No matter how slow the news day, editors could always count on filling a few column inches with a report on the arrest, injury, or death of a local drunk. Often it was like sports reporting today, the incidents written up with flair and flourish intended to entertain the reader more than simply inform. Oh, the amusing tragedy of alcoholism.
The first item below was written with so much elaboration that it may need a couple of reads to figure out the simple events that were reported. Following that is another story played for yuks, reporting that a man fell off a bridge, yet escaped serious harm. “Had the man not been impregnated with preservatives in the shape of booze, he might have been killed,” the Republican paper noted. But weeks later, a smaller followup item revealed that he was actually paralyzed at the waist.
The final piece was also written for laughs but happens to profile a remarkable hobbyist on Barham avenue who was operating a 1905 state-of-the-art distilling, brewing and wine-making operation out of his basement. Today Mr. R. Christ would be winning ribbons at the Harvest Fair, if not bottling something with his name on the label.
LOOKED UPON BEER WHEN IT IS BROWN
A young Sebastopolitan named Pitts Tuesday night made himself intoxicated and then made “rough house” of the streets of his ordinarily quiet and peaceful hamlet. He tried to capsize several brick blocks and sought to drive his horse through the windows instead of the doors and attempted to mount to the roof to come down the chimneys, a la Santa Claus, and acted in every instance in a highly improper and indecorous manner.
When Mr. Pitts found that a brace of big avengers in the persons of Officers Hankel and Boyes were camping on his lurid trail he turned on more speed and broke for home. His time was slow, however, and he was dragged off the track before the quarter pole was reached. In the City Prison during the remainder of the night the visitor from Gold Ridge had ample opportunity to muse over the peculiar chemical effects of beer looked upon when it is brown within the schooner.– Santa Rosa Republican, November 11, 1905
PLUNGED FROM THE RAILING
H.H. Allard Takes a Backward Fall From Davis Street Bridge Into Creek Bed
H.H. Allard, suffering from an acute attack of alcoholism, plunged backwards from the rail of the Davis street bridge this morning, in the bed of Santa Rosa Creek below. The bed of the creek was not so soft as the one in his native heath in Vermont, and his plunge resulted in a badly sprained back and severe contusions about the head and body.
Allard had partaken freely of intoxicants and then seated himself on the rail of the bridge to watch the day grow older, and reflect on the abuses of liquors. While thus engaged he suddenly lost his balance and went over backward. The fall was more than thirty feet, and had the man not been impregnated with preservatives in the shape of booze, he might have been killed.
The ambulance was hurriedly called, and Allard was taken to the County Hospital. County Physician Bogle made an examination here and found no broken bones had been sustained. Allard has been in California about four months. He will be laid up for repairs for a number of days.– Santa Rosa Republican, October 16, 1905
DEAD BETWEEN BALES OF HAY
A Paralytic Found Suffocated in a Barn Near Town of Lakeville
With his head wedged between bales of hay, his pipe which he had been smoking still in his hand, Emil Heinson was found Wednesday dead in a barn on the C. Brown farm near Lakeville. Death from suffocation had taken place, probably some hours before his body was discovered.
The man was a local character of Petaluma and vicinity known around the saloons which he frequented most of his time by the name of “Spike.” Owing to his appetite for intoxicants his wife procured a divorce some time ago and is living in Petaluma supporting herself and little children by her own effort. In fact, he was in the County Jail on some drunken charge when the suit papers were served on him.
From his drinking habits he had become partially paralyzed and because of this disability and his intemperate habits he was unable to do much work, consequently he drifted around. Mr. Brown took him to the ranch and offered him some work. It is supposed that when Heinson slipped and fell between the bales he was unable to extricate himself because of his physical weakness and suffocated in that position.
The Coroner’s Jury at Petaluma found a verdict of accidental death.– Santa Rosa Republican, October 26, 1905
USES HIS REVOLVER TO TRY AND GET WOMAN TO DANCE
Man’s Frolic Is Soon Stopped by Police
Excitement On First Street Last Night Results In An Arrest by Policeman Lindley
“Dance,” shouted Harry Maynard at Miss Marvel Watson as she stood on the porch of a house on First street last night. And because she was not quick enough to comply with his coarse demand, she says he whipped out a pistol and sent a bullet between her feet. The piece of lead did no damage and spent itself in the wooden step.
Maynard might have run amuck further but for the timely arrival of Police Officer Lindley. Lindley heard Miss Watson’s story and saw the place where the bullet had hit, took the revolver away from Maynard and marched him off to jail. Maynard was intoxicated, but made no resistance under the sturdy grip of the officer’s muscle.
At the police station Maynard was locked up for the night, and opposite his name on the docket are three charges, namely, “Drunkenness, discharging firearms within the city limits and carrying concealed weapons.”
It is believed that Maynard fired the shot at the young woman’s feet to frighten her. She says that she has known Maynard for a long time, but hass had nothing to do with him lately. He arrived in town yesterday and went out calling on First street with his pistol in his pocket. He is quite well known here, in Petaluman and other places. The incident occasioned considerable excitement on First street last night, but this quieted down when Policeman Lindley came hurriedly on the scene in response to a call.– Press Democrat, October 5, 1905
WHAT OFFICER BOYES FOUND
Thought It Was an Auto Running In Sleep, But Was a Private Still
Police Officer Boyes, whose territory takes in Barham avenue a few days ago heard a gasoline engine working busily away in the basement of R. Christ’s residence. The officer at first thought it was a horseless wagon stabled for the night which had “got-a-going” somehow and the machine was enjoying itself during its hours of leisure. He investigate and what he saw sent him to hunt up Revenue Collector Walter Price. The government official took a look and stopped that gasoline engine forthwith. Then he put Uncle Sam’s seals on the basement door and told Mr. Christ to keep out of the place.
They had found a small private still complete for making prune brandy, and also that the owner was engaged in the work. He chatted volubly on the practical methods of distilling prune brandy, beer and other beverages, and exhibited his plant with considerable pride. His apparent innocency jarred the officers who are not accustomed to such unsophistication in this day and generation. The case hardened U. S. Treasury man sat down on a fruit box and thought of his childhood days while Boyes let his mind wander among the kindergartens he had visited.
But when they told the distillery owner that he was an illcit moonshiner, a mountain-dew man the jar he got was great indeed. He insisted that he did not know that his occupation had heaved him hard up against the august Government of the United States and that his act smacked of “treason, strategy and of spoils.”
When he had recovered somewhat he protested that he had not know that such private distillations of spirituous liquors were interdicted. However, when the officers had enlightened him he grew indignant.
“Cannot a man distill his own brandies, beers or other drinks?” he asked.
He was told that this would not be permitted unless the distiller complied with certain laws enacted for the taxing and regulation of the manufacture.
“Then I have a very pessimistic view of this country’s laws,” he replied.
The officers found a 10-gallon key and several bottles of beer which he had brewed, also some prune brandy in different states of change from the honest, revenueless prune that needs no surveillance to the alcoholic fluid that must be gauged, bonded, fortified, rectified, stamped, taxed and retaxed every step of the way from the still of the maker to the mouth of the drinker. Christ is considerably of a domestic manufacturer. He makes and drinks tea made from raspberry and strawberry leaves, and coffee from barley. In these productions he shows an intelligence hardly in keeping with his pleas of ignorance of the revenue laws of this country. The seizure has been reported to headquarters and the matter will be investigated.
It is the general belief among the neighbors of Mr. Christ that he was really ignorant of the fact that he was engaged in a lawless occupation and that his private plant was liable to seizure. He is an eccentric person, quite ingenious and original in thought, and was in all probability oblivious to the fact that he was stepping on the toes of Uncle Sam’s treasury department.– Santa Rosa Republican, June 27, 1905