A Look Back in Time: Police Arrest Portland-Based ‘Pillow Thief’ in 1953 After Months of Lewis County Burglaries


The Wednesday, Feb. 4, 1953 edition of The Chronicle reported a pillow thief had been apprehended in Portland after a series of thefts in Chehalis, Centralia, Toledo, Tenino and Yelm. The thief, Jack Keinberger, was 52 years old and had admitted stealing the pillows. 

“(Centralia) Police Chief Otto Rucker said he and (Lewis County) Sheriff Frank Thayer went to Portland Tuesday for the second load. The first was returned Monday when police made their initial search of Keinberger’s home,” The Chronicle reported.

Police had found about 200 pillows in Keinberger’s bedroom, as well as “satin-covered comforters” and clothing. Law enforcement had also discovered about a half dozen dresses Keinberger had stuffed with pillows to make “dummies.”

“Keinberger enlarged his territory of operation to include Chehalis, Toledo, Tenino and Yelm, after having first told officers his only thefts were committed in Centralia,” The Chronicle reported. He also claimed none of the pillow thefts had taken place in Portland. 

Keinberger seems to have only been interested in stealing pillows, comforters and clothing.

“At many of the houses he entered, starting last fall, objects of value such as jewelry, money and Christmas packages, during the holiday season, were passed by,” The Chronicle reported. 

It remained to be seen whether more pillows and other objects had been stolen, as Rucker and Chehalis Police Chief Tom Murray were expected to go to Auburn, where Keinberger lived during the week while working as a pipefitter, and further investigate. According to The Chronicle, the thefts had been committed while Keinberger commuted between Auburn and Portland on weekends. 

Objects that had been found at Portland were being held for identification, and police were asking “anyone missing such articles to come to the station.”

Charges of second degree burglary were expected to be filed against Keinberger but the prosecutor was waiting until the investigations were complete to file a separate count for each burglary. 


Saturday, Feb. 4, 1933

• Grace Warner, described by The Chronicle as a “well known Chehalis resident,” was reported to have passed away on the night of Friday, Feb. 3.  Warner died in her Chehalis home after a long illness, The Chronicle reported. Her age and birth-related information was not included in The Chronicle. She was survived by her husband, a son who was attending the California Institute of Technology, two daughters, a sister, two brothers and her father. 

• The granting of two divorces in Lewis County Superior Court made the front page of the Feb. 4 edition of The Chronicle. One woman was granted a divorce on grounds of cruelty and was awarded custody of her two children. A second woman was granted a divorce on the grounds of desertion. 

• The Rochester Commercial Club and Rochester Grange had thrown their support behind a proposed Grays Harbor-Puget Sound shipping canal project, The Chronicle reported. The Oakville Chamber of Commerce had also voiced its support for the proposal, joining “other Southwest Washington civic organizations.” The proposed project was apparently seen as a “self-liquidating means of relieving unemployment.”

• Representatives from “all sections of western Lewis County” appeared before the state Roads and Bridges Committee in Olympia earlier in the week of Feb. 4 seeking funding for the survey of a proposed “cut off” road from Pe Ell ino the Grays River country. Several individuals spoke at the public hearing, arguing for the “vital importance” of the connecting road. 

• A group of about 15 to 20 unemployed men were working for the Centralia Street Department in cooperation with the local welfare agency, The Chronicle reported. Meanwhile another group of men were employed by the Lewis County government doing road work. Both groups of men were benign paid in food supplies rather than money. During the previous two summers, unemployed men had reportedly done thousands of dollars in park improvement work at no cost to the City of Centralia. 

• Rev. J.C. Tourtellot of Westminster Presbyterian Church was scheduled to deliver a sermon entitled “Technocracy—Is It the Christian Way Out?” at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5. Another sermon was scheduled at the church for 11 a.m. and was to be delivered by Rev. J.E. Fry of New York. 

• School officials in Winlock were growing concerned about an increase in the number of sick students, The Chronicle reported. “The average number of absences for the last ten days is about 65,” The Chronicle reported. Apparently school funds were based off attendance at the time and school officials were concerned the high rate of absence amongst the students would lead to cuts in funding for Winlock schools. 


Thursday, Feb. 4, 1943

• The Lewis County General Hospital in Centralia was under strain as America’s ongoing involvement in World War II brought the number of “major” hospitals in Lewis County down from four to two. The reduction in the number of hospitals was driven by a shortage of physicians and staff workers, a large number of whom had presumably become involved in the war effort. The reduction in facilities was causing “grave concern” among county and municipal leaders, The Chronicle reported. 

• More than 37% of the voters in Centralia’s registration books had been removed from the voter rolls due to failure to vote since the 1940 presidential election. According to the Centralia City Clerk, Vernon Fear, 1,751 names had been removed from the Centralia voter rolls, leaving 2,943 registered voters in the city. Fear said the main reasons for the decline in registered voters was the normal drop off in voting after presidential elections and the “shifting population of wartime.”

• Two meetings were scheduled for Friday, Feb. 5 in Centralia to decide the details of the wartime oil rationing in Lewis County. The meetings were to be presided over by Paul DuClos of Seattle, who was representing the fuel oil division of the Office of Price Administration. The first meeting was to take place at the Lewis-Clark Hotel at noon while the second was to take place at Centralia High School at 7:30 p.m. All high school math teachers were to attend the second meeting at which they were to help check applications from consumers for fuel. 

• Dennis Roberts, 82, died at his home near Vader on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Born on an unspecified date in Vermont, he had lived in the area for 57 years. He was survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 

• Two Tacoma “youths,” Frances Becker, 17, and Robert Ecjard, 18, were in the Lewis County jail after an “escapade” that began in Tacoma the day before on Wednesday, Feb. 3. The two ate at a roadside stand in Centralia, where they failed to pay for their food before driving to Chehalis, where they ran out of gas. They were then apprehended and were being held for Tacoma authorities. 

• Richard Pratt, the son of “Mr. and Mrs. U.S. Pratt” of Centralia, had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army’s tank destroyer force at Camp Hood, Texas, The Chronicle reported. Richard Pratt, 23, had been in Centralia’s national guard unit until it entered federal service in early 1941. He graduated from Centralia High School in 1928 and was married to Lois Henry, also of Centralia. 

• Jack Packwood, the son of Alice Packwood of Chehalis, was scheduled to receive his wings as a flying lieutenant in the army air corps during a graduation ceremony at the army flying school in La Junta, Colorado on Saturday, Feb. 6. His wife, Dorothy Pool, also from Chehalis, and his mother were expected to be in attendance at the ceremony, his mother having left Chehalis recently. 


Wednesday, Feb. 4, 1953

• The Lewis County Commissioners purchased six new cars for the county government on Feb. 4, The Chronicle reported. Five of the cars were from Uhlmann Motors in Chehalis and the sixth was from Eddins Auto Company in Centralia. The Uhlmann Motors cars were purchased for $6,333.99, plus a trade-in of five older cars. Eddins made a similar deal, trading-in an older county car and paying $1,306 for a new one. 

• A storm struck the Twin Cities on Tuesday, Feb. 3. “With the suddenness of a blast, a combination lightning, wind and rain storm roared across Lewis and southern Thruston counties shortly after 6 p.m., Tuesday, dealing out a wide variety of damage and trouble for telephone and power utilities,” The Chronicle reported. Throughout the area, power lines were knocked down and phone service was disrupted. 

• A fire caused about $3,500 in damage to a Centralia house after hot coal ashes “mushroomed” through the rear of the residence. The owner of the home “had awakened about 5:30 a.m., smelling smoke, traced it to a utility room just off the kitchen, (Centralia Fire Chief Don) Barner reported. She opened the door of the room, and finding it engulfed in flames, slammed the door, grabbed her two-year-old child, telephoned an alarm and fled the house,” The Chronicle reported. The rear of the house was “gutted” while the front of the house only sustained smoke and water damage. 

• Three candidates had filed for two seats on the Napavine School Board, according to Napavine Superintendent A.H. Senne. Incumbent Donald Olsen was the only candidate to file for the District 2 position on the board, while E.G. DeHaven was challenged by Otis Thompson for the District 4 position. 

• Evelyn Nelson, a 26-year-old resident of Doty, died suddenly in a Seattle hospital on Tuesday, Feb. 3, The Chronicle reported. Nelson was born on Sept. 3, 1926 in Akron, Colorado and had lived in Doty most of her life. She was survived by her husband, a daughter, her parents and two sisters.

• Rochester High School was expected to add four students to its Torch Honor Society, according to principal Marvin Hanson. The society, a branch of the National Honor Society, was organized during the fall of 1951 and had 14 members. Roy Friis, Ruthan Peters, Doreen Holmen and Kermit Lantz were expected to be initiated into the society after fulfilling the scholarship, leadership, service and character qualifications. 

• St. John’s Episcopal Church in Centralia held its annual parish meeting on the night of Tuesday, Feb. 3 during which the church’s pastor, William Rosenthal, presented a report showing membership and attendance had increased. The church’s top achievements for the previous years were determined to be hiring Rosenthal as the pastor, the celebration of the church’s 50th anniversary and the purchase of a rectory. 


Monday, Feb. 4, 1963

• Following two cold spells, school buses in western Lewis County were being restricted to help protect road surfaces. “The thawing has come after two sub-freezing spells the past two weeks. As the frozen ground thaws, it softens road surfaces to the point where any heavy truck or bus traffic badly crushes them,” The Chronicle reported. According to Chester Rhodes, the Chehalis Superintendent, the Chehalis School District had to drop multiple bus schedules in the Logan Hill and Newaukum Valley areas, though attendance in the district remained normal. No bus route changes were made in Onalaska or to its east. 

• Bill Wiester, the chief criminal deputy for Lewis County, took two Green Hill escapees into custody on the morning of Feb. 4. While apprehending the two Green Hill residents, ages 16 and 17, one of them held a loaded rifle at him. “Wiester said he held one boy at pistol point and turned to find the other aiming the rifle at him from outside the home they had entered. The boy with the rifle surrendered, apparently because his companion was at the deputy’s gunpoint,” The Chronicle reported. 

• State Patrol officers made 54 arrests in Lewis County over the weekend of Saturday, Feb. 2 and Sunday Feb. 3. Of those 41 involved Lewis County residents. Of the 54, 27 were arrested for speeding and seven for invalid licenses. Two “Auburn juvenile run-aways,” ages 12 and 15, 2343 apprehended while driving in Lewis County. The 12-year-old was cited for driving without a license. 

• Rivers in the Twin Cities area were reported to be receding following heavy rainfall over the weekend. More rain was expected for Tuesday, Feb. 5, but the falling river levels had alleviated flood concerns. 

• About 135 Future Farmers of America members heard Gov. Albert Rosellini speak at an FFA leadership training school in Chehalis on Saturday, Feb. 2. During his address, Rosellini assured the FFA members a bill introduced in the Legislature that would have raised the age for a drivers license from the age of 16 to 18 would not be passed into law. “(Rosellini) declared strict enforcement of the law, as now written, is more important than raising the age limit on drivers’ licenses,” The Chronicle reported. He also spoke about the importance of Washington residents, particularly young people, taking a “deeper and more active part in local and state government in the future if we are to progress rapidly.”

• The number of telephones in use had apparently increased in the Twin Cities during 1962. The increase was “considered by some a barometer of growth,” according to The Chronicle. The Pacific Northwest Bell Company showed a total gain of 303 telephones for Chehalis, Centralia, Rochester and Winlock, with Centralia seeing most of the growth with 166 new telephones. In total, there were 13,195 telephones in use in the area in 1962. 

• May Goff, an 89-year-old pioneer resident of the Adna area, was reported to have died in a Centralia hospital on Saturday, Feb. 2. Goff had lived in her farm home for 70 years and was survived by two sons and a daughter.