Advance Bank Robbery

Bank of Advance c 1973I love it when a story gets more interesting than anticipated. I found a photo of the Bank of Advance from around 1973, before a fire turned the two-story building into a single-story one. I figured I’d locate a recent photo, throw in a few dates, then go to bed.

Ruth Millington, writing in Advance, Missouri, A Look at the First Hundred Years, gave me the easy stuff: the bank was chartered January 30, 1902. It’s first home was in a small frame building that later became Moore’s Feed and Seed Store. It moved from there into a small brick building which is the present site of Morgan Funeral Home.

Building erected in 1906

Park - Prather Building - Advance BankThis photo shows the Prather Building, which housed my grandfather’s liquor store. The former bank building on the right was built in 1906 by Lon Goodman, postmaster at the time. The bank was located there until it moved in 1972.

Defective wiring caused fire

The Nov. 7, 1982 Bulletin-Journal carried a photo and a story about the fire at the former bank building. Firemen from six departments managed to contain the fire to the roof, attic and second floor of the building. “Many businesses closed their doors to allow their workers to assist firemen, or employees trying to remove property from Connie’s Hair Hut and Advance Realty, located in the burning building, and the Clothes Hanger, located near the bank building, after it was feared the fire might spread.

Advance Fire Chief George Green said the fire was probably caused by defective wiring in the attic. In addition to the two businesses on the ground floor, there were two occupied apartments on the second floor. The building was owned by Ruth Millington, chairman of the board of the Bank of Advance.

Bank was robbed twice

Downtown AdvanceMillington wrote that the bank was robbed twice: the first was May 27, 1959, when three men made off with about $18,000. They were quickly apprehended. On Oct. 15, 1962, a lone bandit made off with about $9,000. He was arrested about a year later. HE’S the one who caught my eye.

When Claudine Lorch retired from the bank after 35 years, she said she had been present for both bank robberies. “Once,” she said, “was quite enough.”

This photo was taken Nov. 15, 2010.

Second robbery was most interesting

The Missourian’s August 26, 1963, front page carried three stories about Richard B. Partridge, later convicted of robbing banks in Advance and Chaffee. He was the 38-year-old Jackson high school music director and director of the Jackson Municipal band. What was left of the loot was recovered from a strongbox in his high school locker.

An interview with Partridge said he picked the two banks because he thought they would be easy targets and because they were close enough to home that he would be gone by the time police could set up dragnets. He scouted the banks a couple of days before the robbery, then forced the employees into the bank’s vault while brandishing an unloaded gun. He left it unloaded because he didn’t want to take a chance on shooting anyone by accident, he said. He closed the vault doors, but didn’t lock the employees in the safe.

They weren’t music lovers

Jackson Band Concert 07-11-2013I loved the paper’s account of his capture. Partridge said the the first inkling he had that he might be suspected of the crimes was Thursday night while the Jackson Municipal Band concert was in progress. He turned to face the audience between numbers and saw John Crites, Cape County sheriff, State Trooper Robert Mouser and State Trooper Sgt. Glenn Lampley as well as a number of strange people in the audience.

Partridge said he did not believe Sheriff Crites or Troopers Mouser and Lampley were music lovers and could not recall seeing the strangers at previous band concerts.

He said when the concert was over and the three officers did not leave, he was sure they had connected him with the robberies. He was arrested in minutes.

[Editor’s note: this Jackson band concert photo was taken in 2013. So far as I know, nobody in the photograph is guilty of bank robbery.]

Sentenced to 12 years in federal pen

A Missourian story on Jan. 7, 1964, said Partridge was being taken to Terre Haute, Ind., to begin serving two concurrent 12-year sentence for the two bank robberies. He would be eligible for parole in four years. Richard FitzGibbon, Jr., U.S. attorney, said Terre Haute was “not as tough as Levenworth or Atlanta,” and one at which many income tax evaders serve their sentences. The government attorney said the prison has a band and thought it probable that Partridge’s musical background will admit him to prison routine adequately. [That’s certainly a confusing sentence, even though I gather what the attorney was trying to say.]

Band celebrated 75th anniversary in 1995

Jackson Band Concert 07-11-2013A story on the Jackson Municipal Band celebrating its 75th anniversary provided some other tidbits:

  • Leroy McNeely joined the band in 1924, at age 15, and was a member of the band for 65 years. After the band played the National Anthem, McNeely was sitting a few feet away with his clarinet when they arrested his band leader.
  • The “strangers” in the crowd were likely bank employees who were brought in to ID the robber.
  • After Partridge served his sentence, he returned to Jackson, where he worked for Lenco, Inc. He died in 1989.

[Editor’s note: these folks have no connection to the bank robbery, either.]


16 Replies to “Advance Bank Robbery”

  1. Ken, I did an update on these stories for the North Stoddard Countian several years ago, when I interviewed Alma Masheck, who was a teller when the bank was robbed the first time. She had all the clippings and had kept up with the fate of the band director. Both stories were fascinating!
    The first story is actually just as interesting as the second, in a sort of Comedy of Errors fashion. According to a waitress at the cafe in Arab, MO (west of Advance), the three bank robbers were discussing their plans and even were so foolish as to ask her how far it was from Advance to the state line. That stood out in her mind, so she could later identify them.
    They went to Paul Corbin’s store in Advance to buy the sunglasses they wore (with trenchcoats) to rob the bank. How inconspicuous was that?? It was customary back then for old men to sit playing checkers in the town square, and they saw the whole thing. Advance had a population of about 650 back then, so everybody noticed everything.
    The three ne’er’ do wells cut the phone lines, robbed the bank, and took off for what was then called Illmo-Fornfelt (now Scott City). Alma ran wildly over to Corbin’s store to use the phone to call police.
    As the men traveled Hwy 25 to escape, they were noticed by a farmer, plowing his field.
    When they reached Illmo, they hid the loot in an old shed, guarded by a dog.
    Needless to say, it didn’t take long for the authorities to find them, recover the money, and send them off to prison. Alma kept clippings from the subsequent newspaper reports. I remember one of the bank robbers looking so clean cut & innocent, with his blond flat-top hair cut. He looked the same, only older, when he was released from prison.
    On the band director robbery, a resident of Advance had a news photo of him being put into a police car in handcuffs. In the background, she was standing on the sidewalk, a child, watching. Fascinating!!
    I enjoyed your story and the photos from angles that I had never seen. Thanks, Ken!

  2. There have been few successful bank robberies in Southeast Missouri (success = culprit(s) not being apprehended) since the creation of the Missouri Highway Patrol in 1931.

  3. Great story. I knew of the robberies but I’d not heard about the musician. The scene plays better than the movie with 76 Trombones.

  4. I think John Crites WAS the ultimate sheriff…Tall at 6′ 4″, big at 250 pounds plus, and with a Smokie the Bear hat, he is a very imposing man. My dad has been friends with him for years and John Crites still can be seen at the Elks Club in Cape on Friday nights having dinner. The Band director was correct, John does not look like a music lover.

  5. Bud Mashek once told me, “It isn’t easy living with a woman who’s been robbed at gunpoint! It took years for her to get over it. I had to put new locks on all the doors!”
    Claudine Lorch said she knew that Partridge SAW them in the audience–and he knew the jig was up!

  6. When a drawing of the robber appeared in the Missourian the kids in Jackson came up to Mr Partridge laughing at how it looked like him!!

  7. Ken: I grew up at Advance and lived there until I was 34 years old. I knew you grandfather and grandmother,
    Roy and Else Welch. I also knew you father and mother. I remember the 1st Advance Bank robbery. I was working at my brother’s service station, had gone home for lunch and was on my way back to work. My Uncle Shug Rhodes owned a 1956 three tone (painted 3 colors—there were not many sold). I was on Cypress Sreet in front of your grandparents’ home and this 1956 3-tone Dodge car, just like my Uncle’s, turned north on Cypress Street meeting me. I assumed it was my Uncle’s car and my cousin, Kenneth Rhodes who is a bout 4 years older than me, was driving it. So I acted foolish and steered my car to the left into the oncoming car’s lane and then quickly back into my lane. When I was even with the Dodge, I noticed it was not my cousin who was driving it. The bank robber was circling the block while the other two men were robbing the bank. I went to work at the service station which was across the street from the High School building. Suddenly the three colored Dodge sped by the station with three people in it. A few minutes later, a Highway Patrol car came by the station heading toward the bank. The car appeared to have an over heated engine, because steam was coming from it. I still did not know the bank had been robbed. I told the police about the Dodge, but no one seemed to pay any attention to me. Later I found out that I was play chicken with a bank robber. Donald Rhodes

    1. Donald, thanks for the update. This story just keeps getting better and better.

      The lesson to take away from this is to not rob a bank in a small town where everybody knows everybody.

  8. I thought Clauding Lorch recognized the bank robber band teacher at a band concert. Donald Rhodes

    1. Madeline,

      That’s why I say that the comments are usually better than the story. I just serve as a catalyst.

      And, no, a catalyst is NOT a piece of paper where a farmer lists his cows.

  9. Ken,
    I’m doing a North Stoddard County feature story on Jerrie Berry, who retired from the Bank of Advance in 2007, after 50 years. She was the teller, when Partridge robbed the bank, but she couldn’t remember the year–and neither could I–so I googled it!
    Voila! Up comes your continuing drama!!!! I’m so glad you made your list of cows on this piece of history!!!

  10. Madeline, my first “real” job was at The Bank of Advance – during the late 1960s.
    Jerrie Berry took me under her wing. She is a wonderful woman and was a great mentor.
    Claudine asked me if I would be interested in working part time at the bank when I was in high school. The bank had not yet entered the computer age. Everyone used “counter checks” and they were cancelled manually by using a machine that perforated each check with the date it cleared the account and the word “Paid.”
    Each account had a paper ledger sheet and after the bank closed at 3, we would pull two small carts containing the ledger sheets (in alphabetical order) into the back room.
    We sat in front of two big posting machines. All that day’s documents were consolidated into alphabetical stacks (by account name.) We would pull the appropriate ledger sheet for the check or deposit and enter the amount – the machine would print the transaction on the ledger sheet and add or subtract to the balance.
    We did not chit chat among ourselves during banking hours…conversation was kept to a minimum and was strictly work related.
    I loved working there and often wonder if I should have stayed put instead of going to college. Lots and lots of great memories for me. All the employees were appropriately attired and yes, attractive and poised. I learned what a healthy work environment should be and how to conduct myself appropriately while at work and to do my best… In my opinion, lessons that should be incorporated into business in this day and time.

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