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THE REDEMPTION OF SANTA ROSA CREEK

Note to Santa Rosa: When things are so bad that you’re on the opposite side from the Women’s Auxiliary, you might want to rethink your position.

It was 1923 and the smell of tort was in the air – among other things. Pressure was coming from neighborhood groups, which were either threatening suits against the city or demanding Santa Rosa sue its worst polluter. The state Board of Health was sending threatening letters to city hall because nothing was being done to fix serious violations of public health laws. And then there was the lawsuit filed early that year by a man who charged the city was responsible for his young daughters being sickened with typhoid and diphtheria.

What all of these complaints had in common was that they involved Santa Rosa Creek in some way – either something bad was being intentionally dumped into it or the city’s inadequate sewer farm was overflowing and flooding the adjacent creek with raw waste.

None of these were new problems. Complaints to the City Council about the abuse of Santa Rosa Creek dated back over thirty years, to 1891. Ordinances against pollution were passed but not enforced and court orders were ignored – as for the sewer farm contaminating the creek, the city was violating a perpetual restraining order going back to 1896.

Last month (Feb. 2021) I was part of a Historical Society of Santa Rosa webinar about Santa Rosa Creek. My portion, “The Stink of Santa Rosa Creek,” which begins in the video at the 32:00 mark, covers much of the history of pollution in the decades around the turn of the century, but I did not have time to discuss the pivotal year of 1923, when prospects greatly improved. This article is a companion to that presentation and wraps up the story.

Before we wade into that muck, however, first the fun stuff: Lake Santa Rosa, take III.

In early 1923, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon for an expert in urban planning and development to tell them how to best turn its city-owned property north of town – now the Junior College campus – into what was intended to become the “Luther Burbank Creation Garden.”* Seemingly to their surprise, his focus was instead on beautifying Santa Rosa Creek.

Thus inspired, come that spring Ward W. Von Tillow, head of the Chamber’s “Clean Up committee,” announced plans to restore several miles of the creek to its natural state. But the committee wasn’t going to stop there; they would build dams to create “ole’ swimmin’ holes” for the town’s youth. They also wanted to ask property owners along the creek to give away their strips of land immediately adjacent to the creek so “walkways, tennis courts, bath and boat houses can be built.” In short, they wanted to turn the creek into a full-blown waterpark.

This proposal probably led many in town to wistfully recall that about a dozen years earlier there was a short-lived effort to dam the creek to create “Lake Santa Rosa.” That plan was sabotaged both by upstream pollution and an obstinate landowner who maintained his property line extended fully into the middle of the creek. (Legally true, but meaningless in practice.) And even before that there was a proposed 1906 waterpark that included a bandstand, but that design was quickly forgotten after the Great Earthquake struck.

The 1923 ambitions likewise went nowhere. The creek revitalization by the committee was not mentioned again, as they turned to their routine springtime duties in getting the town “dolled up” for the upcoming Rose Festival. Homeowners were asked to sign a pledge to make their house and yard as presentable as possible, while volunteer crews and Boy Scouts picked up trash in alleyways and vacant lots, painted old fences and such.

Perhaps the Clean Up committee was so distracted by its pre-festival chores that it plumb forgot about creating a waterpark with “ole’ swimmin’ holes,” but it’s more likely they were discouraged by the outcome of a meeting that happened on exactly the same day. City Manager Abner Hitchcock held a summit between city leaders, the Women’s Auxiliary and the Chamber of Commerce directors. The topic: What to do about the public nuisance caused by the Levin Tannery.

There were then three tanneries in Santa Rosa (see “TANNERY TOWN“) and the largest was the Levin Tannery, which was at the current location of 101 Brookwood Ave. extending all the way to the creek – larger than a typical square city block.

Pity anyone who lived downwind of that place; the stench was offal (sorry, old pun). The tannery also dumped the untreated refuse of its tanning vats into the creek and the concentrations of lime and other highly toxic agents, including cyanide, quickly killed what few fish still ventured into the waters. Complaints about these problems dated back many years and were ignored until the new threat of lawsuits against Santa Rosa itself brought City Manager Hitchcock to call the meeting. Still, he included the proposed waterpark as an agenda item: “Beautiful parks, roses, swimming pools, wistaria vines and tannery dumps do not mix,” he conceded.

Predictably, nothing came from the meeting except for an agreement to meet again at some point to discuss zoning. (Probably meaning they wanted to rezone that entire section of town as industrial, making it easier for the city to justify ignoring odor complaints from nearby residents.)

The Levin Tannery got away with being the town’s worst water and air polluter because it was also its largest employer. Yes, the tannery discharges into the creek were illegal and yes, the company was sued over that as well as the smells. Each time the tannery promised to be a better citizen but did nothing, and the city let them get by with it out of fear they would take their hefty payroll to Petaluma or somewhere else.

It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on Santa Rosa’s remarkable degree of cognitive dissonance in that era. On one hand the town and its Chamber heavily leaned into PR that this was Luther Burbank’s garden paradise and the lovely city of roses, hoping to attract visitors and new residents. But at the same time, they were aiding and abetting the tannery in its ongoing destruction of the creek and its blanketing the town’s air with stomach-turning smells.

The State Board of Health had no interest in coddling the tannery’s illegal dumping, however, and sent Santa Rosa a blistering letter charging that pollution of the creek was “beyond any that exists anywhere else in the state,” and if the city didn’t take immediate action the Board would file injunctions against the polluters itself.

(A little Believe-it-or-Not! sidenote: The waterpark plan announcement, the summit meeting over the tannery smell and the arrival of the letter all took place during a single week in early April.)

As the Press Democrat noted at the time, the town had to prevent at all costs the state from taking action against the polluting industries, as “it would mean the losing of these plants to Santa Rosa, since they could not dispose of their own sewage and compete with competing plants more favorably situated.”

Santa Rosa was now faced with promptly solving a crisis thirty years in the making. Naturally, the city did what it’s always done: It hired an out-of-town consultant – and then mostly ignored his advice.

Sewage disposal cartoon ("the blot on the fair city of Santa Rosa") by city engineers Frank Comstock and Paul Green. Press Democrat, February 9, 1924
Sewage disposal cartoon (“the blot on the fair city of Santa Rosa”) by city engineers Frank Comstock and Paul Green. Press Democrat, February 9, 1924

As I emphasized in my presentation, almost all of the creek’s problems were linked to the town not having an adequate sewer system until 1925.

Santa Rosa Creek was an open sewer until the first city sewer main was built in 1886, with “numerous” privately owned redwood sewers dumping raw sewage into the creek from downtown hotels and other large businesses. Some of those private lines were still in use until 1902, when they were banned by the city. (Aside from sources transcribed below or found in related articles on the creek, most of this older research comes from “The Sewage of Santa Rosa” by John Cummings.)

That first city sewer poured into the creek just west of Railroad Square (it’s always polite to welcome visitors with something fragrant) until 1890, when a sewer line was extended out to the newly constructed sewer farm, about where the Stony Circle business park is today. It was purposely built next to the creek so any overflow from the evaporation ponds or other parts of the system would spill into there along with the semi-filtered wastewater gushing from the outflow pipes.

The sewer mains were undersized from the start and upgrades always seemed to be about ten years behind current needs. Around the turn of the century, every winter Second and Fifth streets backed up with sewage seeping out of manholes during storms.

Being perpetually at full capacity (or beyond), for years Santa Rosa limited which businesses or industries could hook up to the sewer. The city allowed only one laundry to connect and even that sometimes overtaxed the sewer main on Second. The other laundries presumably just discharged their soapy alkaline water into the creek, although they were supposed to be using large cesspools.

The Levin Tannery never used the sewer system but the city’s other major creek polluter, the cannery, finally connected in 1925. Before then the sewer farm could not have possibly handled its waste, which was about 100,000 gallons per day during peak canning season. California Packing Company’s Plant No. 5 on West Third Street (survived by that big brick wall just past Railroad Square) also created a terrible stink in the west end of town due to its enormous garbage heaps of food waste allowed to rot along the banks of the creek.

C. G. Gillespie, director of the bureau of sanitary engineering of the State Board of Health wasn’t threatening action over Santa Rosa’s inadequate sewer lines in 1923, however. Besides the cannery and Levin dumping waste into the creek near downtown, the object of his fury was the sewer farm, where he wrote in his letter there were “utterly intolerable conditions.”

That was because in 1895 the sewer farm moved its wastewater outflow pipes farther west. As a result, several farms downstream were flooded that winter. The city paid damages but Mrs. M. A. Peterson took the city to court and won a perpetual restraining order, “prohibiting the city or its officers, agents and employees from polluting or poisoning the waters of Santa Rosa creek by discharging any sewage, garbage, filth or refuse matter in the creek from the sewer farm.”

Come 1923 and her son, Elmer, sued Santa Rosa for $12,000 damages (about $183k today) to cover medical expenses for his daughters allegedly having contracted typhoid and diphtheria because of the contaminated creek water. Another case at the same time which was apparently settled quietly had a Laguna farmer claiming creek water had killed thirteen of his cattle.

Unbelievably, it seems that the city actually stepped up the volume of discharges as the Peterson case awaited court hearings. The Petersons claimed that the sewer farm discharges were now continuous, and the judge ruled for the city to be held in contempt of court.

And despite further nastygrams from Director Gillespie (“conditions are getting more unbearable than ever before”) the city still did nothing about the dumping situation. Finally in November the state Board of Health dropped the hammer on Santa Rosa and declared the pollution of Santa Rosa Creek a “serious public nuisance and menace to health” and the city in violation of the Public Health Act.

The deadline for the city to fix everything was Jan. 1, 1925 – about thirteen months away.

"Before and After" cartoon by city engineers Frank Comstock and Paul Green. Press Democrat, February 8, 1924
“Before and After” cartoon by city engineers Frank Comstock and Paul Green. Press Democrat, February 8, 1924

The city moved quickly to schedule a special election for February 1924, asking voters to approve $165,000 in bonds to build a new sewer plant. It passed easily, with about 83% approval.

Director Gillespie followed that immediately with a letter to City Council. His message: The state doesn’t trust you to do the right thing.

“I am convinced that the seriousness of the sewer farm conditions is not generally realized in Santa Rosa,” he wrote. “…We must compel your attention to your own shortcomings in this particular, and look to you for an energetic and business-like solution of the utterly intolerable conditions which have been perpetrated too long.” He closed with another swipe that “the city pollutes Santa Rosa creek to an extent beyond any that exists anywhere in California.”

And surprise, surprise, surprise: Gillespie was right. We did screw it up.

Right after the sewage plant bonds were sold there was a big turnover in Santa Rosa’s government. Three new councilmen were elected (one of them also being named as the new mayor) and the city manager and city attorney resigned. Ideas which were considered and rejected a year earlier – such as “sewering to the sea” – were reconsidered. Doubts were raised over whether an entirely new plant was needed or the existing one just could be improved.

What the city then did could be considered underhanded: They sent the Board of Health plans for a modern sewage plant the city never intended to build. Instead they just added a couple of new wooden septic tanks and six more ponds to increase capacity.

Gillespie was spitting mad. He condemned “the inadequacy and futility of the makeshift efforts vou have been attempting at the sewer farm this past summer” and continued:

…Your accomplishments and prospects of abating this nuisance are wholly unsatisfactory to us and an imposition upon the right of others in that vicinity. We expect you to forthwith carry through the program for building a real sewage plant as proposed by those in authority in Santa Rosa last spring and for which bonds were duly voted.

Clearly the city was playing a game of chicken with the state, betting that Gillespie would back off as long as they showed progress was being made. The sewer farm began chlorinating wastewater before it was discharged. The Levin Tannery stopped dumping into the creek – it’s unknown what they began doing with their toxic waste, or why they couldn’t have started doing that decades earlier – and the cannery installed a grinder to chop up peelings enough to wash them down the drain.

The showdown came after the January 1925 deadline. The state sent a chemist to take a sample from the creek while two local chemists did the same. The state report found the water still highly dangerous; the Santa Rosa boys pronounced the samples free from contamination.

The Peterson family wrote to Gillespie asking if the water flowing through their property was now safe. He replied that “…Santa Rosa Creek is considerably polluted by this sewage. It is dangerous above the farm, fully 100 times more dangerous below and about 50 times more dangerous at your place, than above the farm.”

As for the Peterson lawsuit, it was decided in February 1924, about the same time that voters approved the sewer farm bond. He won the decision, but Judge Preston from Mendocino county dismissed damages related to the medical care for Elmer’s two daughters because the municipal corporation was not responsible since there was no “willful violation.” (I’ll pause here for Gentle Reader to scream in outrage.) But hey, the judge said Elmer could still sue city employees personally for negligence. He refiled his case to get a jury trial, but died of a heart attack before it came to court.

Santa Rosa’s wastewater finally met the state’s minimum standards, although it took until September 1926. But although the worst was over, the creek was still far from recovery. During the dry months Santa Rosa Creek near downtown was considered a fire hazard because of all the everyday rubbish still being dumped into the creek bed and upon its banks. (The fire dept. was called to put out such a fire in the summer of 1924.)

Also, the sheriff’s department apparently believed it was exempt from state pollution laws. That was the era of Prohibition and the cops were seizing enormous quantities of hootch, which they poured directly into the creek downstream from the sewer farm. In November 1926 alone, they dumped 1,730 gallons, mostly hard liquor including over a thousand gallons of jackass brandy. There were also 600 bottles of beer and the county detective and deputies  “practiced up on their shooting until broken glass, foam and odor was all that remained.”


*  Despite its name, the “Luther Burbank Creation Garden” had very little to do with Burbank, aside from a promise he would contribute some plants. It was really the latest installment in the perennial melodrama over Santa Rosa’s efforts to create its first public park, this time with the good juju of Burbank’s famous name and intentions that it would someday include a community auditorium, another benefit the town lacked. Nothing much came of it (although they passed the hat at events for years, seeking donations) and the property was sold in 1930 to become the basis of the new Junior College campus.

 

sources

PARK COMMITTEE TO ENTERTAIN AT DINNER

Luther Burbank, Santa Rosa’s plant wizard, and Dr. Carol Aronovici, city planning expert of Berkeley, and a member of the University of California extension bureau, will be guests of the Luther Burbank Park committee of the chamber of commerce at a dinner to be served this evening in Edward’s Restaurant…

…Dr. Aronovici is noted throughout the States and nation as a leading beautification consultant. He has published numerous books dealing with the question and is a most interesting talker. Maps showing how Santa Rosa can be cleaned up and beautified and how Santa Rosa creek may be made into one of the beauty spots of the city will be exhibited.

– Press Democrat, January 25, 1923

 

 

Santa Rosa Revives Interest in City Beautification; New Plans Are on Foot

IS “Santa Rosa guilty of indecent exposure of its civic mind?” Go down and look into Santa Rosa creek before you answer that question. Go over to the old College grounds for an expose.

The beautification committee of the auxiliary has answered that question. It has called in an expert for consultation over the ruins that litter our highways and fill our creek beds. Under the aggressive determination of Mrs. Gray that committee will eventually cause beauty to flourish where tin cans now hold sway. Through their splendid co-operation the creek will some day wind through verdant banks.

The conference with Dr. Aronovici is crystalizing the plans that have been formulating during the past year. Gathered about the luncheon table Thursday, the women of the beautification committee discussed their troubles, unfolded their hopes and plans and were inspired anew by this expert’s advice.

But does the community generally want its civic mind to improve? Will it see that its own dooryard reflects only the peace of order and beauty? Shall Santa Rosa’s arteries to the rural districts run clean and healthy. Do you think it pays to be beautiful?

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 27, 1923

 

 

$12,000 Claim Against City Alleges Breaking Of 27-Year Injunction

Alleging that the city has violated an injunction granted his mother twenty-seven years ago by permitting polluted water to flow from the sewer farm into Santa Rosa creek, Elmer Peterson, who lives near the sewer farm and through whose property the creek runs, has filed a $12,000 claim for damages against the municipality.

Peterson, acting through Attorneys W. F. Cowan and J. Rollo Leppo, contends that his two children have had typhoid fever and diphtheria because of the city’s alleged failure to obey the injunction.

It was also reported Thursday that people living along the Russian river, particularly at some of the resorts, plan to take action through the State board of health to enforce observance of the injunction.

Those who are protesting the present situation say that sewage has been diverted from the septic tanks at the sewer farm into the creek, whence it flows into the laguna and then into the Russian river near Mirabel park.

REPORT CATTLE DEAD

One farmer in the laguna district is said to have reported that thirteen of his cattle had died from disease contracted through drinking the creek water.

[..]

– Press Democrat, February 9 1923

 

 

CONFERENCE ON TANNERY ODORS IS CALLED HERE
City Manager Asks Discussion as Result of Complaints Reaching His Office; Matter to Come Up Monday.

City Manager Abner E. Hitchcock on Wednesday took official cognizance of complaints which have reached his office about alleged offensive odors from the local tanneries.

In a statement issued by the city manager the chamber of commerce and the woman’s auxiliary are incited tn discuss the problem in an effort to find a solution to the problem.

As result of this communication the directors of the chamber and the executive committee of the auxiliary will take up the matter at a joint supper meeting to be held Monday evening.

City Manager Hitchcock’s statement of the situation follows:

Complaints are coming to the office of the city manager accusing these industrial concerns of being the source of some very obnoxious conditions, which interfere with the comfort and health of the homes situated in the vicinity of the plants.

Upon Inquiry I learn that these plants have been the cause of much contention at different times during a long period of years.

The offensive conditions have been complained of on the one hand by those who suffer by being near-residents about the plants. And the plants have been permitted to remain on the other hand by the business enterprise of the city by reason of the large pay-roll maintained and the substantial output from the business. As the city represents all classes, this subject must be taken up from the various angles.

The city manager therefore submits the problem as a referendum to these two bodies, viz:

The Chamber of commerce, representing the business enterprises of the city.

The Women’s Auxiliary, representing the welfare of the homes.

In order to receive, if possible, suggestions as to what should be the wise attitude to assume.

– Press Democrat, March 29 1923

 

 

Committee Plans Natural Park in Santa Rosa Creek

A natural park, several miles long, running clear through Santa Rosa, is the dream for the future of the Clean Up committee of the chamber of commerce, headed by Ward W. Von Tillow, well known Santa Rosa booster.

Von Tillow states that the Clean Up committee, which was voted permanent at a recent meeting, will center all activity in the near future on cleaning up and beautifying Santa Rosa creek, which, with a very little expense and effort, can be made one of the most beautiful streams in the state, but which, at present, is said to be one of the most unsanitary carriers of disease in the state, thanks to the various factories that are said to be using the stream as a garbage dump.

“The Clean Up committee has taken hold,” said Von Tillow this morning, “and we’re like a flock of bull dogs, we won’t let go until our aim is accomplished.”

The committee has as its aim the cleaning up of the entire creek, the finding of new methods of disposing of the scrap leather and tannin from the tanneries here, the cleaning out of all underbrush that is at present growing in the course of the stream, and the building of a series of dams in the creek so that a series of “ole’ swimmin’ holes” can be had for the youth of the city.

It is planned to approach the property owners all along the creek and try to get them to either donate or sell their rights to the creek to the city, so that the dream of the committee can be accomplished.

Property owners all along the creek own to the creek center and this property is not used by one out of 40 of the land owners, since it cannot be turned to any use as the creek now stands. The committee members hope to prevail upon the land holders to give their right up to the stream, in some instances including strips of land running back from the banks where walkways, tennis courts, bath and boat houses can be built. In a great many instances the city may buy large lots on the creek banks for picnic grounds, etc.

“The full intent of this aim of the committee,” stated Chairman Von Tillow this morning, “will give to Santa Rosa what no other city has.” He went on to state how his natural park will be the means of holding hundreds of tourists here each season, who otherwise will go on north to the river resorts or to the springs. This will mean much in revenue to the merchants of the city, it was stated, “and besides,” continued Von Tillow, “the cleaning up of the creek will greatly improver property values of the city.”

A joint meeting of the chamber of commerce directors, women’s auxiliary, the mayor and city manager will be held in the chamber of commerce office this evening to discuss the co-ordination of the program of work of the chamber of commerce and to take some action on the tanneries, which are said to be polluting the waters of Santa Rosa creek.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 2 1923

 

 

Commerce Board Takes No Action On Tannery Dumps

The board of directors of the local chamber of commerce failed to take any action on the tannery matter after the subject had been given considerable discussion at the joint meeting of the board of directors, the woman’s auxiliary the mayor and city manager last night in Edward’s restaurant.

Manager Hitchcock told of a great many complaints he had received from residents in the vicinity of the tanneries and told how the water of Santa Rosa creek becomes discolored each season from the scraps of hide and seepage from the tanning tanks on the banks of the creek.

The matter was taken up before the chamber of commerce directors at the request of City Manager Hitchcock in the hope that that body could assist in getting the tanneries to find some other method of disposing of their waste.

It has been stated that unless the tanneries comply with the sanitary requirements the city will bring action against them. Several individuals residing near the tanneries have suggested suits against the tanneries to declare them public nuisances on account of the offensive odors and the unsanitary condition of the creeks.

The major part of the meeting last evening was taken up with a discussion of the aims of the clean-up committee in making a public park out of Santa Rosa creek. To do this the committee must first clean up the creek, it was pointed out and this to a great extent means cleaning up the tannery dumps.

“Beautiful parks, roses, swimming pools, wistaria vines and tannery dumps do not mix” stated Manager Hitchcock.

The necessity for immediate action for the protection of the city’s future as a residence center as well as preserving the permanent industrial locations. The only agreement reached at the meeting was when both boards favored city zoning. A conference will be held on this subject in the near future to take up the matter further. Those at the meeting were:

[..]

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 3 1923

 

 

COUNCIL ACTS TO GET EXPERT SEWER REPORT
Complete Remedying of Disposal Plant Foreseen Following Receipt of Hot Letter From State Board of Health.

As the result of a communication from the state board of health virtually delivering an ultimatum to the city over the condition of the sewage disposal system, the city council last night voted to bring Clyde Smith, of Berkeley, an expert, here to study the situation and make recommendations for a complete remedy.

The expert’s services will cost the city $25 a day and expenses.

The letter, signed by C. G. Gillespie, director of the bureau of sanitary engineering of the State Board of Health, declared that the “utterly intolerable conditions” at the local disposal plant have been “perpetuated too long,” and it accuses the city of never having done one thing in all its existence toward keeping pace in sewage disposal systems. There are no extenuating circumstances here as there are in some other cities, the letter adds.

MUST CLEAN CREEK

The state board declares further that the Santa Rosa creek must be cleaned, and the sewage from tanneries and canneries taken care of and that should the city renounce this obligation these industries will also have to be enjoined, with the probability that it would mean the losing of these plants to Santa Rosa, since they could not dispose of their own sewage and compete with competing plants more favorably situated.

The city pollutes the creek “beyond any that exists anywhere else in the state,” the letter charges.

A suggestion for running a sewer line to the ocean is characterized as fanciful and impractical, while the suggestion to extend the disposal system to the laguna is described as having some advantages, but as not necessary. The plan for building a flume to the upper end of the sewer farm is approved only as a temporary measure.

SUGGEST BOND ISSUE

The state board suggests that a bond issue for a new disposal system be submitted to the people and that if it fails to pass that the work be done by assessment under Improvement Act Proceedings.

After declaring that the seriousness of the situation evidently is not realized in Santa Rosa, the letter concludes with this:

“This communication puts on record the stand and opinions of this board. The problem is, so far as we are concerned, squarely up to you.”

– Press Democrat, April 11 1923

 

 

Tannery Odor Drive Is Made by Owners

The Santa Rosa-Vallejo Tanning Company is doing everything in its power to make its place of business sanitary to do away with all obnoxious odors and to prevent any deleterious matter going into the waters of Santa Rosa creek. This is vouchsafed by the sanitary inspector who has been overlooking the manufacturing plants of this city.

[..]

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 16 1923

 

 

Injunction Sought To Save Land From Damage By Creek

Suit for a restraining order to prevent J. J. Flynn, E. H. Crawford and Milton Wasserman from dumping more refuse in Santa Rosa creek was started in the superior court Saturday by Charles B. Kobes against the firm. Kobes, through his attorney Harry T. Kyle claims that his land will be damaged in high water by the refuse and earth thrown by the firm in building their new garage in First street through the diversion of the channel causing the water to tear out part of Kobes’ land…

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 16 1923

 

 

Tannery Owner Held For Polluting Stream

A complaint charging Nate Levin, owner of the Hermann Tannery in West Sixth street, with pollution of the Santa Rosa creek was filed in the police court here, Thursday by City Sanitary Inspector E. J. Helgrin. Levin is charged with maintaining a nuisance by pouring refuse from the tannery into the stream. The case was brought before Judge Collins. Levin has been released pending hearing of the case.

– Press Democrat, September 7 1923

 

 

WHY IS A TANNERY?

Dear Press Democrat:

Why is a tannery? Or, rather, three of them? When I first came to live on (pardon me in) Santa Rosa avenue, I boasted, unfortunately neglecting to knock on wood, that here at least was one part of our dear city not affected by tannery odors. But alas! Times have changed, or perhaps it is only the direction of the wind.

Borne on gentle zephyrs, toward the wee sma’ hours of morning, when all prudent people, and many others, are getting their very best slumber, comes a horribly insistent, unpleasant and penetrating odor, creeping through our homes, and gradually into our senses, till we waken, startled. (And they say the sense of smell is the hardest to arouse!)

Not having been reared to regard the night air as poisonous, my first thought is that perhaps some usually kind and considerate neighbor is nursing a grouch and burning the bones, remaining from Fido’s lunch of yesterday. But no. that could never, never be, not at the hour of 4:30 a. m.

Tannery smells may not be actually unhealthful, but dear me. how can one feel really fit and ready to face a busy day with happy smiles and a sweet disposition, minus one’s usual nine hours of pleasant slumber?

I suppose in time the problem of tanneries will be met and properly disposed of, for I have a wholesome respect for our city dads, C. of C. and all busy boosters and progressives. But God speed the day!

In the meantime let’s all lay in a supply of insense [sic]. Then on retiring at night, place it conveniently at hand, and if the occasion arises (and I admit it some times doesn’t) we are fully prepared with a counter-irritant, as it were, and can soon drift back to pleasant dreams, telling our sub-conscious that day by day – well, anyway, Santa Rosa is growing better and better.

Very truly, MRS. JAY. E. BOWER. [Amy Bower – Ed.]

– Press Democrat, October 19 1923

 

 

CITY FATHERS FACE CITATION IN SEWAGE CASE

Judge Rolfe L. Thompson issued a citation Thursday directing Mayor L. A. Pressley, the six members of the city council, City Manager Abner E. Hitchcock and City Manager [sic – City Engineer] G. F. Comstock to appear before him December 7, and show cause why they should not be punished for contempt of court in violating the perpetual restraining order issued to Mrs. M. A. Peterson May 14, 1896, prohibiting the city or its officers, agents and employees from polluting or poisoning the waters of Santa Rosa creek by discharging any sewage, garbage, filth or refuse matter in the creek from the sewer farm.

The order was issued on affidavit of John L. Peterson, successor to the interests of Mrs. Peterson, who alleges that since April 18, 1922, the city of Santa Rosa and its officers, agents and employees as named have discharged and caused to be discharged, large quantities of sewage, garbage, filth and refuse matter into Santa Rosa creek from the city sewer system and sewer farm. It is also alleged that this discharge of sewage has been continuous since September 4, 1923, in direct violation of the restraining order.

[..]

– Press Democrat, November 23 1923

 

 

COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY BACKS MUCH NEEDED SEWER DISPOSAL PLANT

…Taking up the letter first it will be of interest to again publish an extract of what Mr. Gillespie says in making his demand for action on the city council. The letter in part says:

“I am convinced that the seriousness of the sewer farm conditions is not generally realized in Santa Rosa. Because the legislature has intrusted to this board the protection of streams against willful and unnecessary pollution and the disposal of sewage. In a reasonably inoffensive manner, we must compel your attention to your own short comings in this particular, and look to you for an energetic and business like solution of the utterly intolerable conditions which have been perpetrated too long.

“The city of Santa Rosa cannot be given credit for having done in all its existence one single serviceable thing toward keeping pace in its sewage disposal. You must realize that cities the country over are evolving new and better means of getting rid of their sewage, such that the laws of decency and health are better served.

“In your own case selection must rest between these two types of works, the Imhoof tank with sprinkling beds and the activated sludge system. Anything less is purely a makeshift and will not be acceptable to this board.

“Surrounding tbe farm, due to the intense growth of the vicinity you have created an obnoxious and abatable public nuisance. At other seasons, the city pollutes Santa Rosa creek to an extent beyond any that exists anywhere in California.

“There are still some regrettable violations of the law in sewage disposal in the state, but they are rapidly being corrected, usually by pressure within the community.”

– Press Democrat, February 9 1924

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The Press Democrat did a cross promotion with KSRO where a newspaper photographer would take a picture of someone during a "Man on the Street" interview. If your face was circled in the photo printed the next day you won a prize (in this case, a turkey) by identifying yourself. Press Democrat, Dec. 15 1937

KSRO IS ON THE AIR

The high school auditorium was packed that Sunday morning in 1937 with people from all over Sonoma county. Uniformed boy scouts ushered the last of the audience to their seats as an announcer hushed the audience. Promptly at 10:30, the speakers crackled to life with a recording of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Waiting at the microphone for the music to finish was a slight 67 year-old man in his customary three-piece suit. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. With the playing of the national anthem, station KSRO, voice of the Redwood Empire, takes the air for the first time.” He continued with the required sign on announcement before ending: “This is Ernest Finley speaking and I now turn this fine new radio station over to the people of the Redwood Empire for their use and enjoyment.”

Finley wasn’t really handing over KSRO to the public, of course – he was the sole owner of the station as well as the two newspapers in town, the Santa Rosa Republican and the Press Democrat, where he was also editor and publisher. The papers would promote the station which would promote the papers. So cozy was this little media empire that the broadcasting studios were in the PD building on Mendocino Ave.

After an invocation by the rector of the Church of the Incarnation and playing a recording of religious music, the live program continued with 15-minute salutes to Marin county and seven communities in Sonoma. Usually the mayor said a few words which were followed by music from someone in that town – there had been talent contests over the previous weeks to choose the artists. Santa Rosa was represented by a singer and Walter Trembley, harmonica virtuoso; Cloverdale sent Glen Bonham, imitator.

There were other live performances that day woven between recorded music before the big dedicatory program at 3:00, where the mayor of San Francisco spoke and the KSRO orchestra performed, along with others. The hour long program closed with an audience singalong.

And that was pretty much the end of the first broadcast day, September 19, 1937. The station signed off at 6PM, having only a permit to operate from dawn to dusk. This was typical of little commercial stations all over the country; night hours were only for the high power clear channel stations that could sometimes be heard for a thousand miles. With its 250 watt (!) transmitter, KSRO reached from San Rafael to Ukiah – but came in as far away as Eureka and San Jose when conditions were ideal.

By 1937 the radio market was well-established in the Bay Area. Probably any radio in Sonoma County could pick up the big stations in San Francisco such as KGO, KSFO and KPO (which became KNBR), which were network affiliates broadcasting all the popular programs we associate with the golden age of radio. During the day there were the soaps, including Vic and Sade, Our Gal Sunday and Ma Perkins; in the evening were the top shows such as Burns and Allen, One Man’s Family, Amos ‘n’ Andy, Gangbusters, Jack Benny.

ksro19370924(RIGHT: KSRO schedule for September 24, 1937; local programming highlighted)

Pipsqueak independent stations like KSRO instead relied on a mix of local programming and a transcription service (the one first used by KSRO was NBC’s Thesaurus, upgraded soon to World). A subscribing station would get 16-inch records that played at 3313RPM, which would provide fifteen minutes of content per side. Thus a station operating on the cheap could fill much (even all!) of its schedule using just an engineer and an announcer – who could also be the engineer – to read commercials and announce time/call letters. And as you see by this schedule taken from its first week of broadcasting, that’s pretty much what KSRO did at the beginning.

The problem with transcription services was that their offerings often… sucked. In its earliest weeks KSRO mostly played transcriptions of D-list musicians such as the Mountaineers hillbilly band (who apparently never made a record) and Robin Hood Bowers (somewhat known for a 1919 ditty, “The Moon Shines on the Moonshine”). The station also broadcast generic canned programs with titles like “Melody Time” and “Rhythm Makers.” It was music to do chores by.

Those transcription shows were mostly sustained (unsponsored, except promos for other shows or perhaps Finley’s newspapers) because KSRO didn’t have many advertisers at its outset. The first sponsor was mentioned only a few days before the premiere broadcast – the White House Department Store would advertise on the noon newscast.

Among other early live studio programs were 15 minute weekly shows by The Rincon Valley Ramblers, a quartet which entertained sometimes at lodge or club meetings, and “Songs of the Island,” with Hawaiian melodies sung by the Carroll Boys from Napa: Slip, Arky, Gat and Alky. There was the 30-minute “Mickey Mouse Club” on Fridays at 4, which resurrected the riotous live show that once commandeered the California Theater on Saturday afternoons (see “LET’S ALL YELL AT THE MICKEY MOUSE MATINEE“).

On weekdays the anchoring live show was the mid-afternoon “Time for Tea,” which was completely free form. There were usually announcements from women’s clubs, churches and the like, but you might also hear some kid scraping his bow across a violin string or squeezing an accordion. They sometimes did a “Name That Tune” type game show or brought in an elementary school class to do a spelling bee.

The popular morning “Breakfast Club” opened the broadcast day at 7 (sadistically, by beating a gong that nearly blew out your speaker) and received lots of mail because the host encouraged listeners to send in their birthdates to be announced on air. A farmer from the Sonoma Valley who wanted to sell his ranch wrote that he would come on the show and do his (presumably terrific) imitation of a calf and a squeaky clothesline in trade for commercials.

Gradually over the first couple of months their live programming pushed out more of the transcribed shows. KSRO was becoming a radio station that locals wanted to actively listen to instead of just being a source of ignorable background music.

Remotes were a large reason for the station’s success. They kept their portable transmitter busy; Evelyn Billing’s organ concerts on the grand instrument at the California Theater were always popular, although sometimes she played at the Chapel of the Chimes, which wasn’t exactly a venue where one expected to hear peppy dance tunes.

They broadcast SRHS and Petaluma High football games live from the 50 yard line; Sunday morning church services; KSRO was there for the opening of Rosenberg’s Department Store (now Barnes & Noble). They took the equipment to Healdsburg to cover their Veterans Day celebration: “If the weather is nice you will get a word by word picture of the parade, bands and all. If it rains you will probably get a drop by drop sound of a rainstorm in the Redwood Empire.”

Most of all, they broadcast live every weekday at 12:45 from the Exchange Bank corner downtown. The “Man on the Street” show was easily KSRO’s most popular program of 1937. The very first question asked: “Do you think Santa Rosa should have stop lights at downtown intersections?”

The Press Democrat did a cross promotion with KSRO where a newspaper photographer would take a picture of someone during a "Man on the Street" interview. If your face was circled in the photo printed the next day you won a prize (in this case, a turkey) by identifying yourself. Press Democrat, Dec. 15 1937
The Press Democrat did a cross promotion with KSRO where a newspaper photographer would take a picture of someone during a “Man on the Street” interview. If your face was circled in the photo printed the next day you won a prize (in this case, a turkey) by identifying yourself. Press Democrat, Dec. 15 1937

KSRO wasn’t the first radio station in Santa Rosa, however. Years before – as the radio era was just beginning – there was KFNV, broadcasting with a mighty five watts from March 1924 to October 1925, off on Sundays.

Lennard Drake – yes, that’s the spelling – and his wife Aimee, who ran the Drake Battery and Radio Shop downtown, convinced the publisher of the Republican (not yet owned by Finley) to provide space for an equipment room at the newspaper’s office on Fifth street. They put it together with the aid of local radio entusiasts and using gear unapproved by the government.

Programming at KFNV was mainly phonograph records, a player piano and anyone who drifted in to talk. Their only regularly scheduled program was the “Sunset Matinee,” a 6:30PM children’s program of bedtime stories by “dear oid Uncle Silas.” The Republican radio columnist noted Silas was the father of two and “I know for I have had the pleasure of seeing them” – which is such an odd thing to write that it makes one wonder if there were whispers about the doings over at La Casa Silas.

kfnvIn 1937 Lennard was interviewed by the PD and said the station folded because of lack of sponsorship. “Radio was [considered] just a child’s toy, a fancy of the moment.” Aimee added, “no one, of course, in those days foresaw commercial sponsors.” Apparently the only advertisers were the Drake radio store and the Republican. (By 1937 the Drakes had dropped the radio business and were now selling electrical supplies, including fixtures and wiring for KSRO.)

A dozen years passed between the end of KFNV and birth of KSRO and in that time radio had become an essential part of daily life. By 1937 there were 28,000 households from San Rafael to Ukiah where the radio was on 3-4 hours during the day – all listening to commercials for stores in San Francisco, Oakland or Sacramento.

Not having a local station was also a big reminder that the North Bay wasn’t a full-fledged member of the Bay Area. Promoters and developers in Marin and Sonoma counties had pushed through construction of the Golden Gate Bridge primarily to draw tourists and increase property values; when it opened just a few months before KSRO went on the air, Finley spoke of the “untold advantages and development for Santa Rosa” the bridge would bring.

Likewise KSRO wouldn’t be intended only for locals seeking department store sales on tea towels. For those tuning in from the fringes of its reception area, it also would serve as an advertisement for Sonoma county itself – that this was a great place if you were thinking of buying a little chicken farm or looking to escape the city. The homey vibe of shows like “Time for Tea” were a panacea to the slick productions cranked out by the networks and big urban stations.

But Finley et. al. weren’t alone in viewing the region as an untapped market; when the Press Democrat Publishing Company filed for a broadcasting permit from the Federal Communications Commission in early 1935, there was already someone ahead of them in line.

Two men from Berkeley, Arthur Westland and Jules Cohn, had applied for a 100 watt station to cover Santa Rosa alone. They were pioneers in the radio biz and operated KRE in Berkeley, a station which dated back to 1922.

In February of 1935 the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce – always in lockstep with Finley and the PD – sent the FCC a telegram asking them to deny the Berkeley application because Westland had falsely told the Commission “there was no opposition to the proposal.” Two months later an FCC examiner recommended denying Westland and Cohn. The reasons, according to the PD, were that it was “not shown there was a substantial need for additional broadcast service in that area” and that any station was unlikely to be a viable business because there just wasn’t enough interest.

Yet that same April there was a formal hearing on Finley’s application. Presumably he and others attended that meeting in Washington, but it wasn’t mentioned in either newspaper at the time. Final arguments for the permit were made in October 1936, and a month later the FCC denied the Berkeley-ites and granted the license to Finley.

ksroasbestosBoth of Finley’s newspapers covered the 1937 build-out of KSRO obsessively. Readers saw photos of the antenna going up in the Laguna – it was at the corner of modern-day Finley and Leddy avenues – and the transmission “shack” built at its base (it remained there even after the antenna was moved close to Stony Point Road, but burned up in a 1968 fire caused by homeless squatters).

The papers also admiringly described the remodeling done to turn the second floor of the Press Democrat office into broadcast studios (alas, no photos). Since the rooms had to be soundproof there were no windows; there was a gee-whiz astonishment that they were to be air conditioned full time.

They hoped to be running by August 15 so they could broadcast remote from the county fair, but obstacles arose which were not explained. But a month later there was that ceremony where 750 people packed into the high school auditorium.

KSRO was now on the air.

Guerneville during the 1937 flood. Photo courtesy Sonoma County Library
Guerneville during the 1937 flood. Photo courtesy Sonoma County Library

The station may have continued down its uneventful path for years, slowly building an audience as it kept improving local programming. But before it was even three months old its coming of age moment arrived: People’s lives became dependent upon listening to KSRO.

In December 10-11, all of Northern California was saturated by ultra-massive rains. The PD called it “worst storm in all history” and “the greatest havoc ever wreaked in Sonoma County.” Unfortunately, we can’t compare it to other disasters because Russian River flood records are inexact before 1940 – but old-timers insisted it was the worst in 60-70 years. It was the damage caused by this flood that would eventually lead to the construction of the Warm Springs Dam.

Parts of Healdsburg were under ten feet of water and the deck of its railroad (Memorial) bridge was covered. Goats and calves were herded into a church near the town – and then had to be moved again a couple of hours later when the water reached the church. A two story house from Rio Nido was hurled against the Guerneville Bridge. Before the water reached the switchboard, operators at the Monte Rio telephone exchange were wearing hip boots and standing in 40 inches of water.

The Russian River kept rising, first three inches an hour, then four. Five. Electricity was out everywhere and phone service was spotty. Hundreds of families, hungry and cold, were huddled in upstairs bedrooms, in attics, on their roof and nobody knew how bad it would get or what to do – unless you had a battery-powered radio tuned to KSRO.

News bulletins from the station warned listeners to conserve drinking water because well pumps wouldn’t be working for days. There were phone interviews with mayors or other officials in many of the hard-hit towns, updating citizens on the latest conditions. There were road reports from AAA. In Geyserville, the director of relief work announced on KSRO that anyone needing help should fly a white flag from the top of their house. Soon a dozen or more flags were spotted by volunteers with binoculars watching from high ground and they directed rescue boats where to go.

ksro19380806Amazingly, no one died locally during the disaster – and KSRO surely must deserve some measure of credit for that.

(RIGHT: KSRO schedule for August 6, 1938; local programming highlighted. Capitalized shows were sponsored)

In the months that followed the local radio columnists mentioned the growing amount of fan mail being received by “KSRO personalities.” Live programming was now about half the schedule. Added to the schedule were popular new shows such as “KSROlling Along,” the “Italian Program With Guiseppe Comelli,” and the “X-Bar-B Cowhands.” The country-western band was a bit of a coup for the station as they already had a following, having been heard on a San Francisco station for six years before the group moved to the Russian River area.

Finally KSRO gained permission for evening broadcasts and as of August 1, 1938 it was now on the air up to 11 o’clock, midnight on weekends. As before, there was a dedication ceremony (this one featuring 21 year-old Miss Ruth Finley, “concert pianist”) and a short speech by Ernest Finley. He said, in part:

In inaugurating Station KSRO, we were pleased to call it the ‘Voice of the Redwood Empire.’ We feel that it has been just that. Every effort has been made to bring the various communities of the Redwood Empire closer together. Our survey shows that Station KSRO has a listening audience of 150,000 persons. This does not take into account Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, San Francisco or any of the cities about the bay, in many of which reception is fully as good as it is here.

In some ways that moment was as significant as the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge for Sonoma county. KSRO had brought all of us closer together via its news coverage during the flood. And although Finley was thinking of the promotional value of the station luring Bay Area residents, it also meant we could take part of our community with us when we went away.

As your car crossed the beautiful bridge and the northern counties slipped from sight behind the city hills, the signal might become crackly and drift in and out – but it would always be a steady beacon which would later guide you home.

"Night Time Now KSRO Time" Press Democrat, July 31, 1938
“Night Time Now KSRO Time” Press Democrat, July 31, 1938
KSRO Orchestra. Santa Rosa Republican, September 18, 1937
KSRO Orchestra. Santa Rosa Republican, September 18, 1937
"KSRO Greets You". Santa Rosa Republican, September 18, 1937
“KSRO Greets You”. Santa Rosa Republican, September 18, 1937

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THE ANTI-VAXXERS OF 1920

The past is just a story we keep telling ourselves.

That’s a throwaway line from a recent film, “Her” (good movie) and not entirely original; “[something is] a story we tell ourselves” first appeared around 1960 and has become exponentially more popular since then, as shown by Google’s Ngram Viewer. What makes this version memorable, however, is that it’s uniquely wrong.

History (for the most part) is a story we DON’T keep telling ourselves. We only talk about an event when it’s big and momentous or directly related to our lives in the here and now. A more accurate version of the quote would be, “The past is just a story we keep forgetting to tell ourselves” and as a result, we don’t learn from the past and find ourselves repeating it. History is not a guide to understand our march toward the future; history is a treadmill.

This article is part of a series on the 1920s culture wars, an era with numerous parallels to America today – and no issue has found itself resonating again as much as the anti-vaccination movement. I’ve written twice before about the “antis” of a century ago (here’s part one and part two) but to recap and expand:

The only vaccine that existed in the early 20th century was against smallpox (MMR, HepB, DTaP, RV or any of the other modern vaccines were decades away). Since 1889 California had required all children to present a smallpox vaccination certificate when they registered for school. Opponents lobbied Sacramento to pass a couple of bills repealing the law but governors vetoed the legislation both times. The state Supreme Court upheld the requirement in 1904 and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the same way the following year. Yet the anti-vaccinationists never gave up; they kept forming grassroots anti chapters, signing repeal petitions and writing letters. At the start of every school year some parents would keep their kids at home or protest to the school board – some apparently not over vaccine anxiety but because they couldn’t afford to consult a doctor. More on this in a moment.

At the same time a new anti-vaccine ally popped up in California: The chiropractors.

Over a century ago there were some three dozen types of physicians; some were licensed in some states, with many like Mrs. Preston of Cloverdale, operating in a gray area by claiming they were not really practicing medicine. Among the fields of quackery were eclecticism (adjusting the 12 “tissue salts” in the body), electropathy, homeopathy, hydropathy, vitaopathy, psychiropathy (apparently a combo of hypnotism with massage) and naturopathy.

Chiropracty stood out for several reasons, particularly because a treatment could result in immediate pain relief in some cases. They also had more training than other alternative physicians, spending a year at the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Iowa. But as noted in a 1921 exposé written by a member of the California state medical board, no applicants at the time were turned away and not even required to have a grammar school education. There was an emphasis on teaching salesmanship and how to use publicity, with the school running a large printing office to create newspaper advertising and pamphlets. The message they were selling was that chiropracty could cure any disease and conventional medicine was useless.1

The first chiropractor appeared in the Bay Area in 1904 and one set up office in Santa Rosa five years later. By 1922 there were seven in the City of Roses, most of them clustered in the new Rosenberg building at the corner of Fourth and Mendocino. They distinguished themselves from quack healers using gimmicks and sold themselves as pioneers of a new wave of medicine embracing up-to-date technology – note the ad below for the “X-ray chiropractor.” They were men of science whose livelihood depended upon peddling notions that germs didn’t cause disease and vaccines were a hoax.

George Von Ofen was not Santa Rosa's first chiropractor but he was the most prominent by 1922, running these large display ads in the Press Democrat
George Von Ofen was not Santa Rosa’s first chiropractor but he was the most prominent by 1922, running these large display ads in the Press Democrat

 

Their basic text, the 1906 “Science of Chiropractic,” denounced vaccinations as dangerous and often lethal. (Don’t miss the long section on sales and marketing where students were promised they would make lots of money.) Written by chiropractics founder Daniel David Palmer – who had earlier claimed he possessed magnetic hands – the book was filled with dangerous misinformation. Smallpox was not contagious (he said it’s spread by bedbugs) and spinal adjustments could cure polio, asthma and cancers (which were caused by “too much heat produced by calorific nerves”). It spread fear about vaccines with its heart-wrenching photos of deceased children along with anecdotes from their bereaved parents and by making outrageous statements which were not remotely true, such as “[vaccination] has now been made a crime in England”.

It’s surely no coincidence the antis’ literature soon began to mimic his style. There was more hyperbole (a 1907 letter in the Santa Rosa Republican claimed “vaccination is responsible for more or less of leprosy”) and conspiracy-think: Doctors were trying to bamboozle people by using “cooked-up statistics,” all in order to perform a large scale experiment on the public and/or make themselves rich on fees from giving injections. To support their case, the antis followed Palmer’s example by leaning hard on unverifiable anecdotes and outright lying about events – see sidebar.


MR. TAYLOR’S DECEITS

The antis loved quoting experts, as long as they knew nothing about public health medicine or were comfortably deceased. The PD printed a letter in 1913 from Samuel Taylor of the California Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League which claimed to quote “noted physicians” such as Dr. A. Vogt of Berne University, who supposedly examined the records of 400,000 vaccinations and lost all confidence that smallpox vaccination worked. “Vaccination is a curse,” another doc supposedly said. Taylor never revealed he apparently rustled his info from pamphlets of earlier anti-vaccinationists and the supposed quotes related back as far as the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. This little assortment of dismal tidbits can be found reprinted in American newspapers through the early 1950s.

The Press Democrat letter was also notable because it closed with an anecdote which had nothing to do vaccination, but revealed a sophisticated understanding of how propaganda works:

Just a hint to parents. In Winnetka, Illinois, girls in the new Trier High School were compelled to submit to complete physical examination. They were taken to the gymnasium and stripped of all their clothing. In the presence of other girls they were examined. A request from their parents to excuse them, and a physician’s certificate were ignored. The Inspector and the school authorities held themselves superior to both parents and family physician. The girls were led to the gymnasium and compelled to submit. When a protest was filed on the ground that the Schools were free and no physical examination could be required as a qualification of admission, the newspapers published the story. The board of education met, and decided that the physical examination was not required for admission to the high school, which was public and free.

In truth, there was a complaint from one 16 year-old girl who signed up for a physical education class; she and about ten other girls were brought to the female instructor’s office and told to change into robes, as they needed to be checked for skin diseases before being allowed to use the swimming pool. The facts were altered to evoke a reader’s feelings of disgust and anger – emotions which are well-known for their success at leading to people develop strong negative opinions about something.2 Taylor’s goal was to polarize the public’s views against schoolkids being “compelled to submit” to authorities for medical reasons.

While they always played the underdog, the antis rarely lost. In 1910 they won a surprise victory when a Superior Court judge ruled the vaccination law only applied to students in public schools; the decision caused excitement statewide with the Press Democrat printing the story at the top of the front page. (The judge also said there was no need for enforcement as there was no epidemic at the time, revealing his bias in favor of the anti-vaccinationists.)

Less than a year later they won a bigger prize. The state made vaccination optional, and any family with “conscientious scruples against vaccination” could opt-out as long as they submitted a no-consent form at the start of the school year. The new law declared any students not vaccinated would be blocked from attending only in the case of an epidemic.

Smallpox cases quickly began to increase. Over the next eighteen months there were 279 reported cases in the state with at least ten deaths (that was up to March, 1913; final statistics for that year alone show 800 cases and 15 dead). In Berkeley, five of the eight people who contracted smallpox died. Unbelievably, propagandist Samuel Taylor put a positive spin on this news: “The percentage was very small, about one case to every eight thousand inhabitants.” Not reassured, over a thousand UC/Berkeley students rushed to get revaccinated or receive their first vaccine.

Taylor, always a publicity hound, also pushed his way into the newspapers during a dramatic 1914 incident in Oakland. It was discovered that a conductor on the train coming from Oregon was infected and the cars were sidetracked before reaching the station. Oakland health officer Dr. Allen Gillihan, with assistants and police, boarded the train and forcibly vaccinated the 56 passengers. (Two mothers with small children refused and were not vaccinated.) Taylor made the papers by telling the press an assemblyman was going to introduce an emergency bill to have manslaughter brought against Dr. Gillihan should any of the passengers die because of the vaccine – although odds of which were nil.

For the rest of the 1910s all was (mostly) quiet on the anti front – nothing more can even be found from the very vocal Mr. Taylor. “The number of parents who are conscientiously opposed to vaccination has dwindled from an alarmingly large number to practically none at all,” remarked the Press Democrat in 1919. That year over 500 children received vaccinations paid for by the Santa Rosa school district, so the expense of a doctor’s visit must have played a significant part in earlier protests. Dr. Gillihan – who became Santa Rosa’s health officer not long after the train vaccination – was now an inspector for the State Board of Health, and similarly vaccinated 1,800 in Chico in one week. There he was charged with battery over not having a parent’s vaccination consent, which shows there were still diehards.

And that brings us to the watershed year of 1920. The California ballot that year must have puzzled voters. Amid the usual assortment of items regarding taxes and bonds were two propositions which we would today consider feel-good questions. One seemed to oppose the torture of animals; the other stopped schools and the state government from discriminating against sick kids. Who could oppose things like that?

Although the items seemed harmless enough, on closer look a more distressing agenda appeared. Prop. 6 would have made vaccination entirely voluntary, turning it into a “don’t ask, don’t tell” issue for schools. Prop. 7 would block all medical research using animals as well as prohibiting smallpox vaccines because it required extracting serum from living cows.

We can’t be sure who paid to organize the signature campaigns to get these on the ballot, but from newspaper ads before the election there was backing from the usual American Medical Association foes, including Los Angeles chiropractors, the Anti-Vivisection Society and proto-libertarian national groups such as the American Medical Liberty League, which wanted absolutely no government involvement with medicine. And because this was during the hyper-patriotic culture war, ads and endorsements were wrapped in the flag and touted the issues as about “medical freedom.”3

amendment6(RIGHT: A deceptive ad from the antis intended to confuse voters. If it had passed, the new law would have blocked all means to stop an epidemic except via aggressive quarantines. Petaluma Argus, Nov. 1, 1920)

There were two other related propositions: Number 5 would create a state board of chiropractors to license themselves (something sought for years via the legislature or voters) and number 8, which regulated opiates and cocaine – curiously, it allowed doctors to prescribe the drugs to addicts, but any medicinal use required filing a report to the state pharmacy board.

A speaker from a public health group came to Santa Rosa and spoke on these four proposals, which he dubbed the “Quack Quartette.” His comments (transcribed below) explain the awfulness in all but the drug item. To that I’ll add only the perspective that the chiropractors had been pushing hard for their own licensing board since 1914, and it’s easy to see why; a report from the State Board of Medical Examiners found 2 out of 3 couldn’t pass an examination on basic anatomy.

The good news was that the anti-vaccination proposition lost by 56 percent (the chiropractor and vivisection amendments also failed to pass). The bad news is that the legislators still gave the antis their victory.

Changes to the state vaccination law in 1921 no longer required teachers to collect vaccination certificates or non-consent slips. If a child in the school district caught smallpox only those who were unvaccinated and exposed to the sick kid would be sent home for quarantine. As it was now impossible for the school to know who was vaccinated and who was not, what did they do? “Students, little Tommy has smallpox and everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated gets to stay home for two weeks. Can I see a show of hands?” That worked out swell, I bet.

There were now regularly thousands of cases every year in the state.4 California was fortunate that only the milder form of smallpox was found spreading. Sonoma county was extraordinarily lucky; the only child who became ill here in the early 1920s was a boy in Penngrove. “This is the first case of smallpox in this vicinity for some years and it is causing a scare because smallpox is rapidly gaining in the state owing to carelessness in vaccination and it is serious in several parts of California,” the Petaluma Argus remarked. “There is more smallpox now than for many years and it is increasing at an alarming rate while the illness is more severe than it has been for years and there have been numerous deaths.” That year 56 people died in the state, the highest since before the turn of the century.

There were no more anti-vaccination protests, of course; they had been given everything they ever wanted.

For those who embrace science and believe it’s not a good idea for people to unnecessarily get sick and die, this has been a depressing story – and it gets worse. Remember Dr. A. Vogt and the other vaccine skeptics from the 1870s who were quoted by Taylor in his letter to the PD? Today you can find many of those exact same quotes rehashed in brand new anti-vaxx books and recent websites – although now scrubbed of dates and any other historical context. Apparently Dr. Vogt is still gnashing his teeth over vaccines some 150 years after his heyday.

Maybe there are lessons to glean from the anti-vaccination squabbles of that era, but caution is needed; as a starting point, all of us should have some empathy for the antis prior to 1914 (well, all except for Mr. Taylor). Had I lived back then I might have felt leery about smallpox vaccination, but not because I believed vaccines were phony. There was a certain amount of risk in any doctor visit because medicine was then still in a generally barbaric state – no antibiotics, poor understanding of infection prevention and primitive test equipment for diagnostics.

Then there was often a question of whether any particular vaccination worked; that article about the 279 smallpox cases revealed about eight percent had been vaccinated, but not successfully. The failures could have been because the culture was dead, was low potency or the patient’s immune response was too strong. But it took a day or three and an expert eye to tell if a proper pustule had developed, which might mean another visit by the doctor. Also, an additional eight percent of the cases had been vaccinated in childhood but immunity in those vaccines lasted less than a dozen years.

And let’s concede some people really did die because of being vaccinated, although even the diehard antis never claimed there were very many (in New York state the ratio was reportedly five in a million in the late 1910s). They didn’t know how to sterilize the live animal serum extracted from cow/calf lymph glands until 1914 and the other vaccine source was using a fresh scab from someone with the disease – certainly a chance of infection either way.

Despite all those little risks, the odds of dying from the more aggressive form of smallpox was about one in four, so vaccination was always the wisest course for anyone thinking straight. But none of that mattered because the antis had a simple and effective counterargument – it just didn’t make sense to expose healthy people to a disease in order to prevent them from later getting sick. That’s the most common message repeated in their letters and pamphlets, often with the vaccine being scorned as “filthy,” “disgusting,” “rotten” and see above re: disgust being a most effective way to shape a negative opinion.

The anti groups and the chiropractors effectively won the fight through manipulating fears, but the irony was that the champions of vaccines had a much more powerful weapon of this type which wasn’t used – horrific photos of children infected with smallpox. Had these been as well circulated as the antis’ pamphlets, the public would have begged for mass vaccinations. Here’s an example, and I’m linking to a Snopes.com fact-check page to assure Gentle Reader this is not a pre-Photoshop fake image. On that page click through their link to the “Atlas of Clinical Medicine, Surgery, and Pathology” to see more, if you have the stomach.

vaccinationcartoonSometimes efforts were made to get these images into view, only to find them thwarted by antis. In June 1913 the Berkeley Board of Health wanted to post photos of smallpox victims at city hall but an anti councilman blocked the effort, saying it was “evident intention of frightening people into an adoption of the unprovable theory that vaccination prevents smallpox.”

All of this resonates with the anti-vaxx dilemma today. Scientists are continually publishing studies showing modern vaccines cause no harm (PARTICULARLY NO INCREASE IN AUTISM) but that information is ignored by those endlessly tormented by the fear in the air. I visited scores of anti-vaxx websites this week (there are reportedly about 500). Want to know what I found? Not reasoned arguments refuting the science studies – but stock photos of babies crying and cringing from a doctor while receiving a shot. Hello, emotional triggers.

And just as the Press Democrat innocently became an accomplice by printing the antis’ propaganda in 1913, today Facebook and other social media are complicit in spreading misinformation. As of this writing (2019) anti-vaxxers have gamed Amazon to push anti-vaccine books by swarming the site with bad reviews for pro-vaccine books.

Thus far the year 2019 is looking a lot like 1912 in the last century’s culture wars, when parents were increasingly opting-out of smallpox vaccinations – which led to the 1,100 percent rise in smallpox cases over the following decade. And now there’s a skyrocketing resurgence of measles because there are regional pockets where parents are likewise choosing to opt-out by claiming religious or moral exemptions. Will the unease of a few again outweigh the needs of the many?

If history is indeed a treadmill, brace for a near future where old childhood diseases come roaring back and common ones increase by over a thousand percent. To pretend that can’t happen is folly.


1 The Chiropractic Problem; Dr. Charles B. Pinkham, Secretary-Treasurer, Board of medical examiners, state of California; American Medical Association Bulletin; January 1921

2 How Emotional Frames Moralize and Polarize Political Attitudes; Scott Clifford; Political Psychology; 2018

3 Medical Liberty: Drugless Healers Confront Allopathic Doctors, 1910–1931; Stephen Petrina; Journal of Medical Humanities; 2008 (Nothing specific to California, but good background on the American Medical Liberty League and National League for Medical Freedom)

4 Smallpox Deaths/Cases per year, 1918-1925: 3/1016, 5/2002, 7/4492, 21/5579, 20/2129, 1/2026, 56/9445, 58/4921. California. Dept. of Public Health Biennial Report, Volumes 26-30

(ABOVE: Rally of the Anti-Vaccination League of Canada in Toronto, November 13, 1919. The “German born” sign refers to Germany making smallpox vaccinations compulsory in 1874. As this rally was held just a year after the end of WWI, the message is clearly intended to associate the public’s lingering hatred of Germany with vaccinations)

Undated cartoon, source unknown
Undated cartoon, source unknown

FIGHTING VACCINATION.

It is passing strange that Berkeley, a community of more than average intelligence, lying as it does in the very shadow of the university, is the center and hotbed of the anti-vaccination movement. There are, it is true, some other advocates of the spread of smallpox in other parts of the state. Santa Cruz has a small colony, and Los Angeles, which is the home of isms and schisms, only second to San Diego, has also a few friends of the dread disease; but Berkeley has the doubtful honor of being the center of the movement to prevent the stamping out of smallpox; and already, the primaries being over, has started once more to carry out its ideas at the expense of the health of the people of the state. Once more the fight for safety must be begun also.

The sole argument the antis have to offer is that some children have died from the use of bad vaccine, and that others have contracted serious diseases from the use of impure scabs. No one will deny either contention, and if it were simply a question of insisting that the best of vaccine should always be used and that the physician should be held responsible for the condition of the matter and of the instruments he uses, there would be no dispute over the subject anywhere in the state. But with the logic of fanaticism, the Berkeleyites insist that no one shall be vaccinated because some have died and others have been made ill as a result of carelessness. They insist that smallpox shall not be stopped: that all the children !n the state shall be exposed to danger and disfigurement because some few persons do not want their children protected. The vast majority of the people of the country, of the civilized world, believe in vaccination, and yet the infinitesimal minority, against all experience, against the well established facts in the matter, against every teaching of modern medicine, insist that the vast majority must suffer because of their disapproval and absurd theories.

Any student of history knows what a dread disease smallpox was for centuries. Any reader knows that it is a minor disease since the utility of vaccination was discovered. Here in California we have only one case of smallpox in five thousand cases of disease, and only one death in one hundred eases of smallpox. In a word, thanks to the thorough vaccination of the children and adults of California, the disease has practically been stamped out here, and yet a few fanatics insist that such desirable and wonderful results shall be destroyed, because once or twice impure vaccine was used.

It is time that the people of the state aroused themselves and let their views on this subject be known to their representatives in the legislature, or it is possible that again, as has occurred severnl times before, the legislature will pass a law repealing the one on the statute books, and an epidemic of smallpox will result. Only the veto of the Governor saved this state the last time the experiment was tried, and as neither of the candidates for the governorship have announced their views on the subject, it is safest to kill the propaganda when it first appears in the introduction of repeal bills in either house. This is not a trifling matter. It is a very serious one. and one that should be watched carefully and fought energetically.

– Sacramento Union, September 24 1910

 

VACCINATION TO BE PARENTS’ OPTION
Senate Bill Passed in Assembly Which Removes Obligations Placed on School Children

Vaccination furnished the topic of the nearest approach to a fight in the Assembly Wednesday in the course of the passage of the few bills whose authors had energy enough to call them up for consideration when they were reached on the file. But even this near approach to a clash between the members of the lower House failed to furnish more that a slight diversion from the routine of the day. with but eight dissenting voices, Senator Hurd’s bill (Senate bill No. 655) was passed by the Assembly and sent to the Governor for his approval of its provisions removing the requirement of vaccination as a condition of admission to the public schools of the State. The bill makes vaccination of children optional with parents.

… Assemblymen Schmitt and Chandler were the only open opponents of the bill in the discussion prior to its passage. Chandler declared that “there are a few old women down in my district who are against vaccination, but I am in favor of it and will vote against this bill.” Schmitt declared that he would vote against the bill in question because of his fear that its passage would lead to the ultimate repeal of all legislation pertaining to vaccination.

But Joel lost his motion to continue consideration the bill, and it came the final vote of 58 to 8…

– Press Democrat, February 24 1911

 

VACCINATION MEETING IS RIOT
Aged Stepfather of Health Officer Benton Hissed for Defense of Physician
Police Chief Restores Order When Session of ‘Antis’ Grows Too Stormy

[California Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League meeting in Berkeley
story ends by noting five out of nine smallpox cases in Berkeley were fatal]

– Oakland Tribune, January 31, 1913

 

CALIFORNIA ANTI-COMPULSORY VACCINATION LEAGUE STATE HEADQUARTERS
Berkeley, California, Jan. 20, 1913

The citizens of Berkeley have been thrown into a deplorable condition by an over zealous Health Board, after the discovery of eight cases of smallpox. The percentage was very small, about one case to every eight thousand inhabitants. So insistent were these officials for WHOLESALE VACCINATION, they threw the people into a panic, thereby causing a withdrawal of several hundred pupils from certain schools. Thereupon the School Board deemed it wise to close ALL schools. However, that did not prevent them from insisting upon a wholesale vaccination of school children and teachers. Articles that they caused to be printed so excited the parents that even people who had an aversion to vaccination were terrified into having their children vaccinated.

They have boasted that they would destroy our League in Berkeley, the city of its birth. THE IRON HEEL OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION in the part two weeks has ground harder and deeper than in the past nine years of the League’s existence. Our Treasury is depleted. Briefs carrying our case against the University of California to the Appellate Court amounts to $104.90. Three lawyers’ fees, $150. Besides paid advertisements in local papers, literature, stamps, etc. There is no officer connected with our League receiving any salary. The life of our League is at stake. Can you assist us financially? If so do so at once. Interest your friends in our League, your city may be the next to be visited by an epidemic.
Very earnestly yours,
SAMUEL TAYLOR

 

CASES OF SMALLPOX GROWING RAPIDLY
Twenty-Seven in Sacrarnento Since January – Other Cities Suffer Same.
TWENTY-SEVEN THIS YEAR
Secretary of the Health Board Charges Increase to Anti-Vaccination Idea,

During the year 1911, when the effect of the compulsory vaccination law could still be felt, the number of smallpox cases in Sacramento was limited to three.

In 1912, following the repeal of the compulsory feature of the law and the substitution of one requiring the exclusion of unvaccinated children from the public school only when smallpox existed in the particular school or district to which they belonged, the numbers of cases mounted to twenty-nine.

For the two and a half months of the year 1913 there have already been twenty-seven cases reported in this city. If this ratio is maintained the total for the year will reach 130, or more than forty-three times as much as in 1911.

Smallpox is not exactly epidemic, but there is an alarming increase in the number of cases, and according to the reports of the state board of health the experience of other cities in state is not unlike that of Sacramento.

HIGH DEATH RATE.

The recent outbreak in Berkeley had fatal consequences for five out of ten persons who contracted the disease within one circle of focus, originating from one person, and there were thirteen cases altogether. In Imperial Valley, four out of eighteen persons died, when the disease was introduced in one of the valley towns.

In almost all of the cases the patients had either not been vaccinated or not successfully vaccinated. Of 279 cases of smallpox reported in the last year and a half there were 228 where the patient had not been vaccinated, 22 not successfully, 22 successfully in childhood, from twelve to fifteen years previous, 2 where the victim had previously had smallpox and 5 where there had been successful vaccination.

These figures are presented by Dr. W. F. Snow, secretary of the state board of health, who was asked yesterday to back with data the statement that there is an increased and increasing prevalence of smallpox in California and to account for the phenomena.

“They are no doubt directly traceable,” said Dr. Snow, “to the modification of the compulsory vaccination law and the agitation that has been going on insistently against vaccination. During 1907 and 1909 a very active campaign was conducted against compulsory vaccination and it finally resulted, in 1911, in the repeal of the law and the substitution of the present one.

INCREASE OF EXPOSURES.

“Letting down the bars has of course produced an increasing population of unvaccinated, and the more unvacclnated there are the greater the opportunity for contamination and contagion. This danger is increased by the fact that the population of the state is increasing all the time, which, with the new ramifications of commerce, results in a larger proportion of exposures.

“When a disease has once been well under control it takes time for it to become re-established, and that is what is occurring with smallpox. There seems to be no apparent reason why, now that the gate is open, smallpox cases will not go on increasing in numbers. It is not putting it too strongly to say that if we had compulsory vaccination we wouldn’t have smallpox.” Dr. Snow says also that an alarming incident in connection with the disease is that the confluent type, the most violent and loathsome of all, is becoming more prevalent. In recent years this form of the disease was almost unknown.

– Sacramento Union, March 15 1913

 

MUST PRODUCE CERTIFICATES
Requirements of Students Attending School Here Next Monday Morning

Health Officer Jackson Temple stated yesterday that in order to prevent disappointment when the schools assemble after summer vacation next Monday, the pupils will be required to show vaccination certificates, or else certificates showing that their parents have conscientious scruples against vaccination, or else they will not be allowed to attend school.

The law requires that the Board of Education furnish the certificates setting forth conscientious scruples against vaccination which will be handed to their children to be taken home for signature, by their parents. In the case of any infectious disease breaking out in a community the children who have been vaccinated will be allowed to attend school and those who have not will have to remain home.

Dr. Temple further stated that Santa Rosa had been freer from cases of smallpox than possibly any other city of its size in the State and at the present time there is no case in the city limits.

– Press Democrat, August 20 1913

 

MEDICAL FREEDOM AND VACCINATION

Wednesday morning the Press Democrat published the announcement that Health Officer Jackson Temple, M. D., would demand either a vaccination certificate or one setting forth the fact that a child’s parents had conscientious scruples against vaccination when the schools reassemble again next week.

Wednesday morning the following communication from the Santa Rosa Branch of the American League of Medical Freedom was handed in at the Press Democrat office with a request for its publication:

“Compulsory vaccination has been abolished by the California Legislature, and those who do not wish to have their children vaccinated have only to fill out a blank similar to the following, and the child is then not required to submit to vaccination.

“In case of a smallpox epidemic the school board have the power to exclude from school all un-vaccinated children coming from the district only in which the cases are found.

“Sample of Exemption Certificate…

“…I hereby declare that I am conscientiously opposed to the practice of vaccination and will not consent to the vaccination of ___________
Signed Parent or Guardian _____________.

“The following citations are from noted physicians and from records taken from the past experience where vaccination has not proven a preventive. These are only just a few of conclusions cited from a large number of physicians…

“…Sorry, but space will not permit, we could keep you reading all day on just such data that is against vaccination. A similar theory to that of vaccination is medical inspection of school children. Compulsory treatment will be next wanted by a great many of the M. D.’s.

“Just a hint to parents. In Winnetka, Illinois, girls in the new Trier High School were compelled to submit to complete physical examination. They were taken to the gymnasium and stripped of all their clothing. In the presence of other girls they were examined. A request from their parents to excuse them, and a physician’s certificate were ignored. The Inspector and the school authorities held themselves superior to both parents and family physician. The girls were led to the gymnasium and compelled to submit. When a protest was filed on the ground that the Schools were free and no physical examination could be required as a qualification of admission, the newspapers published the story. The board of education met, and decided that the physical examination was not required for admission to the high school, which was public and free.”

– Press Democrat, August 21 1913

 

VACCINATION MADE SAFE BY SCIENCE The anti-vaccinationists are about to lose their strongest argument. Their most telling objection against vaccination has long been that it was impossible to get absolutely pure vaccine matter; notwithstanding the greatest precautions, like the use of calves kept under specially sanitary conditions, the lymph obtained would not infrequently contain deleterious germs. According to the German Medical Weekly, however, a way has at last been found for sterilizing lymph so thoroughly that its purity can always be relied upon. This has been accomplished by Prof. E. Friedberger and Dr. B. Mlronescu, who have availed themselves of the well-known principle that the ultra-violet rays of light are destructive of bacterial life. The virus is put into small tubes of quartz-glass, which are then exposed to the ultra-violet rays from an electric lamp. In 20 or 30 minutes there is not a live germ left in them.

– Sacramento Union, July 19 1914

 

VACCINATION ORDER IS BEING RIGIDLY ENFORCED

The desks of the principals were piled high with vaccination certificates at the high school Monday after a campaign among the students, in which a certificate dated not earlier than 1907 was compulsory with the alternative of a note from the parent or guardian to the effect that they were opposed to the treatment. Dr. Jackson Temple, the health officer, was a busy man and in spite of the bruised arm which he sustained in Sunday’s accident and wore in a sling moved among the mass of students with a pleasant smile.

– Press Democrat, September 15 1914

 

Dr. Gillihan Defendant in Battery Charges

Dr. Allen F. Gillihan. an inspector for the State Board of Health, who was formerly stationed in Santa Rosa, is facing battery charges in Chico as the result of his activity in enforcing vaccination among school children during a smallpox epidemic in that vicinity. He denies having forced vaccination where there was objections, however.

– Press Democrat, March 1 1919

 

PARENTS CONVERTED TO SCIENCE Over 500 children have been vaccinated by Dr. Juell, the school doctor, so far this year. It has been discovered since the vaccinating is done in the school and without charge that the number of parents who are conscientiously opposed to vaccination has dwindled from an alarmingly large number to practically none at all.

– Press Democrat, October 19 1919

 

THREE AMENDMENTS GIVEN OPPOSITION, ONE FAVORED
Sonoma County Public Health Association Talks of New Laws at Meeting Here Yesterday in the City Hall.

“Don’t close the door of hope for cancer victims, now or in the future. Don’t undo all that has been done for the restriction of tuberculosis. Don’t deprive the choking child of the diphtheria serum, without which his gasping must be futile, without which be must be snatched by death. Don’t, please don’t tie the hands of the physicians. Don’t make futile all of their efforts for the alleviation of human misery. Don’t throttle education in the State of California. And above ail else, don’t make suffering little children the victims of a misplaced sympathy for mice, rabbits, guinea pigs and the like.”

This was the appeal of Celeste J. Sullivan, secretary of the California League for the Conservation of Public Health, to the audience assembled in the council chamber of the city hall Tuesday afternoon; an audience, by ths way, that entirely filled audience section of the room and overflowed into the section reserved for the council members. The meeting where Mr. Sullivan spoke was the annual assemblage of the Sonoma County Public Health Association, and it attracted representatives from various portions of the county…

“…That No. 5 promises the appointment of a special board of examiners for chiropractic physicians and thereby opens the way for the appointment of at least twenty-seven other special boards of examiners for the various other similar cults in the state, is the special argument advanced against it.

“No. 6 is a blow not at vaccination, which in this state is not compulsory, but it aims a death blow as well at inoculation and medication of every kind and would irrevocably tie the hands of the state board of health, making that board absolutely powerless. Further arguments advanced against it by Mr. Sullivan are that if passed it would jeopardize the lives and health of our children by permitting absolutely no disbarment from school or any other public place of persons afflicted with communicable disease, thereby giving no leverage in arresting any epidemic.

“No. 7 aims to make illegal all experiments on live animals. It would absolutely check ail advance in surgical and biological experimentation, stop laboratory work in our universities and colleges, our medical schools and even our high schools, do away with the possiblity of manufacturing not alone preventative serums of all character, but as well strike a death blow to anesthesia and through this to human surgery. Not alone that, but it would put an absolute stop to all experimentation made in the interest of our farm animals, hogs, chickens and cattle.”

“Does California want that?” asks Mr. Sullivan. If we overlook entirely the human element and put the lives of guinea pigs before those of little children, are we willing to go back to the loss of millions of hogs annually? And in reference to the charges of cruelty, the speaker made it plain that the laws of this state are in absolute accord with the requirements of the humane societies, which demand the administration of an anaesthetic in every instance before experimentation. Furthermore, all experimentation laboratories within the state are at all times open to the public.

In connection with this amendment. Mr. Sulivan drew attention to the fact that it will prohibit the killing of tubercular infected cattle, except in the course of a regulation meat supply. ”Do we want this in California?” he further asked of his audience.

No. 8 deals with the curbing of of the drug menace. The last legislature passed the measure and the governor placed his signature to it, showing how our lawmakers feel in the matter. On this measure a “yes” is urged….

– Press Democrat, October 13 1920

 

VACCINATION BILL VETOED BY SENATE

Despite opposition and the absence of ten members, the Senate late today passed. 23 to 7, Senator Crowley’s bill to repeal the compulsory vaccination act and to place control of small pox in the hands of the state board of health. Nelson and others objected to the section of the bill stating that “the control of small pox shall be under the direction of the state board of health, and no rule or regulation on the subject of vaccination shall be adopted by school or local health authorities.”

– Press Democrat, April 6 1921

 

Dr. H. F. True Tells of New State Vaccination Law

Dr. Herbert F. True. Director of the Los Angeles School Health Department, in explaining the new state vaccination law which went into effect in California on July 23. makes the following statement for the guidance of parents, teachers and school officers:

“In event that a case of smallpox develops in a school district, the only persons who will be excluded from school will be the patient and other residents in his home. Persons who have been exposed by these other residents who have not been vaccinated will not be excluded as heretofore. This will mean a great saving to the schools, in that the attendance will not be cut down every time a remote exposure occurs in a school.

“If, however, smallpox becomes very prevalent in the district, the Public Health Officer may order the entire closing of the school to all persons, no distinction being made between vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

“Teachers will not be under the necessity of filing vaccination cards with the schools, nor will they have to require vaccination or opposed-to-vaccination cards from the pupils.”

The law which Dr. True refers to, and which, as he says, removes the distinction formerly drawn between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, so that the unvaccinated now have the same freedom in attending school that the vaccinated enjoy, was enacted by the California legislature at its last session, and reads as follows:

“The control of smallpox shall be under the direction of the State Board of Health, and no rule or regulation on the subject of vaccination shall be adopted by school or local health authorities,”

– Press Democrat, August 18 1921

 

SMALLPOX CASE AT PENNGROVE

Norman Johnson, the seven year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Gus Johnson, is ill at his home at that place with a pronounced case of smallpox. The home has been quarantined by the county health authorities and the school was closed Thursday and will reopen on Monday morning.

The county health authorities announced formally today that the school children who are not vaccinated between now and Monday morning will not be allowed to attend school on that day or until they are vaccinated…It is thought that there will be more cases as many children have been exposed to the disease…

This is the first case of smallpox in this vicinity for some years and it is causing a scare because smallpox is rapidly gaining in the state owing to carelessness in vaccination and it is serious in several parts of California. There is more smallpox now than for many years and it is increasing at an alarming rate while the illnes is more severe than it has been for years and there have been numerous deaths.

– Petaluma Argus, June 12, 1924

 

VACCINATION BANNED AT BURNSIDE SCHOOL

Parents of the Burnside district have refused to allow their children to be vaccinated in the drive being made by Sonoma county health authorities. Not one student in the school was vaccinated, the parents having declined to have the children undergo the treatment. – Press Democrat

– Petaluma Argus, November 22, 1924

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