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Obit: S. Clarence Johnston -
S. Clarence Johnston, 67, former chief of police in Cheltenham, died Thursday at Albert Einstein Medical Center's Northern Division. He lived at 8207 Forest Ave. in the Elkins Park section of the township. Mr Johnston, who was known to his officers as a "fair, honest guy" headed the 64-member force for 23 years. He retired in 1973. He was the son of an Elkins Park grocer and worked in the store, at Stahr and Old York Roads, for seven years after graduation from Cheltenham High School. In the meantime, he watched with what he later described as envy as police officers passed by on the community's major road. In 1937 he stopped watching and joined the force. Mr Johnston was an honors graduate of police training programs and a crack shot. He became a sergeant in 1946 and was appointed chief in 1950. In an interview he recalled, "Those were the days when most men were given a badge, a gun and a blackjack and put on the streets. Now, they go to school almost continuously". Mr Johnston doubled the size of the department and added modern elements of police work - detective and juvenile bureaus and photo and crime labs. Eventually, he won approval for construction of a separate Police Administration Building, at 8230 Old York Rd. He personally supervised construction of the building, half of which was below ground and all of which was topped by a mansard roof. He made it into a secure, air-conditioned, self-contained fortress, complete with closed-circuit surveillance of exterior and sensitive interior areas. The structure was nicknamed "The Monitor", after the North's Civil War gunboat that operated largely submerged, with only its armored turret exposed. When the building was dedicated in 1970, Mr Johnston said he thought he could begin to relax a bit. For years the department had been housed next door in the township building, the former home of Philadelphia ice cream magnate Henry W. Breyer. Specifically, the department had been in the kitchen of the Colonial mansion. "Sometimes" the chief recalled with a chuckle at the dedication of the new building, "it got hot in that kitchen." Mr Johnston, who shared his desk with other officers, said it was so crowed that when a suspect was brought in for questioning, the chief and other men on duty had to leave so that the interrogation could be carried out. In the process of updating a department at the edge of Philadelphia and developing a cooperative system with the city's Police Department Mr Johnston became one of the recognized authorities on police work in the suburbs. At times, he permitted himself to joke about his work. Once, nearing the end of his career, he quipped, "You'll never rich rich in business - the grand jury would catch you first" Mr Johnston was a past president of the Montgomery County and Pennsylvania Police Chiefs Association. He was also active in Masonic affairs. He is survived by his wife, Helen Bush Johnston, a daughter Jane H Algard, a son, John C, five grand-children, and a brother. Services will be held at 11am Monday at St Pauls Episcopal Church, Old York and Ashbourne Roads, Elkins Park. Burial will be in Hillside Cemetery
Helen V. Marley
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