Confessions of a Bank Burglar
by Ellis Parker Butler
The suggestion of Professor Puppus (Egy. Soc. Rec. XVI; 554) that the Egyptian pyramids were not originally meant to be tombs, but were built as babies' banks at a time when the currency of Egypt had reached a state similar to that of Russia at the present moment -- when if one wishes to drop a penny in the baby's bank he must use a derrick and the bank has to be the size of a storage warehouse -- suggests that even in those ancient days papa occasionally found himself so cramped financially that he would turn the baby's bank upside down and shake it. The papa who could pick up a hard stone pyramid, as tall as the Woolworth Building and covering a base area equal to the Sixth Ward, and shake it, must have been a strong papa or one mighty hard up for carfare.
In my opinion the papa of that day did not upend the pyramids and joggle them. As a professional baby-bank burglar my opinion is that the small change of that day was paper money, and that papa put his mouth to the pyramid opening and sucked. I have used this method with excellent results when the bank was in the form of a tin house with a narrow tin chimney and a dollar bill was in it. By placing the mouth firmly over the chimney, and then sucking spiritedly, two results are obtained, viz.:
1. The dust in the bank rises rapidly and is deposited on the inner linings of your esophagus, larynx, lungs and liver -- and
2. You get the dollar bill.
In Burgling a baby-bank by this method, which I have named the Suction Method, care must be taken not to stop to cough between the instant when dust from the interior of the bank enters the throat and nostrils and the moment when the dollar bill is, so to speak, degurgitated. If a cough is coughed the dollar bill pauses, hesitates and returns to its lair. It is also advisable to time the conclusion of the suck, or upward draft, correctly, or the dollar bill may proceed on ward through the mouth, esophagus, larynx and other inner passages and glue itself against the liver, thus becoming extremely difficult to retrieve without an expensive operation. (Note: It is extremely advisable for papas meaning to become burglars to begin to train their babes, soon after birth, to put nothing but real money in the bank. Nothing so annoys a burglar as to suck like sixty and discover he has sucked up nothing but a cigar store coupon or a piece of last Sunday's Comic Section.)
When the object of the burglar is to get the pennies I do not hesitate to advise the use of (1) the Free Arm Method or (2) the Hairpin Jiggle. I strongly advise against the Suction Method when the money in baby's bank is in coin. I recall an otherwise excellent burglar papa who tried this once too often -- or sucked too hard -- with the result that $3.95 in copper cents hit the lid of his esophagus, bending it inward and permitting the coins to enter his interior. The irony of it was that he had been robbing the bank to buy his monthly commutation ticket, but
1. He could not spend the pennies, and
2. He could never after catch the 8:15 train, because when he ran for it he jingled like sleigh bells, and if he did not run for it he could not get it.
The Free Arm Shake is used when the bronchial tube of baby's bank is free and unobstructed like a coal chute. The bank is grasped by the underneath and inverted and the hand is made to act as when cracking ice for a cocktail, rising rapidly and falling still more rapidly and stopping with a jerk. By this means over eight cents an hour can often be obtained and the muscles of the forearm and fingers given excellent development. It is advisable, if as much as a dollar or eighty-eight cents is wanted, to change hands every fifteen cents lest one arm become as big as a ham and the other atrophy to the size of a stork's second joint.
The Free Arm Shake can be used on ordinary tin banks, pottery pigs and other open-glottis banks, but the Hairpin Jiggle will produce better results when the bank is one of the new style affairs with a dooflapper in its intake. Wise parents, before buying baby's bank, examine those available and instantly reject any having dooflappers, but if Aunt Anna has given the baby such a bank the Hairpin Jiggle must be learned. The accepted Code of Practice of the Parent-Burglars Association follows:
"Grasp the bank in the left hand, invert it and elevate above the head. In the right hand grasp a hairpin by the legs -- No. 7, chilled steel, black, preferred -- and insert the upper or curved portion into the orifice of the bank. Open mouth 1 1/2 inches. Close left eye. With hairpin hold dooflapper back against wall of the, so to speak, teller's window of bank. Jiggle bank up and down. If successfully performed this operation will cause the coins in the bank (a) to slide down the intake (b) and drop through the air (c) into the mouth (d) with the greatest of ease (e-e-e)."
While, however, it is always well for the baby-bank burglar to acquire, if possible, good form in burgling and to cultivate a classic stance and swing, he should never feel himself too strictly bound by rules. Personally I have made some of my best "hauls" -- as we in the profession say -- by entirely empiric methods, such as opening the darn thing with a can opener or taking it into the back yard and hitting it with a brick.
In conclusion I wish to say that the motto of the Parent-Burglars' Association -- "Early and Often" -- was adopted against my wishes. As the father of four babies and a burglar of long and broad experience I objected to the "often." Even the most unsophisticated babe, if its bank is burgled every morning, soon loses confidence in it and swallows its pennies rather than deposit them in a fiduciary institution of such doubtful solvency. This may benefit the ipecac-trade but it does not help the burglary business. No; my experience is that the watchword of the baby-bank burglar should be "Early!" and "Early!" and "Mighty Early!" for, when the financial stringency in the little old home reaches that point, papa has to get up mighty early or mama will have given the bank the Hairpin Jiggle, the Free Arm Shake, the Sudden Suction and the Can Opener Twist while he is still snoring.