On a Friday evening in 1962, or perhaps 1963, Ben Shaw and his sales employees at the Princeton Prep Shoppe in Birmingham, Mich., were watching traffic roll by as an ordinary work day wound down. But with young Mitt Romney around, Shaw recalls, nothing was ordinary. The future presidential candidate and three friends dressed in what Shaw calls “gangland fashion” hopped out of a 1930s vintage Ford that was double-parked across the street, in front of City Hall and the police station.
The four teens wore “trench coats with turned-up collars and wide-brimmed fedoras,” Shaw told The Daily Caller in an interview.
The pretend gangsters made a beeline for the storefront. One knocked the door open while two others “stood menacingly with their hands in their pockets.” Shaw instantly pegged the fourth member of the team as Romney. The boy “shoved his way in,” he said, wielding a toy Tommy gun.
“This is a stick-up,” Shaw recalls Romney saying, adding that he “proceeded to ‘spray’ the entire store as sparks from the toy flew from the muzzle.”
In the blink of an eye, the pranksters jumped into their getaway car and sped away.
In Shaw’s re-telling of the story, one employee of his clothing store knew the young Romney and remarked, “What a crazy goofball.”
Mitt Romney is now the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, but his youthful shenanigans keep surfacing as November nears.
Shaw and shop co-owner Joel Hepner told TheDC that their store was the scene of frequent Romney hijinks, including what Shaw nicknamed “the massacre.”
He recalled another staged stunt, “the fireman story,” that happened around the same year during the Christmas season. As holiday business picked up, Shaw kept the store open until 9:00 p.m. during the week, he said, and routinely received truck shipments around closing time.
So when he heard a “loud banging” on the metal delivery door in the back of the shop as he was preparing to lock the front door, he thought it was just another late-night delivery.
But when Shaw opened the door, he explained, he suddenly stood face-to-face with Mitt Romney “in full Bloomfield Township fireman’s regalia.”
“He had on the waterproof cape, the fire helmet, and he was carrying a bona fide fire ax,” Shaw told TheDC, and barged into the store screaming, “Where’s the fire? Where’s the fire?”
The costumed Romney paraded through the store — all the while yelling about a nonexistent fire while swinging the ax over his head — and walked out the unlocked front door. And as quickly as he had barged in, he vanished.
A Romney campaign spokesperson did not dispute the story, but said Romney was not armed with a toy Tommy gun in the “massacre.” The spokesperson also said that for his second prank, Romney was carrying a fire hose — not an ax.
Shaw said the boy Romney “had so many props he couldn’t possible keep track of what he used and when he used them.” But he stands by his recollection.
Romney drew criticism after other childhood pranks were reported publicly. In one, he and a group of friends forcibly cut off the hair of a high school classmate presumed to be gay.
In another, he reportedly impersonated a police officer, complete with car and siren. “I remembered him telling us that he liked to pull people over,” one friend from Romney’s college years told The Boston Globe.