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Sudbury, 1890-1989, 100 years in the Life of a Town (Chapter 14)

Published on Friday, 4/6/2001 12:00 am | by Informational - Historic Articles | Automatically Archived on 6/3/2001

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Chapter 14

Controversy

The Friday, February 23, 1940, edition of the Sudbury Beacon gave a detailed account on Page One, being very careful not to place blame:

Alfred John Kalilianen of Mossman Road, N. Sudbury was killed early Sunday [February 18] morning in an accident involving a town truck near the junction of Haynes and Old Marlborough Roads. The truck was the big International with V-shaped snowplow attached and driven by Ellsworth Tebo of Boston Post Road. With him were Ray Hartwell and Horatio Whitney.

The crew had completed the snow removal on Haynes Road and was headed for Sudbury when hailed by a car which had brought Kalilianen from Maynard. The truck stopped until Kalilianen had crossed the road in front. It had gone only a few yards when the accident happened.

While Inspector Robert Huddy of the Registry and Chief [Seneca W.] Hall have not completed their investigation, it is believed the deceased may have attempted to jump on the truck and either slipped, striking his head against the body of the vehicle or was caught by the chains on the rear wheel so as to be flung against the truck. His skull was fractured and his neck broken…”

Johnny” Kalilianen was a popular figure in North Sudbury with the reputation of a strong and tireless worker who enjoyed a drink or two on Saturday nights. Besides helping out his parents and brothers on the home farm off Route 117, he had worked part-time for the highway department and knew most of the employees there.

Chief Hall knew that he was dealing with a hot potato as soon as he got the call at his home in South Sudbury. A town vehicle and town employees were involved and the town had not yet had the forethought to take out liability insurance. He decided to ask Huddy, an old colleague and one of the Registry’s top photographers, to join the investigation. By the time they had arrived at the scene near the junction of Haynes and Old Marlborough Roads, Dr. George E. Currier had pronounced Kalilianen dead of a broken neck.

Currier, Huddy and Hall examined and photographed the footprints and tire tracks and took statements from all but one of the witnesses. All agreed that Tebo, driving the town truck with Whitney sitting in the passenger seat operating the snowplow and Hartwell standing in the body spreading sand, had been flagged down by Garnet Bennett of Weston, the driver of a Chevrolet motor coach, near the intersection of Haynes and Old Marlborough Roads.

Besides Bennett and Kalilianen, the car contained Margaret and Georgani Guilme of Waltham and an undertaker named Walsh. The Guilmes stated that Kalilianen alighted from the back seat, crossed the road, and asked Tebo for a lift. When Tebo declined, Kalilianen crossed in front of the plow and disappeared. The truck moved forward a few feet and Kalilianen’s dead body was discovered in back of the rear wheels.

Tebo claimed he had no conversation with Kalilianen who allegedly crossed in front of the plow before Tebo put the truck in second gear and started ahead. A records check disclosed that Tebo’s driver’s license had been suspended for five days before being reinstated on January 9, 1940.

In his more than 45 years as a police officer, Chief Hall had dealt with many fatal automobile accidents, but this one would come back to haunt him. In the ensuing months, the Kalilianen family brought suit against the town, and when Hall and Huddy were deposed, their account of the evidence as they saw it indicated that Tebo was at fault. This testimony enraged Selectmen John C. Hall, Lawrence Tighe and Everett D. Haynes, who were struggling with a rapidly rising tax rate. The duty of the police department was to support the Town, not cost it money.

Matters came to a head on December 5, 1941 when Chief Hall was summoned to a Selectmen’s meeting and asked to resign “for the good of the town.” He refused and immediately retained John P. Driscoll of Framingham as his attorney. In the closed-door meeting, Hall was told that he didn’t cooperate with the heads of the Fire and Highway departments, didn’t enforce traffic laws, would not direct traffic at official town functions unless invited and, according to Board Secretary John C. Hall, “his conduct of matters involving possible liability to the town was not in the town’s best interests.

On December 11, 1941, the Selectmen made it official. Hall was fired and replaced by Tighe amidst the protests of 280 citizens who signed a petition demanding a public hearing on the matter, which was slated for December 29.

Charlie Way asked Hall to call off the hearing “for the best interests of the town” and sign a paper to that affect, but Hall didn’t like the wording of the document and refused. The following evening at the Town Hall, J.C. Hall and Tighe found themselves facing an angry crowd of more than 300 which got even angrier when J.C. Hall wasted the first hour of the meeting reading the names of all the petitioners and then tried to deny Chief Hall his right to counsel.

Tighe added other charges to those made during the December 5 Selectmen’s meeting. He alleged that Chief Hall stopped a fire engine on the way to a fire to check William Davison’s driver’s license. Hall countered that the check was made back at the firehouse after the fire was extinguished.

Tighe also charged that the Chief didn’t prevent the State Police from questioning Fire Chief Ethan Davison regarding a break-in at the Water District Pumping Station. Driscoll scornfully asked the Selectmen if they expected Chief Hall to prevent a witness from giving information to law enforcement officers.

I’ve known that the Selectmen were gunning for me for some time,” Chief Hall told The Sudbury Beacon on January 9, 1942. “But regardless of what they claim, I have served the best interests of the town for the past 45 years. During that time, Sudbury has been quiet, a respectable, law-abiding town with relatively few breaks or disorders of any kind.

“I know the Selectmen have no basis for their charges. Why they went back to the early nineteen-twenties to trump up charges against me–charges which have no foundation whatsoever–is beyond me.

Whether the charges were just or not didn’t matter. The selectmen pointed out that Chief Hall was an appointed official who could be removed by them at will. At the March 1942 Town Meeting the selectmen threw him a bone, sponsoring a warrant article to: “Retire and put on the pension rolls under provision of the General Laws, Chapter 321, Section 85, Seneca W. Hall, including the appropriation of $500 for such pension for the coming year.” Later the town voted to make the pension retroactive to January 1, 1942.

In the end it was Chief Hall who had the last laugh. On December 7, 1945, the heirs of Alfred John Kalilianen were awarded $5,624.40 in damages from the town. Hall testified for the plaintiffs.

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Sudbury, 1890-1989, 100 years in the life of a Town, a 256-page sequel to A.S. Hudson’s History of Sudbury. Autographed copies are available from Porcupine Enterprises, 106 Woodside Road, Sudbury, MA 01776. Hardbound presentation copies are $26.25 including tax plus $3.20 postage. Trade paperbacks are $12.60 including tax plus $3.20 postage.

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