 murder of David Shamp by local “seer” Andrew Jackson Tyler. It’s an interesting story, made only more-so because it is tied to the history of this area. This and other crime drama pieces like it that Mr. Goll wrote appeared often in “pulp” magazines of the time which specialized in such detective dramas and were often based on real events of the day or notable ones in the past.
Ralph Goll also covered the biggest school tragedy in the history of the United States. This was the bombing of a newly consolidated school in the town of Bath, Michigan on May 18 of 1927. In this tragedy, 37 students and 7 adults were killed. The culprit was the school treasurer at the time, Andrew Kehoe. To carry out his plan, Mr. Kehoe hid many stashes of dynamite throughout the school basement. After the attack, Mr. Kehoe also drove up to the school (since nobody knew it was him yet) with his car trunk full of explosives, called the superintendent over, pulled out a rifle, and fired a round into the trunk killing the superintendent, himself, and the nearby postmaster.
Perhaps Mr. Goll’s greatest story, was the one for which he received the Pal Mal award. It was given to journalists who uncover corruption or risk their lives in uncovering the truth. This story wound up freeing a man who had been falsely imprisoned for a murder crime for 27 years as well as bringing to justice the chief of detectives who had conspired to put him there. With one story, Mr. Goll, cleared a man’s name, freed him, and brought justice to a bad man. “In those days, being a crime reporter was like being a detective,” Mr. Priest said. And as evidenced by the outcome of Mr. Goll’s story, it really was.
Bobbi Scholosser, daughter of Ralph Goll, also spoke during the program. She told stories about the gangsters and bootleggers who would come up to her father’s hotel on Nettle Lake to “lay low.” She also talked about how limited her relationship was with her father due to her parent’s divorce and Mr. Goll’s lifelong battle with alcoholism. She thanked Mr. Priest for his research on her father and for how happy it makes her each time he digs up one of her father’s old stories.
Mr. Priest also issued special thanks to Jane Kelly, Kevin Maynard, Bobbi Schlosser, and Jacque Whetro as well as the Williams County Public Library, and the Local History and Genealogy Center at West Annex in Bryan.
Ralph Goll, who died in 1957 in New York City, is a shining example of the great and talented people who can be found (and have been found before) right in these little communities of ours. He was a widely published and nationally awarded journalist and writer as well as a reminder that big fish can come from small ponds. Thank you, Mr. Goll, for all of the stories you left us.