The year was 1924, and the newspapers were ablaze with the story of the Bobbed Haired Bandit and her bumbling male companion. The couple were involved in a string of robberies of Brooklyn NY grocery and drug stores. After a shooting at one of the robberies, a very pregnant Celia Cooney and her husband Ed escaped to Florida. An all-points-bulletin for their capture resulted in an undertaker in Florida turning them in after their newborn passed away. The couple were brought back to New York, where newspaper articles showed huge crowds waiting at Grand Central Station to catch a glimpse of the now notorious duo. After they pled guilty to their crimes, both were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Seven years later, they were both released and were obviously very happy to see each other because a little less than nine months later, their child, my dad, was born.
My dad knew nothing of his parents past, until he was 60 years old and my grandmother had passed away. A throw away comment made by my Alzheimer suffering grandma to my uncle (something along the lines of, “Eddie, don’t let them get me, don’t let the coppers get me, I’m the bobbed haired bandit”) made my Uncle decide to do some research. That research resulted in a realization that not only were their parents hoodlums, and not only did they keep their entire criminal past a secret, but they kept their entire family a secret. Apparently, Grandma and Grandpa had many brothers and sisters that my dad and uncle never knew about, so investigations into missing relatives ensued. And at the same time my dad was finding out about his past, a book was being written about my grandparents, entitled, “The Bobbed haired Bandit: A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York” (click link for more information.)
My family story is of course, a lot more complex than highlighted here. Newspaper wars in the 1920s escalated the story of my grandparents way above where it would be if these minor robberies happened today. Celia and Ed’s flawed rationale for the robberies was to provide a better life for their unborn child than was provided for them, and published information regarding my great-grandparents showed them to have some major parenting and life skills issues. It is incredibly lucky both my grandparents lived through their escapades and were able to give birth to my dad, and he to me. And rather than carry on the less-than-legal side of our family history, we are here to be able to tell the story of my seal-skin wearing gun totin’ grandma and her sidekick, my grandpa.
My grandparents were hoodlums…..
The picture above was taken in 1960 — Grandma Celia and Kat.