Bring on the Whiz Bang


The Security Bank was incorporated December 16, 1918, opening for business January 16, 1919, in the same one-story building which had housed its predecessors, two banks which were once described by Mrs. Stillman as “very disappointing,” a most lenient description. The first officers were T. M. Antony, President; Arthur Ovrum, Vice-president; J. W. Roche, Cashier. Mr. Roche was the sole employee, so when he left the building, it was necessary to lock the bank. Mr. T. P. Howard (who had come to Robbinsdale from Anoka in 1914, and had purchased the lumber yard) was elected president on January 4, 1921 and held the office until January, 1953. Deposits at year’s end were $127’352. Metal savings “banks” were given to early
depositors to stimulate savings.

A buggy at the bank


In January Amy Robbins Ware succumbed to exhaustion  and gave up herup her canteen at Quai d’Orsay, She was sent to the Riviera to recuperate. On April 15, 1919, she was transferred from Red Cross to army, . For four months after her recovery she was a member of the faculty of the University established for the American Expeditionary forces, and was stationed at Savenay Hospital Center, where she taught architecture, mechanical drawing, and lettering. Amy had been on overseas duty sixteen months to a day when she received her discharge from the army, in New York, on June 14, 1919, when she returned to Robbinsdale.

Amy Robbins Ware

Westphal Post 251 of the American Legion was organized October 31,  1919, and was named in honor of Gottlieb L. Westphal, who was killed in action on October 16, 1918, on the Sommerance St. Juvin Road in France. Westphal was born in Leonardsville, Traverse County, Minnesota, December 7th, 1891. He spent his boyhood and working on his father’s farm. In the 1915, the family moved to a small farm near Robbinsdale. Westphal entered the United States Military Service February 26th, 1918. He was assigned to Company D, 327th Infantry, United States National Army, and reached the battle front in France in June, 1918. The company fought bravely in the trenches. Westphal died while serving as one of the battalion scouts from his company. He was 27 years old. Westphal was first buried in the Argonne American Cemetery. A few years later remains were forwarded to his family by the War Department arriving early in September, 1921, and given a military funeral under the auspices of the Westphal American Legion Post No. 251, Robbinsdale, Minnesota, assisted by a detachment from Fort Snelling who escorted his remains to the German Methodist Cemetery in the Township of Greenwood, Hennepin County, Minnesota where they were interned in the family lot.

Early Commanders of the Westphal Post were:

1920 Arthur Sessing

1921 Herbert E. Clasen

1922 F. R. Stinchfield

1923 George Christensen

Joseph W. Roche

1924 Joseph W. Roche

1925 Lawrence J. Nasett

1926 Edward Schuller

1927 Curt Hoffman

1928, 1929 HenryHartig

1930 Julius E. Sessing

In 1952 James Walker became Commander and by 1974 was State commander, and in 1976, National Vice Commander His wife Margaret was Auxiliary President in 1950 and State President in 1965-1966. James and Margaret Walker are often called Mr. and Mrs. American Legion because of their” more than thirty years of continuous and dedicated service to the Legion. The Post has been active from the first in civic affairs, patriotic observances, sponsoring youth activities, and numberless good works. It has sponsored a Boy Scout Troop since 1923, held Dog Derbies on Crystal Lake, sponsored Junior Baseball Teams (with Mr. T. P. Howard furnishing the uniforms several times), planted several thousand trees in parts of the village, erected “Protect Robbinsdale Children” signs, sponsored the School Safety Patrol, given school award medals, and contributed to many charitable funds and drives. It has conducted Memorial Day observances in four cemeteries Brooklyn-Crystal, Golden Valley, Assumption, and Burschville—every year since its organization. In all ways the Post has carried out its creed of service for “God and Country.”

Wilford Hamilton Fawcett

Wilford Hamilton Fawcett born in 1885 in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, to a physician named  John Fawcett and Maria Neilson. “Billy” was the third of eight children. The Fawcett family moved to North Dakota three years later. At the age of 16, Wilford Hamiliton Fawcett, better known as Captain Billy, ran away from home, joined the army, and shipped out to the Philippines. Fawcett served as a private during the Philippine Insurrection. After the kris blade of a Moro tribesman tore through his leg, army doctors recommended an amputation. Fawcett rejected the operation, returned home, and found a backwoods Doctor who had a reputation for saving doomed limbs. When he was back up on his feet, Fawcett married Viva Claire Meyers. In 1906 the couple settled in Minnesota where Fawcett took a job as a railway clerk. Soon his wife gave birth to twins and Fawcett took a second job as a police reporter for a Minneapolis newspaper. At the outbreak of World War I he returned to the army where he worked on the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. Fawcett rose to the rank of captain and adopted his famous nickname, “Captain Billy.” When he returned from the war Fawcett opened a bar called the Army Navy Club. Unfortunately, prohibition became the law of the land in 1919. The bar closed and Fawcett was left scrambling to support his growing family. During his army days Fawcett collected saucy stories he didn’t dare print in Star and Stripes. Inspired by a North Dakota periodical called Jim Jam Jems, Fawcett decided to risk $500.00 and print a humor magazine for veterans. Named after himself and the sound of an incoming artillery shell, the first issue of Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang sold out in less than a week. By the time the fourth issue hit the newsstands, the little magazine had sold over 500,000 copies. Fawcett became rich and famous almost overnight.

This post is part of a series loosely based on the book Robbinsdale Then and Now by Helen Blodget.  The crisp and clean image of Captain Billy (above) is courtesy of the Hennepin County Library. The brief description of Captain Billy’s eary life is excerpted from Pete Richie’s book, Images of America Breezy Point.