Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Magazine solicitors too clever for own good

Magazine subscription salesmen are everywhere. Every summer, it seems, they’re knocking at our doors with tales of trips to be financed and school to be paid for. And if you think these gangs of 20-somethings canvassing our neighborhoods are a new thing, you’d be wrong. The May 9, 1930, East Oregonian carried a cautionary tale about reading everything carefully before you sign on the dotted line.

Nineteen men and women hit Pendleton to sell magazine subscriptions that week, with the usual sales pitches touting “working my way through school” and “earning money to pay for a trip to Europe.” The solicitation crew ran afoul of the law when the team tried to scam an Echo rancher, F.O. Wilson, who was accosted while trying to sell his cream at the Golden West Creamery.

Wilson declined to subscribe to any magazines, saying he only had time to read the daily paper. Then Dorothy Gordon and Pearl Miller asked him for his vote in a contest amongst the crew, and he agreed to sign two pieces of folded yellow paper with his name, mentioning he was from Echo.

The folded papers turned out to be blank check forms from a Walla Walla bank. The girls first attempted to pass the checks at a local bank after they had written in amounts and the name First National Bank of Echo, which they later learned did not exist. The girls then appeared at the Van Fleet Durkee Station with First National Bank of Pendleton check forms which had been crossed out and the Echo State bank written in, with Mr. Wilson’s signature reproduced at the bottom. The attendant of the filling station became suspicious and called the sheriff’s office, who arrested Dorothy Gordon later that day at the Pendleton Woolen Mills.

By that time Pearl Miller and others of the crew, including the manager, had made it to La Grande, where one of the fraudulent checks was cashed. The crew manager was returned to Pendleton after his arrest and returned the money from one of the forged checks. The case was handed to Deputy District Attorney Fred Schmidt for prosecution.

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