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Crawfordsville District Public Library
Library medallion 205 S. Washington Street
Crawfordsville, IN 47933
765-362-2242, 765-362-7986 (fax)
Mon-Thur: 9-9 | Fri-Sat: 9-5 | Sun 1-5

Transcript: Jack Alexander

Oral Interview with Stephen J. "Jack" Alexander, 1996
RL 921 Alexander
Interviewer: Bob Wernle, Montgomery County Historical Society
Transcribed by Carol Servies, 2005

W: What about Joe Crane? You knew Joe Crane.
A. I grew up with Joe Crane from 1st grade on. And he was something else. He was a big time Charlie from the time he was in the 5th grade I think. Always trying to be a big shot all through high school. About the time he got in to, from the time he was a sophomore and junior in high school, he was always going around with college boys and he pledged for Sigma Chi fraternity when he was a junior in high school. And, I think the main reason Sigma Chi pledged him because he had a big car. His dad ran a cigar store down here, Stephenson and Crane, and he had a big seven-passenger Buick sedan. And at that time, practically no college boys had cars. That was just unheard of. Nobody had any money for cars, but Crane had access to his dad's Buick sedan. And he would take the Sigma Chis down to DePauw for weekend parties that were always going on down there. That's where the girls were, of course. And he had a young colored boy with him name of Chink Rice [?], and he got a real policeman's cap, put it on Chink [?] and he would be his chauffeur. They would drive the boys to Greencastle in the seven-passenger car. And he was just something else, no question about that.
Another time later on he was always carrying a one hundred dollar bill, and back in the 30s, a hundred dollar bill was one of those things you only saw at banks as a rule. And there probably wasn't a merchant in Crawfordsville that could change a hundred dollar bill at any one time. But Joe always carried a hundred dollar bill and that way he didn't have to pay for much. Somebody else would always pick up the tab. At one time, a bunch of us were at a state dance in Indianapolis. A the time, it was called the Hotel Continental, I can't remember, was on North Meridian out by the Athletic Club and we were there, and it was festivities, and none of us had dates and we knew that Crane was going to be there and we lay in wait for him. And a bunch of us had gotten together and we had gotten change for a one hundred dollar bill. And we went to a bar at the Continental and Crane was there and he very kindly said, "Come on boys and line up here." "I'm going to buy the drinks." Well, we all lined up and we ordered about the most expensive drink we could get. And I think he was a little worried about that. Then he pulls out his hundred dollar bill and the bartender…there was no bar in Indianapolis that could change a hundred dollar bill there in 1933 or 4. And so the bartender said, "I'm sorry. I can't change that bill." Then a group of us said, "Well here…we can." Laughter. We got our resources pooled. He had to buy the drinks and they cost him $20 or there abouts, and in 1934, that was a lot of money. But he never pulled that hundred dollar bill thing again on the…in Crawfordsville.

W: He went on to fame, didn't he?
A: Oh yeah, he went on to fame. When he got out of school, he went to Steck Store and bought four or five suits, one of them was an Ice Cream, a white flannel suit, and he was decked out in full coat [?] with white shoes and socks, shirt, tie, the whole bit white suit. And he was a real dog. And he went to Chicago and from there he went to Hollywood. And he got some publicity and he always referred to himself as a Hoosier or Indiana Tobacco Heir. And, of course, the tobacco heir, his dad had a cigar store in [?] and that never appeared in the papers. And, oh gosh, I can't remember all the funny…I can remember when we were in college, he would go to the Indiana Roof Ball Room, which was one of those big ballrooms where big bands around the country played. It was over the Indiana Theater. It was quite a nice place. It was not a honky tonk by any means. A lot of young people would go up there. And it went on four or five nights a week and on ever once in a while you would get up there and you would hear somebody En Meloda [?] and there was a big grand piano and you would hear body playing the first half a dozen chords of Rachmaninoff's Prelude C Sharp Minor and you knew damned well that it was Crane because he knew the first five, six bars of that, and that's all he knew. People, people would come around. And he'd play the first five or six bars and he'd get up and slam the lid shut over the keys and walk away. You know the girls would come up and say, "Play more. Play more." "No, no, I've had enough. Too many people here." He'd grab the first available girl and bring her out on the dance floor with him. He was something.

W: He came back after he married Lana Turner, didn't he?
A: Yeah, I only saw him two or three times after that. I saw him in Hollywood during the war. We were out there I was stationed out west. We stopped at his restaurant; saw him one time in a place called Lucy's. He was at the front door of the restaurant. I don't think he owned it. I'm not sure, but I don't think so. We saw him there. And the last time I saw him was in Chicago. At that time, he was running this Kon Tiki chain of restaurants. I saw him up there and I talked to him a few minutes. He calmed down a great deal as he got older. He was much less showy and more serious and had made quite a name for himself and was doing pretty well.