It was approaching midnight as the seven teenagers gazed wistfully up at the ceiling of their second story cell in the Madera County Jail. They had all been arrested for burglary and were ostensibly awaiting their appointed time to see the judge, but none really expected to make that appearance. They had spotted a pathway to freedom, if only they could remove that metal cover over the air vent on the ceiling.
This was not the first time that the vent had lured a teenager to attempt an escape from jail. A little over a year before, in early 1956, one incarcerated lad managed to break the vent cover loose and made his way to the top of the building. Alas, upon reaching the roof, his planned flight from justice went awry. Although he had no rope with which to descend, he jumped anyway. Upon hitting the ground, he broke his neck and died instantly.
Now on March 12, 1957, just two weeks before Madera celebrated the 50th anniversary of its incorporation as a city, that second floor air vent once again became the object of teenage affection. This time, however, the escapees would hit the roof prepared.
Somehow one of the boys had been able to smuggle a file into the cell. It was old and rusty, but it would do the trick...