Here’s a handful of items from 1908 Santa Rosa papers that are interesting, yet don’t quite merit separate articles:

* A Santa Rosa man named H. C. Stone registered to vote, listing his occupation as, “Philosopher of the Order of Mephistopheles” (misspelled “Methlstopheles” by the Press Democrat). The County Clerk thus entered his job title in the Great Register of Voters.

* A pharmacist in Sonoma was arrested for having a caged dove. Under California game law selling or even possessing wild birds (alive or dead) outside of hunting season was punishable by at least a $25 fine or 25 days in prison, but the druggist plead ignorance of the law and was acquitted by a jury. There was particular concern in the years 1908-1909 that sportsmen’s clubs were wiping out local game and tighter rules were imposed; Marin banned quail hunting for three years, and Los Angeles county limited dove season (yes, there was a dove season) to a single day. Doves were hunted both for sport and food, and unlike robin pot pie, you couldn’t get in trouble for tucking into a dove pie, as long as they were killed legally; a woman won a prize in a 1909 San Francisco Call recipe contest with a dish that called for a dozen birds.

* Testifying at a circuit court hearing in Bodega, a witness who was “a son of sunny Italy, not long in this country, and best learned in English in the use of slang,” according to the PD, responded to a lawyer’s question by saying, “Sure, Mike.” This was newsworthy because “sure, Mike” was a somewhat disrespectful catchphrase of the time that meant something between “you betcha” and “hell, yeah.” The crime in question, by the way, was for Peter Ginella taking “an unfriendly poke with a crowbar” at one G. Bugada. The accused was probably part of the sprawling Gonnella clan; no fewer than 37 Gonnellas were listed in the 1910 census for Bodega township.

* “A lick and a promise this time, Jim,” read the note left by the thief who had robbed a dentist’s office of gold for fillings. Another Healdsburg dentist reported a similar robbery, and two Petaluma dentists had been burgled a couple of weeks before. A historic newspaper database search suggests that thieves who robbed dentist offices specialized in that crime, and were very often caught either trying to pawn the gold to a regular jeweler or during an inept break-in attempt. Just a few months earlier, the mayor of Reno had spotted someone wiggling through the transom of a dentist’s office; a police officer arrested the would-be burglar at gunpoint, likely still in mid-wiggle.

* What do you do when a friend is so chronically depressed that he speaks of nothing but suicide? If you’re one of the “friends” of this despondent Healdsburg man, you turn his misery into a vicious practical joke. They gave him “a great quantity of crystals looking like strychnine, but which were really epsom salts,” which he promptly mixed with water and drank, expecting to die in front of his comrades – he even held a club to fight them off, should they attempt to intervene. A witness horrified by the scene summoned the police, who could find no sign of the anticipated corpse. The victim “is none the worse for the cruel hoax played on him,” the Santa Rosa Republican dubiously claimed. Besides the damage this prank certainly added to his already frail emotional state, epsom salts, when taken orally, are a powerful and fast-acting laxative.

Peter Ginella, charged with giving G. Bugada an unfriendly poke with a crowbar at Bodega, was not held for trial by Justice Cunninghame at the preliminary examination at Bodega on Saturday. He was allowed to go and sin no more. Attorney William Finley Cowan went over from Santa Rosa to represent the accused. Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle, and Court Reporter Harry Scott were also among those present from Santa Rosa. The evidence Ginella was not considered sufficient by the magistrate to hold him over to the Superior Court.

Some diversion was occasioned in the courtroom during the examination of a witness who chanced to be a son of sunny Italy, not long in this country, and best learned in English in the use of slang. In response to one question by Attorney Cowan the witness, in responding in the affirmative, said:

“Sure, Mike.”

– Press Democrat, February 12, 1908

Deputy Game Commissioner Lounlbos arrested a Sonoma druggist, named Simmons, last week on a charge of violating the law. The specific charge was keeping a dove in captivity in a cage. The man was given a hearing on Saturday and was acquitted by the jury hearing the evidence. Mr. Simmons had no intention of violating the law.

– Press Democrat, March 31, 1908
Man Registers at County Clerk’s Office and in Response to Query Tells of His Occupation

“What is your occupation?” queried the clerk in the registration department in County Clerk Fred Wright’s office of a man who presented himself to have his name put on the new Great Register the day before yesterday.

“Philosopher of the Order of Methlstopheles,” came the quick reply.

“What?” gasped “Casey,” behind the book. “Repeat that again please, and slowly; and possibly you had better spell out the last.”

“Philosopher of the Order of Methlstopheles,” thee last word spelt out in a suppressed, dignified tone by the man on the other side of the wicket.

“All right, Mr. Philosopher, you’re registered. Here’s your receipt.”

Santa Rosa has a philosopher, one who firmly believes in the teaching of philosophy of the Methlstopheles. His name is H. C. Stone.

– Press Democrat, March 7, 1908


“A lick and a promise this time, Jim,” written in a scrawling hand on a piece of paper and left on the desk in the dental office of Dr. O. J. Litchfield, at Healdsburg, was all that the smiling dentist has to show as evidence, except the carrying off of a lot of gold used in filling teeth, etc., that an unbidden guest, a thief, had entered his offices in that city on Sunday night. The thief also paid a visit to Dr. McGlish’s office and made a haul of gold there. He did not leave his card. A couple of weeks ago a thief also burglarized the offices of two Petaluma dentists and stole gold, bridges and crowns. Santa Rosa dentists are respectfully invited to see that their gold is under lock and key. They thief may pay a return visit to Santa Rosa.

– Press Democrat, August 19, 1908
Hoax Played on Man Who Was Tired of Life

John Capella, a resident of Healdsburg, had recently become despondent and threatened many times to commit suicide. The man made quite a diligent effort to obtain a sufficient quantity of strychnine to shuffle off this mortal coil, and was unsuccessful.

Some wags sought to have some fun at the expense of Capella, and they gave him a great quantity of crystals looking like strychnine, but which were really epsom salts. The man went into the bar room of the Oak Lawn House and there mixed the crystals in a can.

When he raised the can to his lips Capella announced that he was drinking a dose of strychnine, and to make the matter more tragic, the men who had played the joke on the would-be suicide, endeavored to wrest the can from his possession. With a large club and mighty oaths Capella kept the crowd back until he had drained the can of its contents.

A messenger, seeing the commotion caused by Capella’s attempts at suicide, ran post haste on his bicycle for the police station and notified the officers. Night Watchman Harris hastened to the scene and made a search for Capella. He was finally told of the prank played on the man, and gave up the search. Capella is none the worse for the cruel hoax played on him.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 7, 1908

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