“My dad worked for Al Capone,” Darlene told me. “He even went to jail for him.” Sometimes, research for my Reminisce column uncovers another interesting story. That was the case two years ago when I was starting the Resorts with a History series. The search for a Lakewood Lodge guest register led me to Darlene Vobejda, a granddaughter of William and Mary Schultz, the proprietors of one of the oldest resorts in the area. Darlene shared a few other intriguing details about her father’s association with Capone, and I told her I would be back for that story.
It was after her father passed away, and she was helping her mother move, that Darlene came across a box of negatives. Her mother said to burn them, but, instead, Darlene had them developed in small batches. To her amazement, she found that some of the photographs supported the stories that her father had told her and her brothers, and that their mom said weren’t true. One photo is a friendly candid of Al Capone!
Darlene is the daughter of Harold “Buck” and Ruth (Fideldy) Schultz, and perhaps Ruth hoped the tales her husband told about his exploits before their courtship were just tales. Between the photographs, some of the stories, and a few facts that we have pieced together about the years he lived in Chicago.
When Schultz was 16, he decided he’d had enough of the family business and left the resort. “He was a big kid, gave his age as 18, and was hired to work in a lumber camp as a cook in the winter and the mines in the summer,” Darlene explained. “Then, jobs were hard to come by here and his older brother Henry was working in Chicago, so my Dad took a steamer across the Great Lakes to Chicago towards the end of the 1920s.”
Schultz had an outgoing personality and made friends easily. Some of his friends from Northern Minnesota were known to have visited him in Chicago. Darlene recalls her dad mentioning a young woman he knew, who was a nanny, coming to visit him. It is unclear if the woman traveled with the family from Deer River, or if she came to work in Chicago, but it was someone Schultz knew from Minnesota. “My dad liked to take pictures,” Darlene said. “He probably got the camera when he was making good money there.”
Schultz might have stayed with his brother Henry when he first arrived, but by the time the 1930 United States federal census was conducted, Henry had returned to Minnesota. Harold Schultz is clearly documented as living on 36th Street in Chicago with two other single men and employed as a laborer, with no industry identified.
“Because of the Depression, he had a horrible time finding a job there as well. That’s how come they talked him into working for Al Capone. My dad was very ambitious and did not like to sit idle.” Darlene believes that her father met with Capone even if he was recommended by someone else. It was Capone who had to decide if he was legitimately looking for work or was sent to infiltrate his operation from a rival gang or law enforcement. Schultz was always paid in cash, no time sheet, no records.
One of the jobs Darlene knows her dad was hired to do was to steal cars. Several photographs show Schultz wearing the typical uniform of an automobile mechanic and in another, he is standing in front of the Muskegon Motor Specialty Co. “I know dad worked at Muskegon Motors,” Darlene said. “He told us they would back them in the garage, grind off the car identification numbers, clean them up, re-paint them and have them in the lot for sale within a day or two.”
The company was in the town of Muskegon, about 200 miles north. Several cars could be stolen from the affluent area of Chicago at night and driven to the large garage before daybreak. A getaway car would transport the drivers back the following day. “My Dad wasn’t proud of what he was doing. He told me he drank a fifth of whiskey a day because it helped to numb his conscience.”
When the car stealing activity was being closely watched, Schultz was expected to do other jobs as they were assigned, such as robbery. “What my dad got arrested for, and what landed him in jail, was robbing a gas station.” Capone was known for paying off law enforcement, judges and even members of the jury to keep his family and those working for him out of jail.
So why did Schultz end up in jail? Darlene does not know when her father was arrested or the length of his sentence. A search of the Chicago newspapers did not provide any information, either. A careful look at what was happening for Capone during the time the lives of these two men overlaps shows that he spent a considerable amount of time under scrutiny.
It is believed Schultz arrived in Chicago in about 1928. Capone moved to Chicago from New York City and bought a house on south side in 1923. In 1928, he purchased a 14-room mansion in Florida. Here is a brief summary of Capone’s arrests:
1929, May ~ He and his bodyguard were arrested in Philadelphia for carrying concealed deadly weapons. Within 16 hours they had been sentenced to terms of one year each.
1930, March ~ He was released; served nine months with good behavior.
1931, June ~ He pled guilty to tax evasion and prohibition charges; later changed it to not guilty.
1931, October ~ He was convicted; Nov. 24 sentenced to 11 years in Federal prison; while awaiting results of appeals, confined to Cook County Jail. Upon denial of appeals, he entered the U.S. Penitentiary at Atlanta.
1934, August ~ He was moved to Alcatraz.
Based on the information at hand, it appears that the photo of Al Capone was taken either before the winter of 1928 or between his release from prison in March 1930 and his arrest in June 1931. It is likely that Schultz was arrested for the gas station robbery in 1932. This is surmised because Darlene recalls her father referring to jail and not prison. Jail is generally a sentence of less than a year. Darlene also shared that her dad told her he didn’t like being in jail at all and that it wasn’t an easy time.
Schultz’s younger brother, Levi, was killed in a tragic automobile accident in March 1933. The obituary stated that Harold was residing in Chicago. Darlene knows that her father came home for the funeral, so he would have been released from jail by that time. Following the funeral, Schultz decided to return to Northern Minnesota. He lived in a small cabin on the edge of the family’s resort.
By fall, Schultz began courting a young woman named Ruth Fideldy with a small child, and they planned to get married in January. “That winter, dad was working in a logging camp as a foreman because he had told the boss he was married. Only the married men got good jobs because of the Depression, so dad told him he was married,” Darlene explained. “One of the other guys squealed on him. He came home on a Saturday night in December and told my mother we’re going to get married.”
Ruth had her dress as the wedding was only a month away, but was concerned about arranging a Catholic morning mass on such short notice. “My dad told her, the priest at Cohasset likes whiskey and he said he would marry us tonight,” Darlene said. “He showed up at the logging camp on a Monday morning with a wife and a year-old baby. So, my dad kept his job as a foreman and my mother went to work in the camp as a cook!”
MOBSTERS IN THE NORTHLAND: I have been collecting anecdotes about the antics of mobsters during Prohibition; hiding out in the woods or just having fun in the resorts of Itasca County. With your help, someday I will have enough for an article. If you have anything to share or can direct me to a likely source, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.