Held Hostage

My grandpa has been telling this story for years–the story of how he and my Grandma, Grace, were held hostage in 1966.  My grandpa told this rendition of the story at gathering at my house after my grandma’s funeral.  Close family and friends listened and contributed to the story.  Not only is this story somewhat of a legend in my family, the telling of this story also demonstrates some of the traditions surrounding wakes and funerals.

He claims this is the “condensed” version.

I was working in insurance.  And we’d all kind of meet up for lunch at a bowling alley. I was on my way to meet some of my friends.  I turned the corner and all the sudden a squad car cuts me off.  “Get out!” They had a gun.  

I thought they were policemen but they were Federal Bank Robbers.  They took my car and got me in the car too.  There were four of them. They had escaped from Cook Country Jail.  There were two young punks in the back seat and two other guys.  So they are driving around my car and don’t know what to do.  Two of the guys found another driver, jumped him, and dropped out.  So these two guys are with me and don’t know what to do.  And we somehow ended up at my house.  They were using it as a hideaway.  

Grace [his wife] was in the kitchen, feeding the kids lunch.  So I told her what happened to me. And I told her to not alarm the kids.  Just tell them these two guys are friends of mine.  

So they came in the house.  And the kids went back to school.  They were just killing time all day long.  The guys had a gun and Grace asked him to put the gun on top of the fridge.

They didn’t like like Grandma’s cooking.  They stayed all day and didn’t eat.  

When the kids got home from school, they couldn’t watch TV. “Which was really weird because when we got home from school we would always watch Dark Shadows,” my mom interrupted. They couldn’t watch because the escapists were all over the news.  

They were gonna take me with them so I tried to use my salesmen skills.  I was thinking there might be a shoot out and they’ll be killed.  So I said, Why don’t you just tie us up? So I sent all the kids over to my neighbor’s house.  And I asked to borrow her car. I told her mine broke down and I had some business to sort out. So she said, Oh sure.  They didn’t want to drive my car.  

So the plan was thy were going to tie Grace and I up.  They used curtains. “They were going to take the living room curtains but Grandma had just sewn new ones.  So you told them to use the basement ones” my sister supplied.

They tied us up real good.  On the bed.  I told one guy, This is the closest I’ve been to my wife in a month.  They wanted to gag us.  And I said, I’m gonna choke.  So I said, We’re on the corner–no one is going to hear us yell.  So they didn’t gag us.  

They wanted to take some new clothes so I talked them out of taking one of my new suits.  “What about the money?” my aunt asked.  At that time Prudential did a lot of collection in sales.  So I had about $500.00 in cash 20 bucks of my own.  One of the guys asked how much of the cash was min. And I said, Oh about $20.  So he put $20 on the table and took the rest.  

And then they took off.  

It took me about an hour to chew the rope.  Immediately I called the Lyons Police.

Then all hell broke loose.  There were policemen and reporters everywhere.   

So one guy had a girlfriend in New York. So they figured they were going to fly out of O’Hare.  But they ditched the car at O’Hare and then stole a cab.  For some reason they decided to double back and drive towards Indiana. And they were very nervous.  All of the sudden a county squad car passed them and noticed they were nervous looking.  So he pulled these guys over and got them.  

And one of the strange things about it–the cop who had pulled them over–about two or three weeks before that I had tried to sell him some insurance.  

About three days later I got a telephone call from New York.  It was one of the thief’s girlfriends.  She apologized for all the trouble that he had caused us.   

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Caption reads: Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Copp and their six children Tuesday in their home at 7944 W. 46th St., Lyons, where they were held as hostages for eight hours Monday by two fugitives from County Jail. “You read about things like this in the paper or see them in the movies, but it doesn’t seem real” said Mrs. Copp.  The children, from left: Cindy, 1; Karen, 8; John (on floor), 5; Jay, 7; Kathy, 6; and Carol, 3.

This story has been told so many times that it seems like a legend.  It is a a way to remember an actual crazy story of being held hostage but also practices of my mother and her siblings in their youths: going home for lunch, watching Dark Shadows every day, playing at the neighbors, etc.