Officer Obie Lays Down the Law

--Police Chief William J. Obanhein--"Officer Obie” to fans of Arlo Guthrie’s ballad “Alice’s Restaurant"--has hung up his badge. After 34 years as a lawman in Stockbridge, Mass., Obanhein, 60, has decided to retire. “I feel sad about it, but I’ve about had it,” Obanhein said after town officials accepted a letter announcing his immediate retirement. “It was a heart-wrenching thing,” said Selectwoman Mary V. Flynn. “We all love him and we know the love he has for the town. He was a good chief.” Obanhein’s most famous arrest was on Thanksgiving Day in 1965 when he collared Guthrie, then an 18-year-old student at the Stockbridge School, for dumping some garbage illegally. The son of folk singer Woody Guthrie was subsequently deemed unsuitable for military service because of his crime and he turned the incident into “Alice’s Restaurant.” The song painted “Officer Obie” as an overzealous policeman who went to the extremes of extensively photographing the “scene of the crime.” The ballad was the basis of a movie of the same title, and Obanhein, who played himself in the film, became something of a cult figure. He and Guthrie became friends after the incident. “I still see him once in a while,” Obanhein said. “He stops in to say hello.”

--The water was warm and Gus Brickner plunged right into the Monongahela River near Charleroi, Pa., to log his 38,000th mile as a swimmer. Brickner, 73, a retired steel worker, glass worker and school janitor, swam along the banks of the river about 20 miles upstream from Pittsburgh. “I went through a lot of water in my days,” said Brickner, who has been swimming since he was 7 and logging his distances since he was 15. He is in the Guinness Book of World Records and vows to stay there. “I’m going to make the number so big no one will ever be able to break the record,” he said.

--Veteran performer Sherman (Scatman) Crothers, who will begin radiation treatment today on an inoperable tumor behind his left lung, received an unexpected get-well letter from President Reagan wishing him a speedy recovery, a spokesman said. The 75-year-old Crothers was “delighted” to receive the President’s letter, which greeted him as: “From one recuperator to another, get well soon,” the spokesman said. Reagan expressed his wishes that Crothers have “as speedy a recovery as I am experiencing. We both have bookings to keep and I know that you are anxious to get back on the golf course just as I can’t wait to get on horseback.”

--The Air Force recruiters in Aransas Pass, Tex., were disbelieving when the Stoops brothers walked in the door. The triplets were dressed alike right down to their shoes. “They looked at us real hard,” said Larry Stoops. “They had a real shocked look on their faces.” Larry, 18, is 55 minutes older than brother Gary and 54 minutes older than Barry. The three chose the Air Force in part because recruiters assured them that they could probably stay together even when training ends, Larry said. But he said he and his brothers don’t plan to use their triplet status to confuse anyone, even for fun. “The military is pretty strict,” he said. “I know those training instructors aren’t humorous--they’re paid to be mean.”