ALBERT MERK, TWICE A MURDERER AT SIXTEEN, HAD
MAKINGS OF A FINE MAN FOUR YEARS AGO
By E. C.Rodgers.
St. Louis, Mo., Feb. 21. Four
years ago Albert Merk, aged 12,
had the making of a fine man in
Today, Albert Merk, aged 16,
is twice a murderer. At 16, he is
a penitentiary bird.
The man in Albert Merk has
been utterly ruined the future
good citizen destroyed between
the ages of 12 and 16.
The boy of the city is getting
to be a greater problem every
year. The boy is indeed the
greatest problem of every city
Each decade doubles the temp
tations of the boys of the decade
Twenty years ago the boy who
stole had reached the limit of de
pravity. Today the most desperate,
most savage of our city murder
ers are little more than boys
the auto bandits, the car barn
bandits, the cruel street robbers
I came to St. Louis purposely
to find out, if I could, the reasons
why Albert Merk is twice a mur
derer at 16, and to tell those rea
sons with the hope that the peo
ple of Chicago may read a lesson
in them. I have no theories. I
will merely give the facts of this
lad's life during four short years.
Albert's mother is a widow,
left four years ago with five chil
dren. The double yoke of raising her
little children and supporting
them too broke her health, and
she is now an invalid. The two
oldest daughters quit school and
went to work.
In their upstairs flat near the
city limits there was no room for
Albert to play; his mother was
sick and she couldn't stand the
boisterous fun boys have to get
out of their systems. There was
no yard about the house, and no
public play grounds. But there
was a lumber yard, covering sev
eral acres, a railroad switching -yard,
and "hell's half acre," just
outside the city limits, and sev
eral saloons, a bowling alley and
Albert started to run with the
"lumber-yards bunch" and play
ed "hookey" from school often.
He began carrying a gun, bought
from a lumber yard man for $1.
Other boys of the "bunch" car
ried revolvers and during the
evenings they used to imitate the
ready shooters shown in lurid,
uncensored wild west pictures.
While on a car going to the
widow Merks' home I counted 12
cheap motion picture theaters.
Outside 10 of them were flaming
signs showing firearms in the
hands of bandits, detectives, po
licemen, gunmen, counterfeiters
Books telling of the bloody
deeds of Jesse James and his
gang, the Younger boys, the Dal
ton gang, and other desperadoes,
are sold in many St. Louis stores
to mere babies if they have 5 or
10 cents to pay for them.
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