Santa Rosa’s kids were in the news in 1908, and usually not in a good way. From burglary to malicious mischief to escapees from Barlow’s work camp in Sebastopol, it seemed like barely a week went by without a story about coppers nabbing some young miscreant, as introduced in an earlier post.

But there was another kind of newspaper item that was aimed directly at kids, where the news was delivered varnished with a useful falsehood. Today, stories of this sort might announce with a wink that Santa Claus was coming to a downtown department store or the Easter Bunny had hidden eggs in the park; back then, the message was that the police were on your trail and soon would throw you in the clink, if not reform school.

Headlined in the heavy, boldface font also found in the reporting of major crimes, the items below report little kids picking flowers, playing around trains in the railroad yard, and dropping orange and banana peels on the sidewalk (a particular obsession of the Press Democrat). Consequences were dire: pulling up flowers was “one of the dirtiest piece of work that has been done in the city for some time.” Boys caught hopping aboard the slow-moving boxcars faced jail time. Police would enforce the anti-littering ordinance after “a gentleman carrying a baby in his arms stepped on a peel and narrowly escaped falling with the child” with the PD adding ominously, “such an accident would probably result in injury to one or both.”

Doubtless when these articles appeared the same scenario played out over many a breakfast table.

“Well, will you look at this! You don’t play with these bad children, do you Horace?”

“Oh, no, maw, I’m a good boy,” he replied, hoping she didn’t remember the muddy footprints he left on the stairs the night the flowers were trampled.

Mean Trick Played on Sonoma Avenue Residents

During Monday night and there was considerable mischief wrought in a number of yards of the residents of Sonoma Avenue and E street, which has been which has caused indignation among the people of that vicinity. The families involved are the Turners, Loughrins, McDaniels and Delaneys.

At the home of Mr. and Mrs. Turner the youngster started in with the dahlias near the front gate and continued all along the front fence and across the corner of the yard, where they completely wrecked the beds of poppies and dahlias. In the center of the dahlia bed a large barefoot track can be plainly seen, and this same track was visible in the front yard of the Loughrin home across the street. Here there was a pulling up and destroying of the flowers.

At the Delaney home a large bed of pinks was pulled out of the ground and all piled together near the edge of the sidewalk. From here the miscreants seem to to go to the McDaniels place just around the corner on E street, and there pulled out the flowers from the front yard.

Officers Boyes and Boswell were notified and went to the place early Tuesday morning and took measurements of the tracks. It is thought that the guilty parties are known and if they are caught it may not be so pleasant for them. The officers style the affair as one of the dirtiest piece of work that has been done in the city for some time and just punishment will be meted out the boys, should their identity be definitely learned.

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 19, 1908

Still Persist in Jumping on and off Trains

Police officer John Boyes gathered in six boys who were engaged in dangerous practice of jumping on and off on moving freight train in the Northwestern Pacific yards in the city on Wednesday afternoon.

The officer played a little ruse to capture the offenders. He went up as far as Body’s Crossing and here jumped on the incoming freight himself; at first some twenty boys, who jumped on the train a little further down the line, did not see him. When they did they made a hasty jump from the cars. The officer jumped too, and grabbed a half dozen of them, and brought them up town to the police station where they were locked up for several hours, and later in the evening dismissed with severe caution as to their future behavior, together with a reminder of the danger they take in jumping on and off moving trains.

Almost every afternoon when school is dismissed, many of the boys hasten to the railroad track for the purpose of stealing a ride on the freight trains. Either parents or school teachers should give lads who are known to be doing this foolish act some stern advice regarding the matter, and it may be the means of preventing death or maiming of some of them under the wheels of the cars. There have been enough accidents.

Lads who got caught jumping the trains will not get off with a few hours in jail, the punishment given the offenders today, but will most likely have to spend the night in jail.

– Press Democrat, January 23, 1908

Danger of Throwing Orange and Bananas Peelings on Sidewalks is the Subject of Complaint

There has been considerable complaint recently about the carelessness of persons in throwing orange and banana peelings on the sidewalks. Yesterday a gentleman carrying a baby in his arms stepped on a peel and narrowly escaped falling with the child. Such an accident would probably result in injury to one or both.

There is an ordinance providing a fine of not less than five dollars for the throwing of peelings and the sidewalks and the police are going to enforce it.

– Press Democrat, January 1, 1908

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