Monday, February 12, 2007

Capone, Mobsters, Relaxed in Pingree Grove

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Sam "Teets" Battaglia, Sam Giancana

What would the world’s most famous mobster want with little Pingree Grove?

Well, there were no police, few people were around and everyone in town minded their own business, locals say, making the little village an ideal place for Al Capone to relax.

Resident Alice Thurnau, 86, says Capone was even rumored to have owned a house in Pingree Grove. That house no longer stands.

Alice’s husband, Kenneth, 92, also known as “Shorty,” is the oldest resident in town to have been born and raised in Pingree Grove.

He says that when he was 12, he once had a personal encounter with the mobster. One day in 1927, Capone brought his car to the Thurnau Garage, opened by his father, Jack, a one-time mayor of Pingree Grove. Capone had a flat tire and asked Shorty if he’d change it. And after he did, Capone rewarded him with a tip. “It was pretty big,” Shorty said.

But Capone isn’t the only mobster thought to have cooled his heels in Pingree Grove.

Various residents say Sam “Teets” Battaglia, a member of the Chicago Outfit and close associate of Sam Giancana, who died in prison in 1973, maintained a house and farm on Damisch Road. But in Pingree Grove, Battaglia was known for furnishing all of the children with free pop, Alice Thurnau said.

“He wanted to make a good name for himself,” she said.

Thanks to Lenore T. Adkins

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