Al Capone Buys a Dance Ticket: The Power of Crusader Alumni Stories

Among my favorite St. Paul’s stories is one about Randall Coleman ’39 selling a St. Paul’s dance ticket to Al Capone.

Capone had been released from Alcatraz in 1939 and was living in Baltimore in early 1940 while undergoing treatment at Union Memorial Hospital for syphilis. According to Randall’s son, Ran Coleman ’65, the young student, doing a post-graduate year at St. Paul’s, figured out where the gangster lived and knocked on the door of his rented house on Pimlico Road. Randall “was met by a hard–looking man who made it quickly known that he didn’t want a ticket to a dance at St. Paul’s and suggested that dad scram,” at which point a voice from deep inside the house instructed the man to buy a ticket from the kid, which he apparently did. Randall, being an astute Crusader, completed the transaction and scrammed. (Ran Coleman recounted the incident in The Spirit of St. Paul’s, the 1999 collection of anecdotes about our school.)

No one from Capone’s entourage showed up on the Mt. Washington campus for the dance (which was, to be sure, just for students). So did Capone really buy a ticket? It really doesn’t matter, for the story is more than the improbable intersection of a notorious gangster and a school dance; it’s a tale of the ingenuity of a St. Paul’s alumnus with a sense of humor, and a narrative that illuminates the essence of alumni relations.

Alumni have stories. A principal objective of our alumni program is to learn those stories and use them as vehicles to help alumni stay in touch with one another, and by association, their alma mater. The shared memories that are expressed in stories solidify common bonds and help draw alumni back to campus for reunions, games, theater performances and to speak with today’s students. Alumni gather in other cities, at Crusader receptions and in pubs. Older alumni mentor younger ones in their careers. They’re in each other’s weddings and become godparents to each other’s children.

With the assistance of a Crusader in the class of 1997, we recently placed a St. Paul’s college student in a summer internship at a large engineering/construction firm—our first such success. This match is a manifestation of an alumni community that grows more vibrant each year, one that provides a sense of community that extends far beyond the rolling hills of Brooklandville.

Al Capone wasn’t in much condition to dance, anyway, for syphilis was slowly destroying his nervous system. He moved to Florida in 1940, where he died in 1947, a week after his 48th birthday.

Charley Mitchell

Charley Mitchell

Mr. Mitchell returned to St. Paul’s in 2012 after a long career in international publishing as an editor and publisher, during which he served for six years on the St. Paul’s Alumni Association Board. Charley, the author of two books, has deep ties to his alma mater—his son, three brothers, nephew and cousin are all alumni. He also helps staff the Writing Center; serves as the faculty advisor to the student paper, the Page; and coaches middle school sports. He can be reached at

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2 thoughts on “Al Capone Buys a Dance Ticket: The Power of Crusader Alumni Stories

  1. I love this story about my dad… I have heard it all my life, and I have no doubt that it is true. He was a legend in his own time, and continues to be long after he went to the great scuba diving reef in the sky.

    1. Thank you, Cecelia. From what I’ve heard of your father, from classmates and other alumni of his era, I have little doubt that it’s true. Regards, Charley

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