Aspen History: Aspen’s first bank break-in … sort of |

Aspen History: Aspen’s first bank break-in … sort of

Aspen Historical Society
One b/w glossy photograph of the Cowenhoven Building, 1939. A Model-A Ford has just been backed into the door of the building by Erma Rogers. At the time, it was the location of the Aspen State Bank. The man at the far left of the photo is identified as Jens Christiansen, and the man third from the right is Joe Uhlrich.

“Ford driven into Aspen State Bank in freak accident Saturday evening,” reported The Aspen Times on June 23, 1938. “While two-gun sheriffs and G-men have fixed John Dillinger, Jesse James, the Younger Brothers, ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly and other notorious ‘bank buster-inners’ either behind bars — or with their toes straight up — Pitkin county officers were forced to turn their attention to another kind of ‘bank-buster’ Saturday evening — a Ford, no kiddn’— the kind that Henry makes. Fords are well known for the many things they can do, but this is the first time in history (as far as we know) that one managed to break into a bank, and what’s more ­— get out without even a scratch. At any rate it really sounds goofy — at least that’s what every Aspenite thought when he first heard it — but when he saw the real thing with his own eyes — he just had to believe it. It was Aspen’s first bank break in — and the whole town turned out to see it. And how did it happen? Well, that’s hard to say. Everyone has a different tale, so here’s ours. Mrs. Irma Sallee, of Main Street, borrowed a Ford coupe from a friend, Glen Gillespie. After completing her shopping she attempted to back the machine a little from the curb before driving forward. The car lurched backward and the driver evidently became confused with the controls — and stepped on the gas instead of the brake. With the motor wide open the machine dashed backward, cut across the street, over the curb and right up the five bank steps and thru the heavy doors. When the car came to a stop the front wheels were on the first step leading into the bank with the rear wheels in the bank lobby. Courtesy Patrolmen who investigated the mishap arrested Mrs. Sallee on several traffic counts and she was fined $37.50 in justice court. The car’s owner was ordered to pay all costs of repairing the bank doors.”