Here is a news story from another time, a simpler time.
While it is very definitely Old News, the story is timeless. It involves a fast talking con man and a fraternity house full of nice guys. In the 1930’s a lot of good people were forced out of their homes and on to the Road. There were thousands of them, moving from one place to another in search of work or a new start. Often, they had no transportation so they hitchhiked from place to place. Good folks offered rides and that was not uncommon. It was just what any decent fellow might do.
This news story starts with a well-meaning former student from Wabash, let’s call him the Good Samaritan. This Wabash man offered a guy a ride and the two of them came on over to the College. Our former student had planned to visit with his friends at the Tau Kappa Epsilon house. This house was, at this time, on West Main Street and many folks might know this as the home of Eric Dean, today it is the home of Dr. Lon Porter.
Back to our story, Patrick Karney, as the hitchhiker was known to his hosts, was a very friendly fellow and quickly ingratiated himself with the students. Knowing that he had no money and was in need of a place to sleep, the guys at the house invited him to stay too. Through the use of his skills as a confidence man, Karney was soon good friends with all of the fellows.
So good was Karney at ingratiating himself that he was invited on a double date with one of the students and two local girls. After the date, the con man and several of the Wabash men sat up talking late into the night. It happened that one of the fraternity men who did not live in the house needed a lift. Karney offered to drive him home using the car of the Good Samaritan. As time passed, the students began to worry about their new friend. When two hours had gone by the students realized that Karney was long gone. Not only had he taken the Model A Ford sedan, he also threw in three suits, two overcoats, a pen and pencil set and “several other articles belonging to the ‘boys’ at the Teke house.”
A story of naiveté and misplaced trust. It is certain that these fellows learned a lot from Patrick Karney. I am sorry to say that we do not know if the car and the other items were ever recovered. Nor do we know if Karney was ever caught.
Archivist, Wabash College