By 1911 the new, modern century had fully arrived in Santa Rosa, but apparently not everyone had received the memo.
Continuing the theme of the past few articles, in 1911 Santa Rosa was catching up to Bay Area cities; downtown was looking more cosmopolitan with its paved streets, electric trolley and several movie theaters. Here’s another example: The new modernity was also reflected in the kinds of ads that began to appear, and that was presumably because shoppers reflected Santa Rosa’s expanding middle-class.
Compare the men’s fashion ads at right; the lower one appeared in 1909 and the top ad was from 1911, both from the Press Democrat. The 1909 ad emphasizes price (twice!) and the man in the drawing seems as average looking as possible – not to mention appearing uncomfortable, maybe even itchy in his ill-fitting wool suit. In the 1911 hat ad the price isn’t mentioned at all, featuring instead a man with chiseled good looks smoking a cigarette (the first appearance of smoking in any PD ad). The emphasis on value was a hallmark of ads aimed at farmers or working-class guys who only bought Sunday suits; the stylish hat ads were aimed at men who wanted to look suave around town.
The local newspapers were also becoming overall more urbane; better graphics, more cartoons and improved reproduction of photographs made both the Santa Rosa Republican and Press Democrat look more on par with a daily paper from Berkeley than one from a country town such as Ukiah, where stores were still pushing discount duds. But that modern look to the papers makes it all the more jarring when you stumble today over a story that’s a throwback to Santa Rosa’s wilder and woolier (and sometimes weirder) times. Several examples from 1911 are transcribed below.
Sometimes it’s not that the events are remarkably peculiar – people always do damned peculiar things every day – it’s just that these were odd bits to get written up in the newspaper. Take the story about Mrs. Patterson, a “prominent resident of Rincon Valley.” One midsummer morning she reached for her jar of epsom salts – a popular choice as a laxative in the day – but instead grabbed her bottle of sugar of lead (lead acetate), then used to color hair but also a mild poison.
Who on earth would keep a bottle of poison next to their similar-looking health remedies? Surprisingly, it must not have been that unusual back then because a year before the town’s veterinarian swallowed a “digestive tablet” after dinner, then realized in horror it was actually a mercury bichloride pill, “enough to kill several persons.” Reaching into our great-grandparents’ medicine cabinet was like playing russian roulette. (For those curious about “sugar of lead:” Yes, it was historically used like sugar and the Romans consumed great quantities of it in sweetened wine – read this thorough discussion.)
Also hard to comprehend today: Why carpenter Clayton Shockley and attorney Peter Schlotterback got into it on Fourth street over the ownership of a handsaw. It seemed Schlotterback accused the workman of stealing it from him a couple of years earlier, and before you knew it, the carpenter was beating the attorney in the head with his hammer and the Schlotterback was trying to saw off a portion of Shockley’s noggin. Both ended up bloody from the fracas. Okay, maybe it was a really, really nice handsaw, but honestly: Two middle-aged men in 1911 trying to kill each other over a handsaw? It was as nuts as the story a few years earlier where two men were fighting in court over ownership of “a valuable varmint dog” – which had actually died.
Then there’s the odd 1911 story of Otto Ulrich, a sausage maker who proved remarkably flammable. It seems he was going about his sausage making when he happened to catch fire, due mainly to his apron and clothing being so soaked in grease that he was something of a human candlewick. He ran to a large tub of water but was unable to get in, due to “the mammoth boots which he wore in the sausage making room” (go ahead and Google for “sausage boots” – you know you want to). His co-workers saved his life by turning a hose on him but his head was burned, along with all of his hair.
It’s also interesting to note the disgusting details of that story only appeared in the Republican, which was Santa Rosa’s afternoon newspaper; it was probably wise for the morning Press Democrat to go easy – many PD subscribers were probably having breakfast as they read their paper, and would not be happy to contemplate how much of that smoky flavor in their eggs and sausage might be essence of Otto.
This wasn’t as gruesome as some industrial accidents reported in years before, but given this incident occurred five years after publication of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and the wide public outcry over horrific working conditions in the meatpacking industry, it’s appalling that nothing apparently had changed since the Nineteenth Century over at the Noonan Meat Company, Santa Rosa’s slaughterhouse. Let’s hope a clipping of that article turned up on a desk at the state health department.
Another item right out of the previous century: A guy on Fifth street began shooting at a Chinese man he suspected of wrongdoing, then formed a mob to hunt him down in Santa Rosa’s two-block Chinatown.
Frank Munday claimed the man was prowling around his house and thought the man intended to kidnap his three year-old daughter. Munday’s fears were pulled straight from the pages of lurid dime novels and sensationalist yellow journalism stories; 1911 was near the peak of the national white slavery mania, and a common plot described Chinese men snatching young women off the streets to smuggle them to Asian brothels. Munday took a sniper’s position overlooking the front of his house and later told a reporter he began shooting when he saw the prowler trying to open a window. As this was all happening early Sunday evening as church services were getting out he attracted much attention with his rifle fire. At no point were the police notified, according to the Press Democrat story.
Finally, the PD made its own contribution to the list of 1911 oddities with a new warning to naughty children. Not seen in the paper since 1908, these items once appeared often – a sample can be found here, and is best read imagining the voice of Simpsons’ character Mr. Burns – always warning that a dire fate awaited little rapscallions who trampled flowers or dropped slippery orange and banana peels on the sidewalk. (Yet curiously, when a former Santa Rosan actually did die in 1909 from slipping on a banana peel in San Francisco, the PD reported it with a couple of terse paragraphs and no sermonizing. Go figure.)
In that new item, PD editor Ernest Finley railed against misbehaving whipper-snappers with slingshots, and the big cudgel this time was being arrested by a game warden for shooting at federally-protected songbirds. “So if the fathers and mothers of exuberant young hopefuls wish to avoid trouble of having to go down and bail the young hopefuls out some of these fine mornings, they would better see to it that their young hopefuls carry no sling shots, and that they let the birds alone.” The boys were also shooting at people, and the paper cautioned “there is danger of grave injury if boys are allowed to possess these things and use them.” Hey, kid, here’s a buck if you can knock the cigarette out of the mouth of the guy with the snappy hat.
PROTESTS MADE AGAINST SLINGSHOT NUISANCE
Complaints are frequent that Santa Rosa boys are amusing themselves and tormenting other people with that devil’s device known as the slingshot, an artillery-like contraption made of a forked stick and two rubber bands. Several persons have been struck by missels [sic] from these weapons, and the results have been painful. And always there is danger of grave injury if boys are allowed to possess these things and use them. Their possession is forbidden by city ordinance, and it is threatened that the ordinance will be invoked against some of the youthful offenders if the offense continue.
Also it is said that the boys with slingshots are making targets of the birds in the old college park. That constitutes another offense against the law, for many of these birds are songbirds of the species that the law protects. So if the fathers and mothers of exuberant young hopefuls wish to avoid trouble of having to go down and bail the young hopefuls out some of these fine mornings, they would better see to it that their young hopefuls carry no sling shots, and that they let the birds alone.– Press Democrat, March 11, 1911WOMAN TOOK SUGAR OF LEAD BY MISTAKE
Mrs. Patterson, a prominent resident of Rincon Valley, made a mistake Friday morning in taking a dose of medicine, and swallowed a quantity of sugar of lead instead of Epsom salts. The woman noticed her mistake at once and a hurried call was made for Dr. Jackson Temple by phone. Dr. Temple made a rapid trip to the Patterson residence in his automobile and soon had the woman out of danger. Mrs. Patterson is still quite ill from the effects of her mistake, but will recover.– Santa Rosa Republican, July 29, 1911
SAUSAGE MAKER BADLY BURNEDClothes Catch Fire When in Smoke House
Otto Ulrich, sausage maker at the Noonan Meat Company, was severely burned about the left arm and had the hair singed from his head on Thursday morning.
The man went into the smoke house to attend to some of his duties there, and his apron and other clothing caught fire. He ran from the smoke house to a large tub of water and began splashing water on himself to quench the flames.
Not succeeding as well as he had expected, he shouted for help and fellow employees turned the hose on him and extinguished the flames. Just how the blaze was communicated to the clothing of the man is not known.
Ulrich was unable to get into the tub of water because of the mammoth boots which he wore in the sausage making room. After the fire was extinguished the man was taken to Dr. J. W. Jesse’s office to have his burns dressed and the pain relieved. His overalls were burned from his body and his head was burned, the hair being consumed rapidly. The grease which had collected on the clothing worn by the man made them inflammable.– Santa Rosa Republican, September 14, 1911BLOOD FLOWS IN LIVELY COMBATP. L. Schlotterback and C. P. Shockley Mix Things With a Hammer and Saw as Weapons
A hammer and a saw, with a man behind each, clashed in a bloody combat in the new Hahman building on Fourth street on Thursday afternoon, and for the time being there was considerable excitement. Both men came out of the combat with real wounds, bleeding wounds, too, which had to be patched up by physicians. The men in the mixup with the impromptu implements, usually devoted to placid forms of labor, were attorney Peter L. Schlotterback and C. P. Shockley, the latter a well known carpenter employed on the building.
Schlotterback strolled into the building Thursday afternoon and seeing a number of carpenter’s saws picked up one, so the story goes, and inquired the name of the man who was using the particular saw he had in his hand, saying that it belonged to him. Shockley stepped up on hearing claim being laid to his saw, and demanded to know whether the attorney meant that he had stolen the saw, adding that it was his saw and that he could give the name of the man from whom he purchased it. He also stated that he could buy saws and was not bound to take tools that did not belong to him, and had not done so.
Some angry words were exchanged between the two and a suggestion from Schlotterback that probably Shockley had not come honestly by the saw was resented by the carpenter, who smote his accuser over the head with a blow from a hammer handle. Quick as a flash Schlotterback struck the carpenter over the head with the saw, following it up, so other workmen present say, with other blows. Shockley turned to run and the lawyer pursued him and when Shockley stumbled and fell another blow with the saw was aimed at him. Then the combat ended.
Blood was streaming from the wounds on Shockley’s head and from the wound on Schlotterback’s head by this time. Officer Ramsay came and Schlotterback walked away with him toward the police station. No complaint was filed, however.
Shockley was taken to the office of Dr. G. W. Mallory and the blood was washed from his wounds. One cut on the top of his head required four stitches to close. Another cut on the back of his head required a like number of stitches. Another deep cut was made on the carpenter’s arm.
In the meantime Schlotterback had sought the assistance of Dr. J. W. Jesse to have his wounds treated. Dr. Jesse found he had sustained a big contused wound on top of the head, evidently caused by the hammer handle with which Shockley admits he first struck Schlotterback. He also received a nasty gash in the hollow of the hand.
Both men had the fronts of their shirts covered with blood, evidence that something had been doing.
Shockley was employed by Schlotterback in making some repairs upon a house about two years ago, and then a saw was missed. While Schlotterback had his suspicions aroused, he says it was not until Thursday afternoon that he discovered the saw which he says is his. On the other hand, Carpenter Shockley says the saw is his, and not Schlotterback’s, and that he bought it from a man whose name he can furnish. And there you are. There is no mistaking the fact that for a few seconds there was a lively fracas over the disputed ownership.
It was not known Thursday night whether there would be any legal proceedings growing out of the dispute. After the wounds had been dressed Schlotterback inquired at the building for the saw and was told it was being detained at the police station. When Shockley was being led away to Dr. Mallory’s office his parting injunction to his fellows was, “Don’t let Schlotterback get that saw. It’s mine, and not his.”– Press Democrat, November 3, 1911
HE TAKES SHOTS AT CHINESE PROWLERFrank Munday Believes Chinaman Was Bent on Kidnapping His Little Daughter
Frank Munday , who resides on Fifth street, near E, took several shots with a rifle at a Chinaman who had been prowling about his residence for several hours Sunday night. He opened fire when he detected the Celestial on the porch endeavoring to open a window.
Neither of the bullets took effect in the Mongolian’s anatomy and he fled like a scared wolf to the inmost researches [sic] of Chinatown, and despite a [illegible microfilm: there was a search aided by Munday].
At the time of the rifle fusilade [sic] great excitement prevailed as many people were on their way to the different churches. The Chinaman had followed Mrs. Munday and her little three-year-old daughter when they were returning from a walk on Sunday afternoon. From then on until dusk he hovered about the Fifth street residence and was noticed by a number of the neighbors of the Mundays. The object of his attention seemed to be the little girl, and in the absence of any other reason for his presence and an attempt to enter the house, Munday believes the Chinaman was bent on kidnapping the child.
When he returned home shortly after seven o’clock on Sunday night Munday found his wife considerably alarmed over the Chinaman’s actions, and taking his rifle he stationed himself at a point of vantage and when he discovered the uninvited visitor making for the window he opened fire.– Press Democrat, April 25, 1911