Friday, July 24, 2015

Chadron lad became a Beverly Hills Cop

(Editor’s Note:  A northwest Nebraska native who spent much of his career in Beverly Hills returned to Chadron in July for his Chadron High School class reunion during Fur Trade Days.  In preparing for the reunion, Ted Turechek shared some of his life story with classmate Mike Smith and fellow CHS graduate Con Marshall.  They edited the story for publication in the Chadron Record.  Ted, Mike and Con were kind enough to also share it with Dawes County Journal.  We’ve included a few additional photos.)

He never got in the movies, but both he and his wife rubbed shoulders with some elite movie and television stars while he was serving as a Beverly Hills policeman.  He also had other interesting experiences during his 20-plus years on the beat.

For instance, while trying to catch a bad guy in the attic of a hotel, he once burst through the ceiling of a hotel employee’s office.  He also was forced to arrest a robot for panhandling because that’s against the law in plush Beverly Hills.

Ted Turechek as a Freshman at
Chadron High School in 1950.
He’s Ted Turechek, said to be just as quiet and unassuming as he was 62 years ago when he graduated with the Class of 1953.  He’s now retired and comfy in his Simi Valley home.  He had never attended his class reunion until he showed up at his 60th two years ago.  This year, he and his wife Dee Dee, who looks like a movie star in the photos with this story, decided to return.

There were lots of Turecheks attending the Chadron schools beginning in the 1920s and spanning the next 35 years until all of them had graduated from the high school.  William and Mary Turechek had 10 children during a 20-year stretch, and they all graduated from CHS.  There also were three Turechek cousins in the Chadron schools during that era.

The oldest of William and Mary’s brood was Bill, who graduated in 1934.  He lived at Gordon most of his life and won at least a half dozen Nebraska horseshoe pitching championships.

The other family members and their graduation dates are Phebe, 1936; John, 1939; Marie, 1941; Margie, 1944; Lou, 1947; Lucille, 1948; Jim, 1950; Ted, 1953; and Dennis, 1955, a small, but pesky basketball player for the Cardinals.

Several of them also attended what was then known as Nebraska State Teachers College at Chadron.
The family vacated Chadron each summer.  That’s because the Turecheks owned a 2,400-acre ranch 20 miles south of Rushville.  The ranch had been homesteaded by Mary’s parents, John W. and Phebe Mann.

As soon as school was out, the clan went there and put up hay, then returned to Chadron and lived in a large home at Fourth and Morehead Streets when classes resumed.

Ted didn’t go to college after graduating from CHS, but he spent two years in the military, had various jobs in the Black Hills and Denver before moving to the Los Angeles area.  He initially worked as a life insurance investigator, but a friend suggested that he check into a career in law enforcement.

He soon saw an advertisement for police officers in Beverly Hills.  He applied, was hired, went through the training process and spent 24 years with the department before retiring in 1986.
In 1973, ten years after joining the force, he married Dee Dee, who was from Swift Current, Newfoundland.

The Turechek Family

Ted notes that his parents were capable people.  Besides giving birth to and raising 10 children, his mother took classes at the college and earned her teaching credentials.  She also was a pianist, and his dad played first violin in the college’s symphony orchestra well into his 80s.  Both also played for dances at the Odd Fellows Hall, he recalls.

Ted is proud of his family’s heritage, but relates that not everything went well for his great-grandparents and his grandfather, Wesley J. Turechek, who was five at the time, when they came to America from Czechoslovakia in 1864.

It took the ship 73 days to cross the Atlantic.  The ship was blown so far off course that it encountered icebergs (even though it was summer), and food and water were in such short supply that the passengers were allowed only half portions during the last phase of the voyage.

After landing in New York City, the Turecheks headed for Cleveland by train.  A river was out of its banks and while crossing a bridge, the baggage car broke through and all the clothing and bedding were lost.  That left the family with only the clothes they were wearing.

Great-grandpa Turechek worked in a foundry in Cleveland, then moved to Covington, Kentucky, where he was a tree grafter for a nursery.  The family, which included seven children, eventually moved to Iowa City.  Wesley was married in 1881 and moved with his family to Knox County, Nebraska, in 1885 and finally settled in Bloomfield, Nebraska, where he lived to be 92.

Attic Antics

Beverly Hills cop Ted Turechek
and partner pose with "hot" furs.
Although Ted undoubtedly had more hazardous duties, he prefers to tell about two humorous incidents that occurred during his 24 years as a Beverly Hills cop.  He’ll also discuss his relationship with the stars.

He recalls that he and fellow officer Bob O’Connor received a radio call one evening to respond to Trader Vic’s Restaurant, an upscale business located adjacent to the Beverly Hilton Hotel.  A customer had consumed a large meal and a couple bottles of expensive wine, then tried to pay for it with a stolen credit card.

When the waiter confronted the customer about the status of the card, the man attempted to flee.  However, the waiter and the maitre d’ were able to restrain him.  While being held pending the arrival of police, the suspect asked to use the bathroom.

“That’s where he is now, officer,” Ted was informed when he arrived at the restaurant.’”  I told the waiter to stand outside the door to ensure that the suspect didn’t get away,” Ted remembers.  “I swung the door open and stepped inside.”

Officer Turchek began the search, but to no avail.  But he noticed a hatch in the ceiling above one of the commodes.  The suspect must have somehow hoisted himself up through the hatch, replaced the cover and escaped into the attic.

Ted jumped on the commode, tried to push open the hatch, but it wouldn’t budge.  He thought the bad guy must be standing on it.

Ted hurried back to the maitre d’, asked about another route to the attic, and was shown a narrow stairway.  He was in hot pursuit.

The attic was very large and there were no lights in it.  Ted’s flashlight was his only source of illumination.  He shined it through the darkness, but to no avail.  He realized he must step on the joists as he made his way into the darkness in search of the guy who was playing hide-and-seek.
Ted tells the rest of the story:

Curt and Betty Thompson (at left-both now deceased)
visited the Turecheks in the 1990s.  Curt Thompson had
coached Turechek in Junior High sports in the 1940s
“Things were going fine until I thought I sensed movement and swung around to see what it was.  That’s when my left foot slipped off a joist and landed on the plasterboard, which failed to support my weight.

“As my foot came crashing down through the ceiling into the office below, I heard a woman scream.  I broke my descent by grasping an adjacent joist and hooking my right leg over another.  But by this time my leg was fully inside the office, dangling from the ceiling like some grotesque chandelier.

“After some effort, I managed to extract my leg out of a now-gaping hole and stuck my head through the hole to assess the situation.  A middle-aged woman in a business suit stood staring at me with a look of terror on her face.  She demanded to know who I was, what was happening, and what I was doing up there.

“Those were good questions!  I tried to assure her that I was a police officer and everything was under control.  She didn’t seem convinced, and I still had a suspect to find, so I resumed the search.  As I cautiously crawled along another joist, I suddenly realized my flashlight was missing.  It had gone sailing across the attic when I took my spill.  Now the only source of light was that coming from the hole I had just exited.  Then I heard the maitre d’ calling from the stairway.

“We got him, officer.  We got him.  You can come down now.’’  Apparently the commotion had scared him back down through the hatch into the waiting arms of Officer O’Connor.  His stint at playing hide-and-seek was over.

“If someone comes across a 3-cell aluminum flashlight in the attic of Trader Vic’s Restaurant, and they read this, they’ll know how it got there.”

Ted has another unusual story to tell:  The Robot:

One afternoon while patrolling the Beverly Hills business district, he received a dispatcher call that citizens were complaining about a “robot” soliciting in the 400 block of Beverly Drive.

“I wasn’t sure I had heard right,” Ted says. “This is Car 7, did you say ‘robot?”

“Affirmative, Car 7, a robot.”

Again, Officer Turechek tells the story:

“In Beverly Hills, soliciting passersby is strictly against the law, be you a ‘robot’ or a life form.  So I hurried my patrol car up Beverly.  As I approached the 400 block, I noted a number of pedestrians gathering around something or other on the sidewalk.

“I parked and moved quickly through the crowd.  There stood an object that surely answered the description of a ‘robot.’  It was a round-shaped object approximately four feet tall with a glass globe on top that contained electrical equipment.  In a side tray I could see numerous business cards that the ‘robot’ was inviting people to help themselves to by using a high pitched, metallic-sounding voice.

“I turned my attention to the folks and asked, ‘Who does this thing belong to, do any of you know?’  Several shook their heads ‘no.’  One older man said, ‘There wasn’t anyone around.  The thing was just standing out here all by itself.’

“I really felt silly, but I did what I had to do.  I turned back to the thing and said, ‘Robot, it’s against the law to solicit anything here on the street.  Did you know that?’  With what appeared to be a camera inside its globed-head pointing at me, it said, ‘I’m not doing anything wrong, officer.  I believe this is a free country, and I’m entitled to free speech.’

“I noticed then that the folks around us were grinning.  One said, ‘Did you give him his rights?’  Another chimed in, ‘Why don’t you handcuff him?’

“It looked as if the robot might gain the upper hand and win the crowd over, so I decided it was time to silence him by pulling his plug.

“As I tried to find something on the thing to hold on to, it yelled, ‘Police brutality!,’ and tried to run away.  I struggled to hold on and finally put a choke-hold around his glass-globe head.  I was able to turn him, and I located some power wires on his back.  I yanked the wires, it became immobile and no longer argumentative.”

Ted says his first thought was to put the robot in the back seat of the police car, just like he would a human he had arrested.  However, it was too big.  So he summoned a flatbed tow truck that hauled it to the police station.  Several hours later, a man arrived to claim ownership.  He explained that his 17-year-old son had pulled the caper, unbeknownst to him, and it was ‘just a joke.”

“Oh, yes, I did advise him of his rights.  Probably not many policemen have arrested a robot during their careers.”

The stars were shining

Over the years, Ted says it was a fairly common occurrence to come in contact with Beverly Hills celebrities.

One “uncommon” occurrence was a celebrity basketball game that was put on every year between the “Hollywood Stars” team and the Beverly Hills Police Department.  The game was a charity fund raiser and played at the Beverly Hills High School gym.  It always drew a packed house.

Ted says Hollywood’s roster included Pat Boone, Glen Campbell, Buddy Hackett, Marty Allen, Max Baer (Jethro of Beverly Hillbillies fame), James Caan and Don Rickles, just to name a few.

The game was played for fun, almost no fouls were called, even though violations ran rampant at times, Ted remembers. 

“The games had comical moments and it was obvious whose side the fans were on.  In the end, we always made sure the ‘Stars’ won.  It was a definite crowd pleaser.”

After each game, Ted says, Hackett threw a party at his house for the players and their guests.  Female stars he and Dee Dee enjoyed meeting included Doris Day, Liza Minnelli and Charo.

“Charo can be seen giving me a hug in one of the photographs I sent,” Ted says.  “And I remember that Buddy Hackett, Max Baer and Marty Allen, among others, always made sure they got to squeeze my Dee Dee.“It was a great event.  The participants, their guests and the spectators had a great evening, and we raised quite a bit of money for a charitable cause,” the Chadron High grad says.

“It was a good time and place to be a policeman.”

Chadron native Ted Turechek retired as a police officer in Beverly
Hills.  He and his wife Dee Dee live in Simi Valley, California