MONDAY, MAY 29, 2017


By James Johnson

Originally printed in the Woodstock Independent
September 29, 2004

In early 1933, Dick Tracy was suspended from the police force for passing counterfeit bills. His crime-fighting efforts had curtailed the activities of the city’s crooks, and a pickpocket named Stooge Viller came up with a plan to discredit the detective. When Tracy took Junior to a department store to buy some new clothes for the boy, they were stalked by Stooge. A master pickpocket, he stood behind Tracy in an elevator, slit open the back of Tracy’s overcoat and planted a wad of counterfeit money. He also placed a few bills in Tracy’s side pocket. When Tracy bought several items, he unknowingly used the phony bills. After observing the purchases, Stooge went to the store clerks, pretended to be a police officer and said he was after a man and boy passing bad money. The store clerks checked the bills and discovered they were fake. Alarmed, they went to police headquarters to report the crime.

Stooge then made an anonymous call to police headquarters saying that Tracy was a counterfeiter. When Tracy later went to HQ, he was confronted by the irate store people. Chief Brandon then found the added batch of counterfeit bills in his coat lining and told Tracy he was no longer on the police department. When Tess learned of the accusation, she lost faith in Tracy and canceled their engagement.

Stooge had taken a liking to Tess and decided to make her acquaintance. Following her car the next day, Stooge watched where she parked. He let air out of one tire on Tess’ car and then played the Good Samaritan when she returned, offering to help fix the tire (police agencies advise this trick is still used–motorists be wary). The gullible Tess was impressed and invited Stooge to lunch at her apartment. While hanging up his coat, however, she saw a piece of paper drop out. It was an incriminating note that Stooge had written outlining his role in framing Tracy. Tess was shocked and tried to telephone Tracy or Chief Brandon. Stooge realized what had happened, shot the girl and left. With the scheme unraveling, Stooge hastened to blow town via train.

By chance, Tracy and Junior were at the train station. Junior saw Stooge and realized he was the suspicious character behind them in the store elevator. He told Tracy and they confronted the crook. Stooge tried to hit Junior, and Tracy, in a fury, beat Stooge and took him to HQ. Tess had been taken to a hospital and was recovering. Chief Brandon then happily reinstated Tracy.

1933 was a momentous year in American life. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as president. The Chicago Century of Progress Exposition opened. In the comic pages, Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead were married. Shirley Temple signed her first movie contract at age 5. Carl Hubbell pitched an 18-inning game, winning 1-0. It was also the height of the depression. More than 9,000 U. S. banks had failed, with many people losing their life savings. Congress created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to protect deposits through the bank insurance fund. The FDIC gave people the confidence to know their savings were safe and it continues today as an efficient regulator of the banking system.

Follow-up note: The FDIC is actively working through the current economic downturn to protect depositors’ money and keep the banking system strong. Since 1933 and still today, no depositor has ever lost a penny of an FDIC insured deposit.

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“They said he was a smart crook, but who ever heard of a bullet being afraid of brains?”
- Chester Gould
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