Daily Archives: May 4, 2015

Oran Pape is being remembered

Oran Pape. ISP PhotoThe first Iowa state trooper killed in the line of duty has not been forgotten.

Late last month on its Facebook page, the Iowa State Patrol remembered the April
 29, 1936, death of Patrolman Oran “Nanny” Pape (pictured in the Iowa State Patrol photo), who died in Muscatine County.

Pape was traveling around 5 p.m. on April 28 on former Highway 61 near Fairport when he stopped a car he believed to have been stolen. As he approached the car, the driver, Roscoe Barton, a 23-year-old parolee from Davenport, pointed a gun at Pape and ordered him into the car.

As they traveled down the highway, Pape grabbed Barton and the two men struggled. Two shots were fired.

One bullet struck Barton in the head, and he died instantly. The other went into Pape’s abdomen and groin, seriously wounding him. But he was able to stagger out of the car and hail a passing vehicle for help.

He was rushed to Hershey Hospital in Muscatine, where doctors tried in vain to save him. But he died early the next day, the first member of the patrol to die in the line of duty and the only officer murdered.

Pape’s death made national news. One reason was his past success as a star football player at Dubuque High School and the University of Iowa. He also had played football for the Green Bay Packers and was a part of the 1930 NFL championship team.

In a page one story with a headline that read “Former Grid Star Killed,” the April 30, 1936, edition of the Lancaster (Ohio) Eagle- Gazette said, “State Highway Patrolman Oran H. Pape — former University of Iowa football star who has proved as heroic in a gun battle as he was on the gridiron — succumbed early today to a wound inflicted by a bandit he killed.

“The ‘climax runner’ of the Hawkeye eleven died after an emergency operation and a blood transfusion a few hours after he slew Roscoe R. Barton, 23, in a hand to hand fight yesterday.”

Iowans donated money to Pape’s widow after his death.

“Mrs. Oran Pape, widow of the first Iowa highway patrolman to be killed while on duty, will receive over $1,000 from citizens of Iowa as a token of their sympathy,” said a wire service article that appeared in the June 19, 1936, Alton (Iowa) Democrat and other newspapers. “The fund has been collected by a Des Moines newspaper and made up of donations from hundreds of Iowa persons.”

The Iowa Highway Patrol, now known as the Iowa State Patrol, was a relatively new organization when Pape served. Pape, who had badge no. 40, was one of the 50 original troopers.

An article in the October 18, 1936, Cedar Rapids Gazette noted that the patrol first started to function Aug. 1, 1935, and that its future was up to the next Legislature.

“It is not a question of whether the patrol shall be retained—that
has been pretty thoroughly settled by the first year’s record — but concerns the problem of expanding the organization.

“Advocates of the highway patrol, persons who have watched it function during the first year of life and noticed the decrease in Iowa traffic accidents, are demanding that the present force be at least doubled.”

In 2012, the Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) and elected officials honored the legacy of Patrolman Oran “Nanny” Pape by renaming the DPS Building the Oran Pape State Office Building.
Also named in Pape’s honor that year was the westbound Iowa 80 bridge over the Cedar River at mile marker 265.

Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece was submitted as a news story to the North Scott Press, Eldridge. Iowa, and the Advocate News, Wilton, Iowa.


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Indiana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there

In April, my wife Sherry and I cleared a week’s obligations from our calendars and drove to Cheshire, Conn., to visit our oldest son, Brendan, and our grandson, Cade. They moved there last August from the St. Louis area.

Our visit was during Cade’s week-long spring break from high school, where he’s a freshman. The purpose of our being there was twofold: we wanted to see both of them and their new home, and Brendan wanted us to chauffeur Cade to his daytime baseball practices and games while he was at work.

We spent two days, April 12 and 13, driving to Connecticut. We visited the 14th through the 17th, then drove back April 18 and 19.

Gasoline prices through the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut ranged roughly from $2.29 to $2.69 per gallon. We drove my wife’s 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid because of the mileage it gets. We logged a total of 2,200 miles and averaged 50 miles per gallon.

Our journey was uneventful with one exception. We took turns driving, and I soon discovered there was sometimes a problem on toll roads when I was behind the wheel.

One sits low in the Prius, and my arms are relatively short. Taking a ticket from an attendant when entering a toll road or paying the fee to an attendant when leaving a toll road was not a problem. But we found many of the tollbooths automated. They have no live bodies at work and are monitored by surveillance cameras.

A machine spits out a ticket when you drive up to enter the toll road. Then, when you leave, a machine requires the driver to put his ticket into a slot so it can be read. Numbers pop up in a window to tell you how much money you owe, and you pay by inserting cash or swiping your credit card in the machine.

That sounds like a great system, but I had one problem. The automated machines are fairly high so semi drivers are able to use them as easily as those in passenger cars. But a fellow like me, with short arms and seated in a low car, can’t reach the machines very easily.

So I came up with a plan. When I drove up to one of those automated machines, Sherry would climb out of the passenger seat, walk in front of the car to the machine and handle the transaction.

When the crossing gate (similar to those you see at railroad crossings) went up, I’d scoot through with the car and wait on the other side for her to rejoin me.

The first time we put my plan into effect didn’t go so well. We were in Indiana, and at first all was going according to plan. But when Sherry completed the transaction and swiveled to return to the car, the crossing gate dropped quickly right in front of her. She had no time to stop and ran into it. It broke off and fell to the pavement.

There was a line of vehicles behind us, and she was in no position to make repairs. So when I looked in the rearview mirror, she was picking up the crossing gate and nonchalantly placing it alongside the lane, like this was something she did every day.

When she got back into the car, I remembered and began singing a 1970s rock song by R. Dean Taylor. It’s about a man wanted by the law, and its lyrics go, “Indiana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there.”

We never heard anything from the “crossing gate police.” So I’m guessing we’re not the first people this has happened to.

Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. Submitted as a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.