Chapter I - Beginnings
Call me the narrator.
As Jason Bell’s older brother I’m the only one who knows him and can tell his story. And who hasn’t heard of him and longed to hear the story of a man who could get away with damn near anything while at the same time capture the public’s imagination as no criminal has ever done since Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd back in a time when the world was brand new, when all hearts were young and gay whether or not they had a dime to their name or a roof over their heads.
Times were hard but most people endured, and many did with good humor. The economic collapse was widely blamed on banks, mortgage companies, stock brokers and financial institutions generally and from this it was only logical for people to blame the banks for the shape they were in, and to regard anyone who boldly and successfully stole from banks as a kind of hero. During Jason’s days of glory people weren’t in such dire straits. At least at this point in time he and his gang of merry men and women haven’t achieved the enviable status of folk hero, and my hope is that by writing the truth about him it will go a long way towards changing the public perception.
I was the third to see Jason, after our mother and father drove him home from Lankenaw Hospital in Montgomery County Pennsylvania in their 1941 Packard that they’d recently purchased.
It was clear to me from the start that both Jason and that vehicle were both “bad to the bone” and yet not entirely devoid of redeeming and endearing qualities. One thing I clearly recall about my brother was his extremely early interest in guns and in playing cops and robbers and soldiers
In 1945 the year of Jason’s birth the huge and wasteful war was winding down. On Monday, August 6, 1945 the nuclear bomb “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima by the American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, That was a mere month before Jason was pulled from his mother’s womb. America had entered the nuclear age The headlines of the Knoxville News proclaimed “A-Bomb Staggers Nips”. The words “atom” and “atomic” became part of every American’s vocabulary. Rarely does one hear those words anymore. More likely you’ll hear terms like “cyber” “digital”, or “email”. But in those days everything was "atomic" and the piolets who dropped the A-bomb were heroes..
Jason’s longtime friend whom he called John “Bloomsday” Socia who would later become part of the crew was born in eleven years earlier. It was the year of The United States Trust Company theft occurred December 14, 1934, when $590,000 in United States Treasury Bills was taken from the offices of the United States Trust Company in New York City. It's interesting to note that John was born within a few blocks of the notorious robbery.
I can’t say what influence this had on Jason’s later life, but our dad worked in a big city bank in the very heart of Philadelphia. He’d take the train called the Paoli Local every weekday from our town of Narberth into the heart of the city. It was about a twenty minute ride and our dad, like most men, read the Philadelphia Inquirer or “Evening Bulletin” while the train rattled, lurched and swayed along the steel rails until it stopped to disgorge passengers at Suburban Station.
It wouldn’t be too long before Jason and his pals would be taking the same rocking rolling train ride into “town” in search of backdated girlie magazines, Jazz records, and corrosive laboratory chemicals at Willimas Browne and Earl.
Speaking for Jason I’d have to say that we were fortunate in having a parent who was willing to work at a job he probably didn’t like much in order to support a family. In the 27 years he worked for the company I never remember him missing even one day, regardless of wind, snow, hail, act of God, or a rising creek. I have little doubt that if asked today, almost all of the former neighborhood kids would say the same of their dads. I don’t think its an exaggeration in any respect to say that the guys who went off to fight the great War in 1941-44 were the best, the brightest, and the bravest
Nonetheless, It took Jason a long time to accept our dad’s going off to work five days a week. He just didn’t understand, and when he finally understood what a bank was and that dad worked at a bank Jason had nothing good to say about them. He blamed them for his father’s absence and even at the tender age of eight or nine he vowed to get even and someday settle the score. When he and his mates played cops and robbers Jason would invariably want to be the one pointing his cap gun at the bank teller, his face covered by our mother’s old scarf.
Hear War Without frontiers