During my visit to the Archives Wednesday, Deputy Patty Stinson gave several of us a personal "tour" of the murals she painted for the Office of Emergency Services, a public building at Santa Rita. The subject of the murals came from historical pictures and history of the department.
is the earliest history and is done in a sepia tone, as old pictures
were in those days. Some highlights: Center left, Sheriff Henry Morse
road horseback from Sunol to Los Angeles in pursuit of Joaquin Murrieta.
Above his head is a little Adobe that is still part of Komandorski
Village in Pleasanton. It served as the first courthouse and jail. Under
the horses hooves is another building built as a courthouse and beside
it a bigger courthouse with a prisoner hanging in the doorway, the
punishment for major crimes of the day.
Behind the steam engine is the
first Patrol Car and below right is the first Patty wagon. Follow the
road above to officers in brown gear. Complaints that the cops looked
too much like telegraph delivery men made them change to navy-blue
To the left, a mad Chinaman threw a bomb that killed six
officers. Patty put a lot of thought and work into these murals. She
segued this one with a slight color change, on the right, to the next
mural is in black and white. Above left corner depicts the first Prison
Farm in the State, nestled in the hillside near what is now Highland
Hospital. The woman seated above the Greystone Sign is Firth Band, a
cattle rustler. Around the coffee table the story was the detectives
interrogating her insisted she couldn't lift a huge steer into a truck,
she must have had help. She stood 6 feet, 2" tall. When she had had
enough of the badgering, before he could blink and eye, she grabbed
hefty Detective Welch, one hand around the shoulder, one under the
crotch, and lifted him into the air with ease. I asked Welch if it was a
true story. He told me exactly how she grabbed him.
Top center, an
officer beaming a light down into the compound where inmates lived in
barracks. To his right, Ramona Hoffman, a female deputy operating what
is now an ancient comptometer.
The Russell City Country Club? Russell
City was actually the county dump where people, mostly African Americans
who couldn't get decent housing, built their own. Wooden shacks and
even some cardboard shacks, and eventually some little houses, a hall
and a market. None built with permits. Famous black musicians would come
to the Bay Area and play to sell out crowds and then do free concerts
for their brethren at the Russell City Country Club.
Below right is
Captain Minna Ralph. She was chosen to be the first female deputy
sheriff, though a number of female matrons did police services at the
jails before her. When the Civil Service Exam for Sergeant came up, the
exam board forgot to post that the exam was open to men only. Minna took
the exam and passed. There was an outcry against a female "stealing" a
position, but she got the rank. It opened up doors for other female
deputies. She later became a Lieutenant and Captain, all "firsts" as
well. On the right of the mural is a touch of color as it segues to the
Top left, female deputies new uniforms are designed like stewardesses.
One deputy commented can you imagine us trying to run in those skirts?
Females were only allowed in the jail then. Captain Ralph fought for
positions in transportation and juvenile. Change came slowly but they
eventually got into patrol cars with great success and you see them left
center firing pistols on the range.
Top center is Spade Cooley, a man
in jail for murdering his wife. He was a famous musician. Twelve
deputies were indicted after the street wars in Berkeley depicted to his
left. The deputies were raising funds for their own defense and
Deputies Baugh, Matzek and Saper asked for permission to get Spade
Cooley out of jail for a weekend for two concerts. They housed him,
guarded him and bought him a belt buckle and a pair of boots at his
request. Cooley's friends came up from as far away as Texas to hear him
play. One famous western movie star rolled into Oakland with great big
steer horns on his fur-lined Cadillac. Cooley did one concert and in the
middle of the second one, died on stage of a heart attack.
forget the case of the 26 school children kidnapped from Chowchilla and
buried underground in Livermore? The Sheriff still has a posse, for
parade purposes only, bottom right. And, a dual picture of Martin Luther
King and Joan Baez. The Santa Rita jail was the only prison King
visited. He came because Joan Baez was imprisoned when she protested in
song and in person on the streets of Berkeley.
Alameda County Jail
reflects the times as it played its part in the historic changes of
society. We can't let history get thrown away. Our archives preserves it