My turn: Melrose robbery not first for small towns

Last week’s daring daylight bank robbery in Melrose was hardly the first for a small town in eastern New Mexico. The end result — multiple suspects captured before they had a chance to enjoy the loot — is also a familiar refrain.

The First National Bank of Elida was robbed of $3,277 just after noon on April 22, 1927.

James Melton Traylor, sitting at his desk at a Conoco service station, noticed an unfamiliar car roll into town and cruise slowly past the bank.

Two men left the car and entered the bank, while a third kept the engine running and waited at a side entrance. This concerned Traylor, who soon ran across the town square and through the bank’s front door. He found bank employees unharmed, locked in a vault.

The robbers escaped, but not for long.

Jack Dyer, caught in Amarillo two days later with a large roll of bills containing Elida bank markings, said he and another robber left New Mexico on a train boarded in Clovis. Norman Akin was captured in Iowa Park, Texas, on April 28; A.F. Leamon was caught May 12 in Jefferson, Texas.

Within a month after the robbery, all three were sentenced to 25 to 30 years in prison.