Only a few homeowners were living on the 1700 block of Harvard Ave in early 1929. Gaskell Romney (Mitt Romney’s grandfather) had built the earliest homes on the west end. Residents had moved in while nearby homes were still under construction. It was during this time, on a Thursday night according to the Salt Lake Telegram, that the “Match Prowler” struck…
Czar Winters (1709 Harvard) was a lawyer who worked downtown in the Walker Building. He was the first to call and report to the police that something was amiss. Not only did he notice burnt matches on the floor of his new home, but items were missing too.
The match prowler had stolen a suit, a flashlight, and MONEY! 75 cents, to be exact.
Across the street, M.Ross Richards (1710 Harvard) had to work a bit late Thursday night. He didn’t make it home until 11pm. He was the Manager at Richards-Barlow Motor Company. It was a great industry to be working in. The rise of the private automobile was giving way to a transportation revolution. Everybody wanted to own a car. When Ross finally got home he didn’t notice anything missing, but he did find “evidence of prowling.”
Ross remembered that his friend, Ben Richie, had asked Ross to keep an eye on his house for him while he was out of town. Ben was the Managing Director for the Great Western Film Library. His home was conveniently located right nextdoor (1716 Harvard). Investigation showed the Richie home had also been entered, but nothing was taken. (Could the police and Ross really know nothing was taken from Ben’s?)
The police felt confident it was the same prowler. All three homes had a trail of burnt matches.
Reading the Telegram, I wondered about the wives. Where were Margaret Winters and Algie Richards while their husbands were at work and their homes were being burglarized? The newspaper doesn’t mention them at all. I imagine Grace Richie was traveling with her husband. Wonder if they ever went to Hollywood? Or knew any famous cowboy actors?
Well, it seems almost cartoonish now– the image or a burglar using matches to make his way through a dark house. But what I like about this story is that this is the first documented evidence (and not the last) that I’ve found of “neighbors looking out for each other” on this one little block in Yalecrest. Nice.