A Lonely Bookkeeper Turns to Crime

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This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

“I didn’t think it was so much money. Four thousand dollars. The money I take from the company welfare fund. I don’t know myself why I take it."

Mr. Demetrious, a man with a thick accent voiced by Rod Serling, is an immigrant who moved to the United States in 1920. He works hard at his bookkeeping, has been an American citizen for twenty-five years, and possesses “a superior mind” with a good education, but he stole four thousand dollars from a fund for people suffering overseas.

“I don’t know myself how it happened,” Mr. Demetrious says in his opening narrative, “I’m no kid.” The only explanation he can give is his own loneliness. He hasn’t seen his only relative in the United States, his married sister, in seven years, and, “I got no friends, no bad habits. I’m alone. I go to church. I read. I have a good camera. I take pictures. Very good. Except when I work, I am alone.”

The music swells, and the radio drama shifts to Mrs. Johnson’s apartment. Mrs. Johnson is Mr. Demetrious’s landlord. When he arrives to give her his check—punctual, as always—she tries to introduce him to her sister-in-law, but he cuts her off, claiming he has to leave. They ask if he is going to the show, but he replies, in somewhat broken English, “No, ma’am. I didn’t enjoy very much the motion pictures. I-I go for a walk.”

“You ought to get out and enjoy life more, Mr. Demetrius,” Mrs. Johnson says, “ You’re still a young man! First thing you know, you’ll be old.”

He protests, saying that he enjoys his books and his camera, then leaves.

Mrs. Johnson turns to her sister-in-law. “See what I mean, Marion?” They wonder at his loneliness, and about his nighttime activities. Mrs. Johnson comments on the fact that he switched to her best rooms and has been purchasing nice clothes lately, but they quickly return to his antisocial behavior.

“Can you imagine, not liking the movies?” Marion asks, and the two decide to go to see the newest Errol Flynn picture.

The radio dramatization ends, and we shift to the Classification Board, the panel of experts who review the social, medical, and psychological records of each offender at Riker’s to determine a program for his penitentiary term. (Members Warden Edward F. Johnson, of Riker's Island Penitentiary; Dr. Bertram Pollens, Executive Secretary, New York Consultation Center; Dr. Harold R. Fox, Psychiatrist, Riker's Island Penitentiary; Captain Jerome Adler, Captain in charge of classification and assignment at Riker's Island; George E. Mears, Probation Officer, Kings County; Milton B. Lewis, Assistant Director of Education, Riker's Island; Norman M. Stone, Correction Department Executive Secretary)

Mr. Mears summarizes Mr. Demetrious’s life story, emphasizing his loneliness. He calls his crime one of the “accidental type,” and claims he is a worthwhile member of the community. Mr. Stone disagrees with this claim, reminding Mears that the man had been stealing for four years.

The conversation turns to the underlying causes for Mr. Demetrious’s “anti-social behavior.”

Dr. Pollens says that the man has no friends and is not married, and as such must evidently be, “suffering from serious personality of emotional disturbance which until this time may have been dormant.” He is educated, but not “living a normal life.” He might have engaged in this money-making scheme, Pollens suggests, to attract attention and friends. Dr. Fox goes further, claiming that Mr. Demetrious is a “schizoid personality” because he is so withdrawn.

The men decide that Mr. Demetrious’s interest in photography might be used to draw him out of his shell.

“This man has to learn how to live with others. He has to learn how to live in the community. Not as a lone wolf,” Mr. Stone cautions, but if he were the institution photographer, he would be forced to attend all events and engage in recreation. Photography might also serve as a new career path, they say, since he will not be able to work as a bookkeeper again.

They also advise a course of psychotherapy, and regular conversations with the chaplain, since Mr. Demetrious is a religious man. He must learn, they agree, to rehabilitate himself.

Mr. Lewis worries about the inmate’s age, but Mr. Stone interrupts him. “Every case has certain possibilities. If we fail, we fail, but at least we’ve carried out our moral responsibilities.”

They summarize their findings. The credits are read.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 69892
Municipal archives id: LT923