(Interview 1, May 28, 1970)

Family and Personal History


You must have a host of stories to tell about the Warren era in California.


Well, I was just going to say that if I told some of the stories that would come to my mind about Mr. Warren, you might say, "Who was this man Warren?" The question would be, "What made him so successful in everything that he did?" We have to go back many years, to give you my views of him.

It's my thinking based upon my association and experiences with Mr. Warren and his family for over thirty years. Those years were full of close relationships with Mr. Warren and with his wonderful family. I've thought back in my life many times what a privilege and what an opportunity it was to be able to become associated with him and his family.


Maybe you'll tell me how that happened?


Yes. I was fortunate enough to have him select me to be a part of his team. This was not only a fortunate thing for me, but a happy experience, and in addition to that it's been a very rewarding experience.

When he first appointed me I was, you might say, an individual that was climbing on the lower rungs of life's ladder and reaching for the upper ones, and with very little background for it.


Family Background


I'd like to get something about your family background and yourself. You don't give yourself proper credit!


Well, it isn't too much.


I'd like to ask you a little bit about your family, that is your family `way back, coming to this country. Can we go into where your family came from, and where they settled in America and where you grew up?


My father and mother are Norwegians. They were born in the old country, and I've had the pleasure of going back to their birthplaces. I have a lot of relatives back there and I've had the opportunity of viewing their homes, and where they were raised.

My father was the oldest of a large family. His father was a Swede, and his mother was a Norwegian. His father was a very worldly sort of a man. My father went to sea in his early life, a boy about eleven years old. It made it very hard on my grandmother, my father's mother, because the family was in need. My father had to go to work early and help support the family.

He went to sea on sailing ships, and finally he came over to this country. He was one of the first captains on this coast at twenty years of age.

In those days they didn't have what is known as a master license or what one would call a sea captain's license. They had what was known as a Marine Insurance License. If the marine insurance companies found a man qualified, then they would issue a Marine Insurance License and insure the vessel, the crew and cargo. I still have this license.

Then my father brought over his two brothers and a sister.

My mother was raised in Norway, not too far from where my father was raised. She came from a very fine family, and was considered as well educated as far as the educational standards went at that time. I would say that she had what compared to high school education. It would be more or less like a year or so of college.


The old country custom was in those days that the girls would get married and have their own families, settle their own homes, and the boys would become heirs to the property, or the farms. There were two farms. My mother's brothers received these farms.

She came from a place called Tufta. They took the name of the place as the family name. In other words, if you wanted to locate the family and the place you would have to look for the farm name of Tufta. This was the name of the place and the name of the family.

My father came from a place called Hurum, near Drammen. It's hard to trace his family background.

My grandfather's name was Jahn Erickson, that is my father's father. My father being the oldest, his name was Edward or Edward John's son, or Edward Jahnsen. In Norway they use sen for son, and it would be J-a-h-n-s-e-n. So he was John's son Edward. So it would be Edward Johnson or Jahnsen.

He was confirmed as Edward Jahnsen in the Lutheran Church in Hurum and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen as Jahnsen. However, one of his brothers came over here and was naturalized as Jahnsen, but their children took the name of Johnson. The name Jahnsen was called Johnson, so they just took the name of Johnson. Those that went by the name of Johnson made people wonder why this first cousin of mine would be a Johnson and I would be a Jahnsen. The name means the same. There's been confusion in the family over this spelling of the name.


Did your mother meet your father in this country?


Yes. She never knew him over there. My mother wasn't a very robust type of a person. She was small and thin, but was very wiry. I don't think she weighed over ninety-eight pounds. And she was about 5' 2" or 3", but a very strong-minded person of very strong will. She was very affectionate and very lovable. I couldn't have asked for a better father or a better mother.

When she wanted to leave the old country, her brothers didn't want her to go, because she was working for them for room and board. She did not receive much in the way of money. She had to be up in the mountains to milk the cows, make the

cheese, bring it down to the lower part of the farm, and take care of the cattle. Over there it's a chore, because the cows and the cattle have to be washed and scrubbed. It had to be very well done and it was a lot of work.

The brothers said that she was sick and had TB, and couldn't come to this country. They made up all kinds of excuses to discourage her.

She made several unsuccessful attempts to leave Norway. At the time she left, she was living with an aunt on a farm called Hofsrud. This was a big farm and her auntie wasn't too well. She was staying there with her to help out on the farm. While she was there she heard that there were two girls, the Gowsen girls, who lived across the lake, and were going to America. There was another girl that was going to go with them, but she couldn't go because something developed to prevent her leaving although they had the tickets for her passage.

My mother, about eleven o'clock at night when she got the word that the other girl could not leave, she rowed a boat across the lake to the Gowsen farm. She rowed in the wintertime, in the snow and ice. She rowed over there to talk to the Gowsen girls about getting the extra ticket. She was not too well acquainted with them, but only knew who they were. She arranged to obtain this girl's ticket.

She had to borrow the money from this aunt. This meant that she had to do everything in a hurry as the ship was going to leave in a few days.

So, she had a trunk. It was a heavy thing, and how she got it loaded into this little boat and rowed back over in the ice and the snow and got over there, I'll never know. Then she had to walk up to the farm, so they came down with a wagon and took the trunk and her other belongings to the Gowsen place. The next morning they drove in to the depot and left by train, for the ship. Well, she didn't have any ticket for a berth, so she had to sleep on the deck of the vessel as an immigrant, until she arrived in New York.


She was a determined young woman.


Yes. When she came to New York the other two Gowsen girls went to Boston, and there wasn't any too much communication after that.


The Gowsen sisters later married two sea captains and finally settled back in Norway, in the same community. When I was there in '57 I visited this place and saw the pictures of these women and their husbands--they are now all dead. I talked to some of the family who verified some of this story, which was interesting to me, of course.

Following that, my mother went on from New York to Duluth, Minnesota, where she had the name and address of some Norwegian people that she could stay with. When she arrived there, she only had twenty cents, in American, in her pocketbook, and no more money. She lived with these people and worked as a housegirl.

Following this--it's rather coincidental--she met another family there in Duluth, a judge by the name of Lydell. Judge Lydell had, I think, three boys and a wife who wasn't very well, so my mother tended to her and helped her. They wanted to come out to the west coast, but she didn't. When she did come out, she located near the Lydells in Hayward.

It is a peculiar coincidence, as I say--one day when we were out driving my mother pointed out the Lydell place to me. It was on the road that runs from East 14th Street, up through Castro Valley on the old highway. This house later became a bootlegging establishment and a house of prostitution. While in the employ of the district attorney's office, I had raided that house many times and arrested the occupants for violations of the liquor and vice laws. Sixty years before, my mother used to be around there, when she was again in the employ of the Lydell family.

George Helms, who was captain of inspectors in the district attorney's office, lived a few miles from the Lydell place. The Helms' boys played with the Lydell's boys. Many years later George Helms became my immediate superior in the district attorney's office under Earl Warren. Of course he knew the Lydell family, having gone to school with the Lydell boys, and he and I had discussed this--what a small world it is.

When my mother showed me the house I said, "Well, that's nothing but a bootlegging establishment and a house of prostitution.' " Then I explained it to her and it was hard for her to believe this.

She also knew the old Soares family, whose son Joe later was chief criminal deputy in the Alameda County sheriff's office.

They lived across the road from the Lydell place. I knew Joe very well.

Later she went to San Francisco and she became associated with a lot of the Norwegian people. The old country people would get together and through these meetings she met my father. My father had been married before, and he had two children, a son and a daughter. His first wife died and he married my mother.

My mother had two sons. My full brother died just four months after my father. In August 1916 my father died, and my brother the following December.


Was that the flu epidemic?


No, it wasn't. He was a sea captain, in those days, and he was also a ship builder. Have you visited the Marines Memorial in San Francisco?


Oh, sure.


Have you ever seen the Wapama down there, that steam schooner? It is one of the vessels that he designed and supervised its construction, and several others. They are lumber carriers. The Kalamath, the Multnomah, the Cililo, the Shoshone, the Yosemite, the Cascade, the Yellowstone, the S.A. Allard, the City of Portland, and others. He was the captain of the Samoa; he took that ship to Alaska in 1898 and 1899. One of those trips they towed a large flat barge, with a river steamer on the flat barge. This was the first river boat in the Yukon. He took it up there during the mining days, during the gold rush.

Of course, as I was saying, in those days there wasn't much pleasure for these fellows, only hard work--you might say there were wooden ships and iron men. [Laughter] My father came up the hard way. Most of the men were heavy drinkers. A lot of them sailed the good ship "Rock and Rye."

My father died while he was supervising the building of two vessels in Wilson Brothers Shipyard in Astoria. While he was in the pilot's office he had a stroke and died five days later. He had his first stroke in 1914, and a second in 1915 while taking out the first ship load of piling for the Pearl Harbor dry dock in Hawaii.




While you lived at home you were in school at some point?


I was born in West Oakland at 1661 11th Street. We moved to south Berkeley in 1905. I started at the Lincoln grammar school in Berkeley, and that was at King and Alcatraz Avenue.

In 1907 we moved to north Oakland and I went to the Washington grammar school which was torn down several years ago. That's at 61st and Shattuck. I went up to the eighth grade there.

My Dad made up his mind that I had to get through the eighth grade of that school. His idea was a high school education was not necessary unless you were going to be a professor or a lawyer, etc. Today high school is equivalent to an eighth grade education in those days.

My father said that if I wasn't through school by the time I was fifteen I was going to go around Cape Horn on a sailing ship--he was going to turn me over to a sea captain, a friend of his, like they used to do. That meant I had to climb aloft in the rigging, and I was going to be a sailor. He was going to make a sailor out of me. Every summer vacation I went to sea with my father wherever he went. Up and down the coast and out to the islands, and I had enough of all this sea life.

Early Work Experience


I knew that I wasn't going to get out of grade school until I was pretty much in my fifteenth year, so I got a job working in a candy factory with Steele's Candy Company.

I was twelve and a half years old when I got this job in the candy factory. I used to go to work right after school, every day. We got out around 3:00 or 3:15, and at 3:30 I was at the store and factory.

They had a candy store, and a soda fountain and a lot of dishes to wash and clean, and in the rear of the store, in

south Berkeley, they had a big barn. In this barn they had big watering troughs, like horse watering troughs, and they had it set up with hot and cold running water. They had great, big boxes and these were stacked with dishes. The dishes lay there over night and they were just hard to clean. [Laughter] Mrs. Steele was a stickler, and every glass had to shine!

I was a sort of busboy, in a sense, but I was also learning the candy business.

You know, it isn't easy to get an ice cream soda glass shining. I used to have to soak them in the hot water, and I'd have a long brush in my hand, to get them clean. Dish towels galore hanging up there--flour sacks. If you get one that's new you couldn't dry anything with it anyway! [Laughter] I used to have to clean those glasses until they sparkled like a diamond.

They made their own ice cream. Those days they used to have to use cracked ice, and I used to have to keep the ice cream freezer going and repack the freezer and ice cream tubs. I had to clean all the dashers, the cans and everything--I wasn't big enough to, nor did I have the strength to lift these cans and tubs and repack the ice around them. It was a man's job.

In addition to this, if one glass didn't shine like a diamond back they all came from the store, and there was hundreds of them--the whole shooting match had to come back and be washed all over again, and then they had to be polished. Now Mrs. Steele was a stickler. She didn't want a glass up there with smears on it. She wanted every glass to look like the diamonds in a jewelry store window with all the lights on them.

I used to work every Saturday from seven o'clock in the morning, and never got through til midnight, and I used to have to walk home with a girl in the candy store. She did the locking up and she was afraid to go home alone late at night.


Was it a restaurant, as well as a candy factory?


It was a candy store, and they served meals, lunches, and so forth.



They served food, but they also packaged candy for other places, and they made it?


Oh, they made candy of all descriptions, the chocolate dippers were there, and they made Christmas candy and everything in the candy line.


Did they have any other outlets?


They did later, but not then. They opened up a factory up on Webster Street. It used to be right near Ellsworth and Webster Streets. They had a big candy factory. But that's after I left.

I worked there for a year and a half as a boy--


How much did you earn, do you remember?


Well on this I'll ask you a question--I was coming to that. [Laughter]

At any rate, I started to work at 3:30 in the afternoon, and by the time I got through with the dishes it was around six o'clock. Then I had to go home for my dinner, and return and worked till 10 or 11 p.m. in the store or factory.

I used to help prepare everything for the chocolate dippers the night before. They arrived in the morning, and were there at eight o'clock, and I had to be in school. So I used to have to work sometimes until ten, eleven, twelve o'clock at night! Talk about the child labor law! There were no child labor laws in those days.

I had to clean the factory, I had to clean all the big slabs, the great big marble slabs, and they had a steel slab with a water jacket in it. I had to take all the scrap candy, sunburned chocolates or candy that didn't sell, throw it in the scrap, and then I had to clean the scrap by boiling it down. I used to have to strain all the scrap to get all the nuts, etc. out of it, the material which they could save and make over into chews, etc. So candy that was selling for about two-bits a pound, went into about a seventy-five cents a pound chocolate-dipped chew!

I wouldn't give that job up because I didn't want to go to sea. I had to work every Sunday. I was off, once in a while,

from two to five. I had to get back at five o'clock, because the Steeles wanted to go out for dinner.

That meant I had to wait on the candy counter; I had to mix all the drinks, the sodas, the sundaes and serve the hot plates. I had to take all the dishes out, and clean the tables, and then I had to get them ready to be washed and polished. Then for the candy factory I had to have everything cleaned up for the chocolate dippers. They had great big trays, and they had a sort of a wax paper that they used to set the fresh dipped chocolates on. Did you ever see them dip chocolates?




We had to get all the different kinds of things ready so they could make the centers. Then I had to wrap chews--boy, I wrapped a million chews! [Laughter] I'd sit down in the booth and wrap chews for hours. Then I had to blanch all the almonds--big dish pans full--and it had to be boiling water. I got so I could squeeze those hulls off with two fingers of both hands, and blanch 'em and put 'em out and have them dry. [Laughter]

At Christmastime we made Christmas candy. I remember I was working the kiss cutter, and it got so hot in there that I fainted, and fell back and hit my head against the slab. "Well it's all right," they just took me in--little Johnny there--and put smelling salts under your nose, and that snapped you right up, and back on the job again, on the kiss cutter again!

We used to have to make all of the centers, you know, for the hard candy, and then had to clean all the display jars. All these chocolates were stored--and a chocolate isn't any good unless the center's mellowed. Sometimes you buy a chocolate, you know, and it's hard in the center? Well, that's a pretty good sign that's a new-dipped chocolate. The ones where they're mellow and runny inside--that choc's at least six months old. A lot of people don't know this. I had to go through all of the chocolates, and locate any that had leaks or drips on them. They had to be cleaned and resealed with hot chocolate.


You had to patch them up?



Then they had to scrape all the leaks off, set 'em out, and then they had to take warm chocolate, and fix the leaks. I don't know why they let me do it because my hands were never too clean! [Laughter] It was chocolate--you couldn't tell or see it anyway.

Gee, I used to get so sick of smelling those chocolates. I ate so much candy at first, all I wanted, it made me sick to even smell the stuff. I worked this way right along, and I did this for over a year and a half.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Steele had a little old EMF-30, which was a little Flanders automobile, it was a little roadster, and I used to go out with him on Saturday. He was advertising candy chews. I would sit on the back and I'd toot, toot, toot with the bugle, and all the kids would come running and we'd throw out Yankee Chews--they called them--from great big tin cans. Everyone of them had a little sign on it, "Yankee Chews--Steele's candies." This was a way of advertising. I had to polish the brass headlights and windshield braces on the car, and wash the car--which wasn't bad. [Laughter] How much do you think I got a week?


I haven't any idea. I would guess three dollars.


You hit it right on the head! [Laughter] Less than fifty cents a day--three dollars a week. And going to school too. So it wasn't so easy to do this.

While I was working, there was a fellow named Rodgers who owned a lithographing firm in San Francisco. The Rodgers were a very lovely family, and they used to come into the store at certain times. I don't know--he just took a fancy to me, I guess--seems like if people kind of took a liking to you, they'd offer you a job, like Earl Warren did to me.

On this occasion Mr. Rodgers asked me if I didn't want to go to work for him, and this was going to give me six dollars a week. This meant that I could commute to San Francisco, and the commutes in those days were three dollars a month. If I was going to work for them this meant that I would have to quit school. I still would be working and I wouldn't be subject to this rule of my father of going to sea.

I don't think my father did this with the idea of wanting to punish me, but I think he was putting pressure on me. I did

more or less the same with my son, which was successful--not exactly in that same way. But I probably needed this.

I then went over there and my job was to work in the lithographing department. When they had elections or large advertising mailings to go out, I had to make sure all the mailings were delivered to the post office. I had a cart with bit wheels on it. This office was in the Lick Building. If you're acquainted with San Francisco, you know where New Montgomery Street comes into Market. The Lick Building was at this intersection, or junction. They had an alley behind the office and I used to have to wheel this cart all the way down to the post office. Then I'd have to go by different places to pick up materials and different things to be processed. I used to have to push this cart around San Francisco. I was just about fourteen and a half or fifteen years old.


By this time you'd quit school, when you worked for the lithographing firm.


Yes, I had to quit school just as I was starting in the eighth grade. That meant that I had to get more education, and I realized, to a great extent, the value of education. So I worked there for about a year.

I was very anxious about driving an automobile. I wasn't very tall. When I went in the Navy in 1917 I was five feet five and a half inches and weighed 125 pounds. And looked about fourteen.

When I was in my fifteenth year, I was offered a job with Reid Brothers Grocery Store in Berkeley, not too far from where we were living. Working there, as the delivery boy, I was paid eight dollars a week! Boy, that was a big increase in salary.

In those days your driving license didn't amount to much--this is back about 1915 or 1916. My father died in 1916. I had this job driving the grocery truck, a 1912 Overland, and a motorcycle with a side car, making the deliveries, going to the markets and picking up produce, etcetera. I had to go out to customers' homes in the morning, take and fill and deliver the orders in the afternoon.


About this time I decided there is a better way of making more money--a better way of getting ahead. I was told that if I went up to the Claremont Hotel I could get a job as a bellhop. I knew a boy who was working up there and he told me about all the tips he was making. I was then sixteen. I said, "Well, I'll do that." So I went up there, but it just wasn't in the cards. I couldn't qualify.

I then found out that the San Pablo Hotel, at the corner of 20th and San Pablo and Grove Streets--it's still there--was looking for a boy for an elevator operator. This was when my father died, when I was there in 1916. I went down there and got this job as a bellhop, and there's where I got my formal education in life, of all the things that went on, and that a boy of my age should never have been acquainted with.

My mother and father never believed in telling us about the bees and the birds--you had to learn the hard way. They were religious people. They were confirmed in the Lutheran Church, and one had to be very careful in the type of language he used. The minister and the Ladies' Aid Society used to hold meetings in our home.

I did learn a lot and got an education about the worldly ways of life, as a bellhop.

In the latter part of 1916, I received a better position with W.R. Chamberlin Company, lumber brokers and shippers. Mr. Chamberlin was a neighbor. They lived a short distance from our home in north Oakland. I was given the opportunity to learn the lumber business starting as an office boy.

Joining the Navy


Being a very active boy and liking excitement, I didn't remain with the Chamberlin firm. In August, 1917, I enlisted in the navy and was called to active duty on September 15, 1917, in W.W.I. The nation was at war and it looked exciting, and I couldn't stay in a lumber office.

My father and brother had passed on, and my other brother was going to sea. My sister was married and had her family and I resided with my mother.


I was just seventeen and the navy would not enlist me without my mother's consent. She was reluctant to give this and I had my father's brother, an uncle, to plead my cause with her, and she finally agreed.

That went on until March of 1919. I got out of the active service, and was in the U.S. naval reserve for the balance of the four year enlistment.

While I was in the service I became very active in naval security, and naval intelligence, and port security. Upon my release, I became a special employee of the Oakland police force. I was working in the chief's office. I was interested in investigative work. This was a continuation of intelligence or law enforcement work I started in the navy.


Did the navy assign you to port security? Did it just happen, or were you selected because they thought you looked good.


No. It was a peculiar thing. I was on recruiting duty in a clerical job, looking after stationery supply and office equipment. I was also what they called an orderly to the commandant of the Twelfth Naval District in San Francisco. At that time I was a seaman. I had to work in a stationery room. They had all kinds of office equipment. It was in the Sheldon Building, Second and Market, as I remember now.

The commandant was a captain, a four-striper at that time. He was Captain Russell. This was a part of his office.

There was a sea captain in the merchant marines who owned the Standard Stevedoring Company. His name was Fremont Nash. He was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. naval reserve. He knew my father and had sailed with him. Commander Nash was the commanding officer of the port security force in San Francisco. He used to come up to the Twelfth Naval District for his orders.

While I was there something came up about my dad. I didn't know Nash at all at that time, but knew who he was. We had a chief yeoman there by the name of Lundy, and an old chief petty officer by the name of Bob White. Lundy was transferred to Nash's command. He'd heard there was an opportunity down there, and he knew about my background. As a result he requested that I be transferred down to the naval port guard, which was at Pier Seven in San Francisco in those days. Of course, at the

time I got in there, it wasn't too many months before we had an armistice in 1918. I was on about eighteen months--maybe twenty months--active duty. It was good law enforcement and intelligence experience, too.

Business Experience and Education


Following that I went to work for Christiansen, Hanify, and Weatherwax. Mr. Christiansen owned Sudden and Christiansen, a shipping and lumber business. My father worked for Mr. Ed Christiansen's father. My father knew this family back in Norway. Christiansen came from the same place in the old country that my father did.


That's interesting. I bet you think that everybody in Alameda came from Norway originally. [Laughter]


This was just coincidence. Through family associations and friends I got a job there, working in the sample room. This came about also through W.R. Chamberlin and Company.

In July, 1920, while on an outing over the Fourth I was injured in an accident up here, near Santa Rosa, and it was during this stay in the hospital that I met my wife.

When I came out of the hospital and was hobbling on crutches, I decided to get more education. I realized while I was in the service, too, that I should extend my education if I wanted to get ahead in the navy. I advanced in rating from an apprentice seaman to a petty officer first class and temporary chief in a four-year enlistment, which is something that is rather hard to do.

I was in the reserve for a year and a half afterwards. However, the navy didn't have any formal reserve program--you didn't report. If they wanted you, they'd call you, and there wasn't any retainer money being paid in those days. That was the war to end all wars, so there weren't going to be any more. So no need for a reserve program.


Yes. I remember. Did Fremont Nash connect you with the Oakland police department?



No. He had nothing to do with that.

While I was on recruiting duty, I was off at nights, and able to live at home on subsistence. They could have quartered me at Mare Island or Goat Island or someplace like that, but I got $37.50 a month subsistence in additional to my base pay, and out of that I paid my commute and lived at home. I used to get home at five or six o'clock at night, four o'clock sometimes. I was home Saturdays, or whenever the main office was closed.

I then decided that I'd better get some more education. So I started night school at South Berkeley Business College. A fellow named Rodman headed it. The reason I went there, to go to his school, was that he was a member of the National Rifle Association, and he and I had become very friendly.

One Sunday morning I took one of his big automatic pistols--this was 1915, even before my father died--and I pulled the slide back and I shot myself right through the finger.

I knew Rodman very well. He's the one who encouraged me in this sport of hunting and shooting. I went to this night business college. It was in the South Berkeley Bank Building, upstairs there at Alcatraz and Adeline. I guess I spent about eight months there learning to type and trying to learn shorthand.

After my release from active service, I went down to Gallagher Marsh Business School and took a general business course there. Then I was injured, as I was telling you, in 1920 and '21, when I was living at home.

Investigator for the Oakland Police Department


Jim Drew, who was then chief of police, was looking for somebody to do what you call special investigations, to be a confidential investigator.

I wasn't quite old enough to become a patrolman. At that time I think you had to be twenty-five, but I was just turning my twenty-first birthday. So I went down, and they gave me the job. I worked in the chief's office, associated with Bob

Tracy, who was later chief. I was the confidential investigator for the chief's office.


For Drew? He was police chief, on and off, throughout the '20s, wasn't he?


Well, you see, what happened--Frank Colbourn, who was commissioner of public health and safety, made Drew the chief.


I want to hear about Frank Colbourn. I think he's a fascinating man.


He is. What happened afterwards, we had quite an overthrow in the political field, with the Mike Kelly people in Oakland. The commissioner form of government was voted out and the council form voted in. Charles Young then had control of the police department and he made Don Marshall the chief and Drew was out.


Now what does that mean, that you had an overthrow in the political field?


Well, I would say that the politics got involved so much that they elected this man Charles Young. Charles Young was an engineer, and he had a very close friend named Don Marshall who later became chief. They also elected Leroy Goodrich. I believe he became head of the department of finance, and they elected a fellow by the name of [W. H.] Parker.


Yes, the famous Mr. Parker. [Laughter]


William Parker.

When Drew was chief, he was there under Colbourn until this came in about 1925 or '26--1926, I guess it was, when Sheriff Frank Barnet was defeated and Burton Becker was elected sheriff. Parker came in, Goodrich was shifted around, and Young became the head of the public health and safety department. They moved Colbourn over, and I think he was head of public works department.


Public works.


Yes. I think Goodrich became head of finance, or something like that.



Public works didn't have the port anymore; all the harbor money was out of there.

Agent for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service


In April, 1922, I was appointed to the position of a U.S. agent of the Internal Revenue Department, in the Bureau of Prohibition.


You left the police department.




Is this part of the shake-up? Did Drew leave at that time, too?


Oh no! This shake-up came afterwards. I left Drew because the opportunities were greater going to work for the government. Being a government agent meant a lot to me, and I was twenty-two.

Right following this job, we wanted to get married. My job there in the Oakland police department was not a secure job, but it was attached in such a way that I wasn't able to make the police patrol division. I had to be in this special branch. Then I would have to be twenty-five years old to have been eligible for the regular force. It was about two years before I would have been eligible to become a member of the police department, that is, a member of the patrol force. I wasn't too interested in that, because I wanted to study law.

I couldn't do it very well where I was, but then I got this appointment in the Internal Revenue Service and then transferred over--general agent. These were different branches in this service. For a while I was in charge of the coastal patrol for smugglers.


That was as a special assignment.


Yes. Under the director, too, we worked closely with the intelligence unit of the Internal Revenue Service. Mr. Alf Oftedahl was in charge.


Were the general agents the people who raided bootlegging establishments?



They all did. The special agents' office was more or less an office where they worked on every type of case, and they also had the investigative assignments--or the requirement--to investigate people in the Internal Revenue Service. They were a sort of in-service police department. They were in a little different category. A general agent was different than a federal prohibition agent. A federal prohibition agent came under the director.

The general agents, in addition to raiding bottlegging joints and things of that nature, had the winery inspection service, and those dealing with rabbi inspection who used wine for sacramental purposes, distilleries for medicinal and commercial purposes. You went around and checked these people and you gauged the wineries and distilleries.

The special agent's office worked on special tax matters, too. I only got over in the special agents' department as far as the smuggling detail was concerned.

Earl Warren became district attorney in 1925. He was appointed by the board of supervisors. Prior to this time he was an assistant district attorney. During the times that I was working in Alameda County, we didn't have any office over there. The office was in the Customs House in San Francisco, and up in the Grant Building and different buildings that we operated out of.

Earl Warren allowed us to operate out of the district attorney's office. Warren wanted to enforce the Prohibition law and vice laws. Not that he was a Prohibitionist, but he believed that it was on the law books, so the law should be enforced.

When Ezra Decoto was district attorney, we used the DA's office also but to a limited degree. Mr. Decoto wasn't as determined about enforcing the vice laws, you might say, or liquor laws. He believed this was not for the district attorney but for the police agencies.

During this period of time I became acquainted with everybody in the office. I used to be in there most every day, or maybe five times a week. I could come and go in the office, and everybody knew me, and it was just like I was working there.


George Helms, who was then the county detective, and I were very close. They had a fellow named Ray Laughrey, and a fellow named Al Wogaman. These two fellows were automobile drivers and worked under Helms. They drove the district attorney, or they went around the county and did errands, picked up the evidence from the local court clerks and stored it for the trials in the superior courts. They were going to college and worked during non-school hours, later full time.

Ray Laughrey later went into the insurance business, and Al Wogaman went into the automobile business. But they were friends of Ezra Decoto's. Warren kept all that staff on when he became district attorney.


So the time you're talking about really is around 1925.


Yes, in January. Well, of course in 1924, I was in and out of that office.

When Warren became district attorney he wanted to enforce the law. Helms thought it would be a good idea if we quartered there. He just felt that this was a little closer, and then they could pass on any information--information was continually pouring in, and they had no way of handling these complaints. They wanted to make sure who they were working with were honest people, and people that they could rely upon. They wouldn't let every agent go in there--that office wasn't open to all, but just a couple of us, and I was one of them.

So I became better acquainted with Mr. Warren. We had many raids in the county that resulted in unfounded complaints being brought against our actions--that we were rude and rough, reckless, and we were just knocking people around. We had no regard for their rights, or anything--civil rights in those days didn't mean anything, according to the complaints. Law enforcement officers were accused of violating the fourth and fifth amendments, illegal searches and seizures. But we, some of us, were closely following the law--as close as we could.


When you say illegal search and seizure was simple, what do you mean?


I would say that we operated through obtaining search warrants from the United States commissioners, who issued the search warrant. It was required that we get a search warrant when

necessary. The federal court wasn't following the liquor laws as closely as they were in narcotics. With the liquor laws it was pretty liberal. The United States attorney didn't require as much.

It used to be evidence was legal no matter how you obtained it. If you stole it--you broke into a house and stole it--you got the evidence, you could use it. In the state courts too. You had to have reasonable grounds to believe that the law was being violated. You had to have "probable cause," as they used the term, or reasonable grounds to believe--if one of your senses told you--your smell or your eyes--told you that there was a violation. Just like if a policeman saw a fellow shoot someone, he knew that this was a felony--he can't turn the other way, he had to do his duty.

In this case, it meant the same--as I say, it was very liberal--we would go down a block where somebody'd tell us they thought there was a still operating in a neighborhood or apartment, and we would go around and sniff. [Laughter] At nighttime you'd ride by, and you'd smell this thing, or you'd see people coming and going with bottles.

We had a rabbi down on 14th Street in Oakland--his name was Garfinckel. We had some reason to believe that this fellow had on the list of his congregation a lot of Irishmen. They were no more interested in the Jewish faith or religion--but they were a member of the congregation. They used to have a little tag--just a little mimeographed thing--this member with a number and the person's name. Well, you'd have Mahoney and Flynn and many others who were not Jews or members of a legitimate congregation. [Laughter] He'd come out with a gallon of port wine from the rabbi's house. Or a gallon of sherry--anything the rabbi blessed was good enough for sacramental purposes. Even a bottle of champagne! [Laughter]

So we'd go by and we'd have a belief--our senses would convince us that the law was being violated. However, we didn't have any definite, or concrete evidence. So we'd go to the commissioner on that basis and we would sign an affidavit that we had reasonable grounds to believe that this place had a large quantity of liquor or a still in it. Some officers would go down there with a search warrant, and go in,

and there was nothing there. They were absolved of any violation of civil rights. They would break the door down, maybe. They were absolved of anything even at two o'clock in the morning. Wake the family up, and the noise they made, they'd think the house was coming apart. They had a reason to complain, but in those days you didn't think much of that.

Well, the officers would say, "It must have been next door." So they smell over the fence, and they just change the address and go over next door, and knock. [Laughter] They'd say, "We got a search--" They never leave the copy with the occupants, just show him the search warrant, and say, "You can't keep that--we've got to file that." It was very seldom that happened, but it did happen. I don't recall it happening directly in my case, but I know that it did in others. In other words the law was loosely enforced.

We had these people out there in Castro Valley by the name of Blackburn. Mrs. Blackburn, I guess, was about the finest woman who ever put powder in a safe. She was just about as square as a billiard ball. She was running a place there that thought nothing of having a few girls, common prostitutes, around for the convenience of the customers. They would be waitresses and one thing and another and they were bootlegging. So we raided it.

I guess we were probably a little more rough than we should be. We were being pushed around by the guests, but we weren't going to be shoved around, either. We had been in some pretty close scrapes--shot at a couple of times, and worked over with people ganging up on the officers, so it was just a rough deal.

So she come in and complained to the district attorney that she wanted a warrant for our arrest. Mr. Warren, then the chief assistant district attorney, asked me about this matter. So I told him what happened. We went out there, raided the place, with a search warrant, and this was the kind of a joint that not only bootlegged, but had prostitutes and other law violators. Mr. Warren had her come back. He asked me if I would be present. Of course he could have issued a warrant for our arrest if he believed her story. So I said, "Sure," and I listened to her story. Then I told my view of what took place.


He just said, "Well, Mrs. Blackburn, you have a lot of nerve coming in here accusing these officers for a kind of a place you're running. I have a good mind to abate your place." He told her that from information he had received from other sources, the kind of a place she was running, she was operating with a bunch of underworld racketeers and lewd women around. Mr. Warren became more familiar with my operations.

I think I told you this before that he was keeping company with Nina Palmquist at that time. Her name was Nina Meyers, but her maiden name was Palmquist. They lived downtown in Oakland, 13th and Brush.

This man Garfinckel, this phoney rabbi, and several others down there who were rabbis, had a lucrative bootlegging business. He ordered a truckload of gallon bottles, and of course this meant drunks and all kinds of people hanging around the neighborhood.

So Warren felt that something ought to be done about it. Now he didn't have any enforcement agency that he controlled--he was assistant district attorney then. The sheriff wouldn't do anything; the police department was lax and limited; you had a morals squad, but they were afraid of the rabbis because of their legal status.

He asked me if I couldn't do something about it. I says, "Sure I will." Another agent named [John] Vail was working with me. He used to be a Department of Justice agent in the old Department of Justice that worked on the radicals, the I.W.W., the Wobblies, if you know what they are. They were known as the International Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies.


Oh, I know what the Wobblies were.


The I.W.W.'s known as the International Workers of the World. He, Vail, was very active working undercover in their organization when they used to burn all the wheat fields, barns, and houses down. John Vail was a sort of a Wobbly-looking fellow himself! [Laughter]

Anyway John and I conducted this investigation for Mr. Warren. He (Garfinckel) lived further down in that area from the Palmquists. John Vail and I discussed the idea that we

ought to clean it up and get it over with. We did some surveillance, to see what we can find out.

This was about four o'clock in the afternoon that Mr. Warren had discussed this matter with me. When it got dark, about seven or eight o'clock, Vail and I went around and sized the whole situation up, and who come down the street, but Earl Warren. He was on his way to the Palmquists. He never give me all the background information he had; he just told me where it was. I hadn't met Nina Warren until later.

On seeing us, he inquired as to what we were doing there. "Well," I said, "You told me this afternoon what was going on in this neighborhood. I want to find out everything about it." He said, "It don't take you long to get on the job!" [Laughter] Or something to this effect. So this kind of brought us together a little bit more, closer in our associations.

There was another incident that gave him cause to view the way I worked. There was a bootlegger named Harry Brown who ran the Occidental Hotel in Hayward. This fella was running the same kind of an outfit that Mrs. Blackburn was. This was about 1924. The district attorney's office was about to abate this place as a violation of the red-light abatement act and for violation of the National Prohibition Act.

When the abatement proceedings were under way, Brown had a lawyer by the name of Raine Uhl, and Raine Uhl was a sort of a crack pot or a hot-head. He was an addict, I think, but he was a vicious sort of a fellow, sly and tricky. I was about twenty-three or twenty-four years old, then. When Brown became aware that we were going to raid his place--it didn't take long for the alarm to spread--as we entered the place, he ran out in the back, and he took the bottle of liquor he had and he threw it in a big coalbin, and it broke. I quickly mopped up all I could of coal dust and liquor and squeezed it into a pan, and then poured it into a bottle, and it looked just like coal juice. The U.S. chemists analyzed it as moonshine liquor. At the time of the raid, Brown was arrested.

This was one of the cases that was used in the abatement proceedings against the hotel, that Mr. Warren tried and won. Mr. Warren believed in enforcement of the laws, and the Occidental Hotel should have been abated.


They called me as a witness. I can remember that when I got on the stand Uhl was taking me over the ground, as he called it--going over the different things that happened. He said, "Well, where was Brown when this happened?" I said, "Well, he was in the back." "And where were you?" I said, "Out in the front." He said, "Well how could you see that, and what about other raiders?" I said, "Well, I could run faster than they could, and I chased him back there, and saw what he did." He said, "You ran faster. How fast can you run?"

He kept on going over all this type of questioning, so I turned to the judge, and I said, "Your Honor, I don't think that I ought to answer these kind of questions on how fast I can run. I told the counsel that I could run faster than Mr. Brown, and I saw what happened, and the proof of it is I found the evidence, and arrested the man." So the judge says, "I think we'll just finish the question here. Mr. Uhl, I don't think you have any more pertinent questions to ask. I'll give an order abating the place." Judge James Quinn was the judge. He was a person that would never want to abate a place unless it was absolutely necessary.

One of the things that the law enforcement agencies used to do in those days in order to give the judge some moral support, without him knowing he was getting it, they would invite in all of the anti-saloon league members that they could and all of the church people, and they'd pass the word around that this case was going to be very important. Mr. Warren wouldn't do this, but those church people interested in enforcement who were following these kind of cases, they'd bring them all down, and they'd sit in the courtroom, and listen as spectators to what the judge was going to do in this case.

Well, the judge had to recognize those present as good citizens and wanted these places closed up. So he would abate it, because politically this would not be wise to do otherwise. In those days, places like this didn't disturb a lot of people.

The Tribune and the Post-Enquirer and the others would make an issue of this kind of case. So he abated the place. It was during these trials and working out of the district attorney's office, that Mr. Warren had a chance to observe me and my operations.


Joining the District Attorney's Staff


One day Warren said to me that he hoped to be appointed district attorney. He said Ezra Decoto was leaving and he hoped he could get favorable consideration from the board of supervisors, and that if he received the appointment, he said, "I'd like to talk to you about coming to work for us--for me." He said, "Don't mention this to anybody." I agreed not to discuss his offer of employment.

But a peculiar coincidence happened. Frank Shay, who was also an assistant district attorney under Mr. Decoto, also told me something similar. Now, I knew Frank Shay, too. Frank was handling the work with the prosecuting attorneys. He was handling more of the criminal work. Warren was handling more of the civil work.


Yes. Wasn't Mr. Warren advising the board of supervisors and the school departments and such?


Yes, he was. He was acting as advisor to the board.

So I didn't say anything to anybody about Mr. Warren's offer. But I had my mind made up that this would be a good move for me, no matter which one was the district attorney. Then I could be in the district attorney's office and then I'd have the benefit of what went on there, plus the fact that I could study law--at least I thought I could. I found out later on that this was just not possible, that this was as hard as working in that candy store and included long hours! There wasn't enough hours in a day. We were also working night and day in the enforcement of the vice laws as well as the other kind of criminal cases.


Frank Shay sounds like an excellent person.


An excellent person? Oh, a very, very fine man, and a very fine family. Before he studied law, he was a seaman. He used to go to sea. He was a chief officer in the merchant marine. He later studied law and after passing the bar joined the district attorney's staff, and become an assistant. He was a supporter of Mike Kelly.


He was a Kelly man?



Yes. But a very fine man. He had a very lovely wife. He later became very active or head of--I think it was the county or the federal government activities in the agricultural field--and they lived down around Morgan Hill. Mr. Shay was disappointed, naturally, when Warren was appointed district attorney.


Of course.