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Red Howard Recalls Star Theater Riot As Top Event In 40 years With Police - Veteran of Department Retires

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Veteran Of Department Retires:

Red Howard Recalls Star Theater Riot As Top Event In 40 Years With Police

By David M. Reed

Forty years ago, on a September afternoon in 1907, a red-headed, six-foot-two Irishman, named Marland Glen Howard buckled on for the first time the police harness that he will fold and lay away on Monday—the eve of his retirement from the Ann Arbor police force.

On that same day four decades past, after darkness fell, the then 29-year-old Officer Red Howard, newly-appointed as a special policeman, set out for his first tour of duty—the "graveyard patrol" of Ann Arbor's North Side.

If the harness issued by the police department sat unfamiliarly, on his burly frame, Red salved any self-conscious misgivings with a mental inventory of his physical equipment. This included a set of muscles impressively developed by nine years of handling bulk groceries for the old Miller & Smith Grocery at Catherine and Main Sts. (a job he secured at the age of 11—topped off by another nine years as a piano and bureau-wrangler for the C. E. Godfrey Moving Co..

However, Red encountered not a single evil-doer on his first tour of duty. It was quite a while before the piano-wrestling technique could be tried out.

A ‘Dragging’ Case

Asked about his sensations at the time he nabbed his first offender, Red replied that he didn’t remember very clearly. "I was busy,” he explained. "There wasn’t any paddy-wagon those days. We used to have to either walk ’em into the station-house or drag ’em in by the heels, As I remember it, my first one was a "dragging case.”

The dean of Ann Arbor’s Police Department was born more than 68 years ago, Dec. 8, 1878, in Saline. He was the son of John Linus Howard, a farm produce merchant who moved to Ann Arbor when Red was a small child, and settled his family in a house on Hiscock St.

Red quit school and took the first of the total of three jobs he has held in a lifetime of continuous work, in 1889. Fourteen years later, in 1903, he was married to Rose Galligan, who died shortly before the 40th anniversary of the couple’s wedding.

Two daughters and two sons were born to Red and Mrs. Howard. They are Rosanna, now Mrs. Thomas Ingram; Mary Ellen, now Mrs. Wayne Dwyer; and Edward and Marland Howard.

Sgt. Howard’s recollections of the vicissitudes of police duty are so numerous and interesting as to make the necessary choice of highlights a particularly difficult problem.

Eight Chiefs And Two Wars

His service under eight city marshals and police chiefs, starting with the late Jack Kenny and ending with incumbent Casper N. Enkemann, has extended through eight presidential administrations and 13 city mayoralties. Meanwhile, two world wars have contributed to a march of events and change of customs seldom equaled in history.

Stressing practical advances, for example, Sgt. Howard recalls a form of "wireless” employed by the police department back in the days of Roosevelt I, which was thought especially ingenious.

“Not many of the merchants had telephones in those days,” Red explains, “so most of them, on recommendation of the police, kept short iron bars or pieces of pipe hanging in a handy spot. In case something went wrong, they would call the police by running out of the store and hammering on the metal hitching-posts that were at all the downtown curbs.”

Sgt. Howard also recollects the installation of an electric signal light (having nothing to do with traffic) at Main and Huron Sts. “That was the last word in modern equipment,” Red says. "It was controlled from headquarters by the desk sergeant—and when it a flashed red the patrolman on the beat near Main and Huron had to run up to the station-house to find out what was cookin’.”

It’s to be presumed that Red more than held his own in these dashes back to the station—since for many years he was known as the swiftest (as well as the heaviest) sprinter on the force. By the way, careful "slimming” during recent years has reduced Red’s avoirdupois to a mere 220 pounds. He used to weight 310.

In the matter of events, Sgt. Howard declares his ruggedest experience as a rookie patrolman came with the outbreak of the historic Star Theater riot on the night of March 17, 1908.

Theater Torn Apart

"That was St. Patrick’s Day—but not mine,” says Red. "I was one of Ann Arbor’s total police force of eight men. The University students, at least a couple of thousand of them, took the whole insides out of that old movie theater—it was on E. Washington just back of where the First National Building is now.

"The trouble started after a theater worker who was reading subtitles to the show was interrupted by a student. He pinned the student's ears back and socked another student who interfered—and the row was on.

"Before long more students came down from the campus and ripped out all the seats, smashed the organ, and tore down the curtain. There were three wagon-loads of bricks piled across from the theater—and those kids heaved every one of them before things quieted down.

"We managed to jail about 70 of the rioters,” Red concluded, "and their friends went around the campus with tin pails next day and collected money enough to spring the lot.”

Another event that Sgt. Howard says he’ll never forget was the demolition of the old Farmers & Mechanics Bank Building by a runaway interurban freight train that ran wild down the W. Huron St. hill the night of Aug. 5, 1927, jumped the tracks at the Main St. turn, and crashed into the bank structure on the corner.

"I was on patrol right near the scene,” Sgt. Howard says. "Never heard such a noise before nor since. Everything shook, and two fellows eating at the counter in Prochnow's Restaurant were knocked right off their stools onto the floor!"

Changed Badges In 1937

A third event, mentioned not because Red lays emphasis on it, but rather because it represents a real milestone in his career as a police officer, came July 1, 1937, when he formally assumed the rank of sergeant and laid aside the patrolman's badge that he had worn for upwards of 30 years.

Sgt. Howard recalls that he was on vacation when the Police Commission put his promotion through. The department notified him by telegraph—and he admits that he was a little nervous when he returned to don the insignia of his new rank.

His advancement never relegated him entirely to a desk, however—for he was still assigned to part-time duty on the beats, where he gave first instruction to all new-comers on the force.

Since Mrs. Howard died, in 1943, Red has taken more comfort in his cottage at Crooked Lake than in the home at 410 W. Washington St. where the couple lived together for more than 30 years.

He’s going to take even fuller advantage of his cottage as soon as his daily police routine has ended, he declares.

"Retirement they call it, and retirement it’s going to be—for at least three months," says Red. "I aim to rest up for about that length of time.”

"Then maybe I’ll go into a little business of some kind,” he adds, "It’ll seem pretty funny—being out of harness after all those years.”

Sgt. Marland G. (Red) Howard
“It’ll Seem Funny—Being Out Of Uniform”