Walter Reca: Delinquent
As an infamous hijacker, Walt was clearly not afraid to be on the wrong side of the law. What is less known, however, is that his misdeeds began all the way back in the 1940s. As a young child, growing up in a poor home with no father, Walt was often getting into trouble. At age ten, Walt was sent to juvenile detention after he was caught stealing money from pay phones.
The crime was real enough, but the tactic was admittedly clever. Walt would place raw egg in coin return slots at local pay phones. An unsuspecting caller would reach to retrieve their change but recoil at the touch of slimy egg, and Walt would be able to salvage the coins after the caller had left. Needless to say, the phone company was not too fond of his activities, and Walt spent a night or two in the detention center. Those evenings in juvie would change his life. In the boys’ hall at the center Walt met his childhood best friend, Willard Stahl. Willard was just two years older than Walt, but he had more experience causing trouble and was happy to show Walt how it was done. Walt, Willard, and Willard’s younger brother Weldon formed a sort of gang, a mixture of good manners but ‘sticky fingers’ who often stole from the local store. For a time they were members of the Boy Scouts, but eventually it became clear they would need more street skills than wilderness survival training to make it through their younger years. The boys’ heroes were tough guys like James Cagney.
Walt and the Stahl brothers routinely got into mischief that escalated as they got older. They were often running the streets, fighting other boys, and trying not to get caught by local authorities. Walt became streetwise and a bit reckless, and he was used to dealing with whatever the back streets of Detroit brought his way. With more serious worries of work, money, and survival on his mind, Walt quit school after the eighth grade. He never returned to school, and his adventurous life after the fact was testament to his own tenacity and quick wits, regardless of lack of education.