Thursday, Nov. 5, 1959: A homemade burglar alarm

Posted on November 17th, 2005 – 2:33 AM
By Ben Welter

The jury-rigged alarm described in this Page 1A story from the Minneapolis Star would be hard to imagine if you’ve never seen a rotary-dial telephone. My family had one of those chunky black phones in our house until the mid-1970s. I can still hear the click and whir of the dial, feel the heft of the receiver in my hand – and even see the funny UNion prefix of our home phone number on the label at the center of the dial. For trivia buffs, the Minneapolis Star’s main phone number in 1959 was FEderal 3-3111.


Phone Alarm Traps
Burglars in Store

Russell Neff’s homemade “cork” burglar alarm worked to perfection today.

Need a burglar alarm? Put a cork in it.

Neff, 1740 N. Albert St., Roseville, owns Russell’s Marine and Sporting Goods store at 392 University Av., St. Paul.

His last task when he closed up shop Wednesday was to rig up his burglar alarm.

He removed the receiver of his telephone and dialed all but one digit in his home telephone number. He then dialed the final digit, inserted a cork in the dial hole to keep the mechanism from returning and completing the connection.

Four strings were tied to the cork and strung at ankle level to different parts of the store.

At 2:15 a.m. Neff’s telephone roused him from a sound sleep. He lifted the receiver and heard noises, dressed and drove six blocks to a service station at Lexington and Larpenteur Avs., where he called police.

Three squad cars and a cruiser converged on the scene, surrounded the store and entered. Two men, one with a badly gashed right hand, were found lying on the floor near the front door.

Police identified the suspects as Gordon Simberg, 20, 2057 Giesmann road, Roseville, and George L. Cotter, 21, 1481-C Klainert St., St. Paul.

Officers found $8.80 in cash in Simberg’s pocket which they said was taken from a cash register. Three rifles were found on the floor with the pair. Two more rifles had been removed from a gun rack.

Police said both men had removed their socks and worn them as gloves to hide fingerprints. Cotter, who gashed his hand while breaking a rear window, was treated at Ancker hospital.

Neff said he started using his “cork” alarm about a week after reading a story on a similar gadget used by a Florida man.

A Northwestern Bell Telephone Co. official warned today against use of improvised burglar alarms that tie up a telephone line for long periods.

The spokesman explained telephone exchange relays, found open for a long time, are tripped by switchmen and disconnected.

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