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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
December 31, 1922

Philadelphia Young Men Push Companions to Safety as Locomotive Bears Down.


C. Alexander Wray, Jr. and Louis A. Brunner Killed In Collision.

Special to The New York Times.

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 30.—Two well known young Philadelphians were killed and two young women were injured last night when an Atlantic City express train demolished their automobile at a grade crossing at North Woodbury, N. J.

The dead are C. Alexander Wray, Jr., 24 years old, of 239 South Twenty-first Street, former athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, and brother of "Lud" Wray, noted football player, and Louis A. Brunner, 24, 4,042 Spruce Street.

The injured are Mr. Brunner's fiancée, Miss Catherine M. Johnstone, 23 years old, of 2,224 Locust Street, who suffered from shock and a cut over her left eye, and Miss Elizabeth M. Price, 18, of Washington, who escaped with slight cuts and bruises.  She was the guest of Miss Johnstone for the holidays.

The young women owe their lives to the heroism of the men that accompanied them.  When the men saw that the machine could not escape being struck they leaped to the side of the car nearest the onrushing train and received the full force of the impact.  Both suffered fractured skulls.  The injured were taken to Underwood Hospital.

Miss Johnstone, the daughter of Mrs. William H. Dougherty, is unaware of the death of her fiancé.  Their engagement was announced on Nov. 30.  The marriage was to have taken place in the Spring.

Were Going to Dance.

The four were on their way to attend a dance given by former Judge Lewis Starr in the Woodbury Country Club, Brunner was driving and as the Gloucester and Woodbury Pike is torn up in many places, he detoured into Parks Avenue, before crossing the West Jersey and Seashore Railroad tracks at the Edith Street crossing.

According to railroad officials the sedan in which the party was riding swung sharply around the corner where a view of the track was cut off by a small waiting room.  A watchman swung his lantern toward the motorists to warn that a north bound express was due at the crossing.

As Brunner jammed on the brakes, Wray swung open the door, so the young women could jump.  Had the speed of the car not been slackened it would have cleared the rails.  But the car's momentum carried it to the centre of the double tracks.  It was then that the men pushed their companions to the front of the car as the rear of the sedan was in the path of the locomotive.

Men are Hurled 25 Feet.

There was a deafening crash, and Wray and Brunner were hurled 25 feet on the opposite side of the track as the body of the car was torn entirely off.  The train was stopped half way between Edith Avenue an North Broad Street, the length of the station platform.  Trainmen rushed to the assistance of the men and young women, who were placed on the floor of a trolley car, and the motorman sped toward the hospital, three blocks away.

"Alec" Wray was an employe of the Curtis Publishing Company.  In 1918 he played centre on the Pennsylvania eleven.  That year the university had a students' army training corps team.  In 1919 "Lud" Wray was centre, and although "Alec" played guard at times that year, he was really substitute to his brother.  He was graduated in 1920 from the Towne Scientific School.  His fraternity was Zeta Psi.

He enlisted in the Navy and trained first at Annapolis, after which he did some sub-chaser work.  Later he was transferred to the U. S. S. S. Pennsylvania.  Wray left the service with the rank of lieutenant.  Surviving him are his father and brother.

Brunner is the grandson of Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Brunner, with whom he resided.  He entered the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1920, but left in midyear.  During the war he served in the Motor Transport Corps and was stationed in Florida.  The young man was employed in the cashier's office of the firm of Barclay, Moore & Co., bond brokers, in the Real Estate Trust Company building.  He was a nephew of William K. Barclay, a member of the firm.

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