Long before high-tech security systems, and private security services, there was the venerable Merchant Policeman.
After serving honorably for many years as a constable, serving court papers, enabling repossessions, and even making a few arrests in the early days of Sapulpa, Dewey Riddle chose a second career instead of retirement. For well over a decade, during the 1960s, he could be seen, throughout the night traversing the streets and alleys of downtown Sapulpa protecting the property of local businesses. For a modest monthly fee, Dewey would make the rounds of local subscribers to his service making sure their stores were secure.
He could be seen carrying a large stick that resembled a pool cue. This was to turn on display lights at certain businesses. Morton’s Departement Store, for example, had switches in the ceiling of the entrance between the display windows. Since light switches were push-buttons in those days, Dewey would simply use his stick and “push’ the buttons to turn the lights on for the evening.
Dewey Riddle acquired the nickname “Dewey, The Door-Rattler” because he would make sure the doors were locked at businesses, by pulling on them, hence, “rattling the doors.”
Dewey provided personalized service and his customers were his friends. I remember one night in the spring of 1965, my father received a phone call at 2 a.m., from the Sapulpa Police Department, that Dewey had caught somebody who had broken into my father’s store, next door to Young’s Law Office.
A somewhat inebriated fellow picked up a brick and threw it through one of Dad’s display windows. The perpetrator proceeded to grab watches, jewelry, and knives that were in the front window area.
Dewey came along and saw the window broken. He followed a small trail of blood and found the man, passed out in front of the Sapulpa Public Library with the merchandise. Dewey called the police and waited until my father and I arrived on the scene. Then, Dewey helped us nail a piece of plywood over the window. My father offered to pay him for going beyond the call of duty, but Dewey replied, “It’s all part of the job.”
Riddle provided service on a personal level that is unheard of in today’s business world. He was an iconic figure in the Sapulpa business district after the sun went down. He eventually retired and subsequently passed away in 1981.
After a diligent search, the “Sapulpa Times” was unable to find any photos of Dewey Riddle. If any reader has any photos, we would appreciate receiving copies at email@example.com.