The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1981, Volume 27, Number 4

by Trudie Casper
Freelance author and editor and frequent contributor to this journal.

Images from the article

JERRY MacMULLEN had a life-long love affair with the city of San Diego. Well—almost life-long. He was a year-and-a-half old when his family moved down from San Francisco in 1899. Jerry grew up with San Diego and in so doing, became what his friends liked to term an “uncommon man.”1

Following his graduation from the University of California, in 1921, Jerry honed his writing skills for twenty-two years as a reporter both for the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune. For seventeen of those years he covered the waterfront. With the advent of World War II he left the newsroom for active duty with Naval Intelligence, retiring with the rank of Commander.

In 1954, Jerry was named director of the San Diego History Center, a post he held for more than ten years. During his 1962-63 term, he also served as president of the Conference of California Historical Societies. With a reporter’s penchant for chasing fire engines, he became a charter member of the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company. It is now a San Diego museum housing a collection of historic fire-fighting equipment.

Throughout his several careers and after his retirement Jerry continued writing. His published books include: Paddle Wheel Days in California and Star of India—the Log of an Iron Ship. Co-author with Jack McNairn of Ships of the Redwood Coast, Jerry, an artist as well as a writer, illustrated the text with pen and ink drawings.

But, it was his “Southwest Corner,” featured in the Sunday Union from May 6, 1956 through December 22, 1974, that most endeared Jerry to the city. The facts and fables of the early days, as related by Jerry in this weekly column, became a required reading ritual for his fellow San Diegans.

A few months before Jerry’s death, on February 15, 1981, Bob Wright, chairman of the San Diego History Center’s Oral History Program, and Sylvia Arden, the Society’s librarian and archivist, had the good fortune to interview him. On September 21, 1980, they spent four hours in his old family home at 382 Glorietta Boulevard, Coronado, gently prodding him for reminiscences of the city he knew so well. And while they listened, they recorded his voice for the enjoyment and edification of San Diego historians in the years to come.

The first installment of a transcription of that interview follows. The second and final installment will be published in a later issue of this journal.

What is your name?

My full name is Gerald Fischer MacMullen. I was born in San Francisco at 1076 Union Street on November 16, 1897.

Who was your father?

My father was James MacMullen—no middle name. He was born November 13, 1858, in County Cavan, Ireland.

And your mother’s name?

My mother was Margaretta Fischer. She was born December 28, 1863, in New Market, New Jersey.

My parents were married in New Jersey. My father was told by the family doctor that he was in the final stages of tuberculosis and had about six months to live. But—if he could get to California—he might live a year. So they pooled their resources and came to California via the Panama route in 1888 and arrived in San Francisco, out of work, with only $13 between them. Fortunately, there was, at the time, a shortage of newspaper reporters in San Francisco and my father got a job as a reporter.

Was he a reporter before he came to California?

Yes. He had worked on a paper in New Jersey. In San Francisco he rose to be city editor and finally managing editor with the newspaper called The Daily Morning Call. In 1899 he was transferred to San Diego. The Spreckels people owned the Call and they had recently bought the San Diego Union. The man who was running the Union down here died and my father was transferred to San Diego to take over the Union. Shortly afterwards they bought the Tribune. At the time of his death2 he held the position of editor and manager of the Union and the Tribune.

In what year did your father come down to San Diego?

In 1899, when I was just about a year-and-a-half old, and my older brother was about eight.

And he came to San Diego because he had an offer to work for the paper here?

Well, it wasn’t really an offer. He was just told to come down here. And he was the editor and manager of the Union.

So, you grew up in San Diego. Did your dad live in Coronado?

No. We lived in San Diego until 1914 when my father built this house and we moved over here.

Do you remember where you lived in San Diego?

Well, when we first came to San Diego we lived in the Horton House. Then we moved—of course, I only know this by hearsay—up to Seventh and A Streets in an old house which is still standing. It is now out on Thirtieth Street near Ivy. It’s an old story-and-a-half house with a mansard roof.

Then we moved down to Second and Beech Streets and we lived there for a year or so. In 1902 we moved up to First and Ivy Streets into what had been the old Chalmers Scott house. We lived there until 1912, when we moved across the street into another house while this house (in Coronado) was being built. Then, in 1914, we came over here.

You said you had stayed at the Horton House. Did you ever see “Father Horton”?

Yes. But, of course, I was only about five or six years old when he died. But I remember my mother pointing out, “That man with the big beard, is ‘Father Horton’.”

Was he a dynamic looking man?

Well, he wasn’t then. He was beginning to fold up. He was getting along in years.

At least, you got to see a little bit of history there, didn’t you?

Yes. I also got to see Ida Bailey, believe it or not. But, I guess we needn’t go into that.

Who’s Ida Bailey? 

Ida Bailey was San Diego’s most famous “Madam.” As a matter of fact, a funny thing happened just after I took over out at the Serra Museum.4 Something came in one day which obviously belonged in the file on “Stingaree.”5 So, I went over and I looked under “S’s” and no “Stingaree” file. So, I looked under “Prostitution;” so, I looked under “Houses of  Ill-Fame;” then, I looked under “Ill-Fame, Houses of.” I finally gave up and I called up John Davidson6 and I said, “John, I’ve got a problem.” This was about a month after I had taken over. I said, “I’ve got some material that has come in that should go into the ‘Stingaree’ file. Now, where is the ‘Stingaree’ file?” And he replied instantly, “There is no ‘Stingaree’ file. We did not approve of the ‘Stingaree’!” So, then and there, I started a file on “Stingaree.”

And we have continued it.

Good for you!

What kind of a lady was she?

Well, as I say, she was San Diego’s most famous “Madam,” and she was rather important politically and so on. She was in the city directory for many years and—I think it was along about 1905—if you will turn to that city directory you will find people’s names (there) in normal size type. And then, in the “B” section, you will come on to BAILEY, MISS IDA, and that type is about two points bigger than the other type on the page—no occupation given, just BAILEY, MISS IDA and the address. That is all you had to know.

Well, I saw her in about 1922, just after I had gone to work as a police reporter on the Tribune. This pathetic-looking old woman used to come shuffling by the police station occasionally—that’s when they had that horrible old police station down on Second Street, between F and G—and she would stop for a moment and chat with some of the old-timers like (Police Sgt.) George Pringle7 (Patrolman) George Wilson or (Patrolman) Jack Golden.

One day, after she had gone on shuffling down the street, I asked George Pringle, “Who is that dreadful-looking old ‘bag’?” He said, “Why don’t you know, that is Ida Bailey!” She was still living and much the worse for the wear. But you could tell she had been a “humdinger” in her day. So, I was very proud of the fact that I had seen Ida Bailey.

Shall we turn back again, to your youth and have you tell us, chronologically, what life was like, your life here with your parents in San Diego?

It was a nice place for a kid to grow up in then because there were lots of things to do. Gosh, there was the waterfront, which was wonderful. There were the railroad yards. There was the friendly neighborhood fire station with that beautiful old steam engine and two grey horses which pulled it; the big red hose wagon and the two brown horses which pulled that.

The firemen were friendly with the kids. One whole Engine 3 was up at Fourth and Laurel. The big excitement of our lives was when “3’s” would be called out and they would go lickety down First Street8 past our house. First Street wasn’t even paved then. What kept that old fire engine sitting up straight, I don’t know. Why it didn’t go over on its side the way it rocked around First belching smoke and cinders. It was a most spectacular sight.

And the waterfront, of course, was a great place. Anybody could go out on any wharf in those days because if somebody fell off their parents didn’t immediately sue the owner of the wharf. They figured, “Well, it was just a dumb kid and he fell off and now there was just one dumb kid less.” That was the outlook of society in those days. It isn’t that way now. You can’t let anybody go out on the wharf, because, if they do some stupid thing and hurt themselves, they just turn around and sue whoever owns the wharf.

So, the result was that I got to wander around aboard ships that came in from various far ports of the world. That is what started my interest in maritime history, because, in those days, all the lumber that was brought into San Diego was in sailing vessels: schooners; barkentines; mostly three-masted schooners. By that time, two-masted schooners had gone; the four-masted schooners—there weren’t too many of them. So—mostly three-masted schooners. Once in a while a barkentine or a bark, but mostly schooners.

Then there were the deep-water ships that were coming in from the European ports. They all went to—I guess the most famous wharf—the Spreckels Wharf at the foot of G Street. That was a coal wharf. There was a huge, black-timbered coal bunker on this wharf. For many years that was the only thing that kept San Diego alive. Because, when the big boom collapsed everything in 1888, John D. Spreckels9 had built some coal bunkers and they were almost finished. Well—actually, he hadn’t finished them but he got into a deal with the Santa Fe Railroad so that all the coal for the Santa Fe to use as far east as Albuquerque came in through San Diego. And also all the coal that was used in Los Angeles came in through San Diego because there was no Port of Los Angeles in those days. They had to unload at open roadsteads like Redondo or Santa Monica or some place like that. So, that was the only industry we had— the coal ships that came in. They were all big iron and steel square-riggers, practically all of them.

I remember one ship I went aboard—if only I had thought of it at the time—I would have spent more time on that ship than I did. That was in 1915—a British ship called the Dunhope. Later on I was to learn that the Dunhope was the last “Cape Horner” that ever called at San Diego. I was all over the Dunhope, even up into the rigging. They let kids climb up in the rigging of the ships in those days. Gosh, imagine doing that today! You wouldn’t dare!

Did your father take you down to the waterfront?

Well, he was very much interested in ships. As a matter of fact, when I was a kid he would meet me after Sunday school and we would go for a long walk, generally along the waterfront. He was just as much interested in the old ships as I was.

Incidentally, referring to one of those walks: We were coming up H Street—what we now call Market Street10—and we got to the corner of Fourth and H and my father stopped. He leaned on his cane—of course, everybody carried a cane in those days—then he took his cane and pointed it down Fourth Street to a place about half-a-block (away). There was a very neat little story-and-a-half yellow cottage with white trim that sat in back of a white picket fence, with two big magnolia trees out in the front yard. And he said, “Son, that is Canary Cottage.” I said, “Dad, what is Canary Cottage?” And he said, “Never mind. When you get older you will understand about things like that. But we have just had a municipal election and the long-hairs won and Canary Cottage’s days are numbered. I want you to be able to say in the years to come that, ‘I have seen Canary Cottage!’ ” Well, Canary Cottage, of course, was the place run by Ida Bailey. 

It was part of the “Stingaree” section?

So, there, again, I am very proud to have not only seen Ida Bailey but also Canary Cottage. I was so glad that Dad pointed it out to me. You know, she was quite an operator. She might be said to be the forerunner of outdoor advertising in San Diego. On a pleasant Sunday afternoon, Ida would send up to the old Diamond Carriage Company—which is where the Spreckels Theatre is now—and she would hire one of these—I think they called them a “barouche,” a vehicle where the top could be let down. Then she would move four of her best-looking gals, dressed up in their best clothes, into this thing and they would go out and drive up and down through the residence districts in San Diego which horrified and aroused the rage of the decent housewives of San Diego. But the men thought it was funnier than hell! So she was, you might say, the forerunner of outdoor advertising in San Diego.

Tell us something about your schooling in San Diego.

I went to a private school for my first four years. A Mrs. Decker—she was the widow of a doctor—she had a private school from kindergarten through the fourth grade that was at Fifth and Palm Streets. I went there for the first four grades. Then, on to the eighth grade, I went to a school which later became the Horace Mann School. It was known, then, as the Normal Training School. It was the school where they tried out the student teachers. That was before San Diego State. The San Diego Normal School,11which was the teachers’ school, was right there. We had a different teacher for every class. They changed them about three times a year. So we were the guinea pigs for these fledgling teachers.

Then I went to San Diego High School and graduated from there in 1916 and went on to the University of California at Berkeley. I dropped out the following semester because, unfortunately, I had picked up measles—of all the things in the world to get—and it affected my eyes. I not only had to drop out of college but I also had to drop out of the old Naval Militia.

Otherwise, I would have gone off on some battleship early in World War I. As a matter of fact, I didn’t get into service until almost the end of World War I when I got into the Army very briefly.

Then, in 1935, I succeeded in clawing my way back into the Naval Reserve and stayed there for 22 years—nine years of it were active duty. 

You mentioned the Naval Militia and having worked so long with Don Stewart.12 Knowing that he was a Lt. Commander at the time, tell us a little bit about the start of that Naval Militia. Were you one of the original ones?

Well, no, because it started in 1892 or 1893. I went in in 1915. I was an enlisted man, of course, and was what would now be known as Radioman, 3rd Class. They were finally authorized to have some radiomen in the division, so they scouted around and picked up two or three amateur radio operators and talked us into enlisting, which we did. One was Orlan Bullard,13 who later became one of San Diego’s leading dentists. He went in as a Radioman, 2nd Class and he was my boss because I was only a radioman, 3rd. And Larry Blochman14 was what would now be called a Radioman Striker—he had not even been rated yet. So he was the low man on the totem pole. We drilled every Monday night and when there was a war vessel in port we would go out and drill aboard this war vessel. I remember my first training duty on board the old battleship Oregon right here in San Diego Bay. It was quite a ship.

Were you involved with that fiasco when they had the riot on that ship that Stewart went out with?

Oh, now, that was much earlier; that was in 1907. You mean the Maori King ? Heck, I was only 10 years old then. 

That was quite a time. Did Don ever talk about it very much? 

Oh, yes, he talked about it. (And wrote about it.)15 

Did you get involved in yachting around San Diego? 

Yes. As a matter of fact, my brother and I—this was back in about 1912—we had the last sharpie on San Diego Bay. I didn’t realize that it was very significant. We had this sharpie and we sailed her until, finally, she almost fell apart and we sold her. But in later years, in talking to Don Stewart, I found out that it had been rather a significant rig here—it was a Connecticut rig.

Well, in the early days, of course, San Diego was packed with “down-easters.” In fact, the down-east influence in San Diego was very important. Gosh, when the State of Maine Society would hold its picnic, there was practically nobody left on the streets downtown. And when the New England Society held its picnic, there was definitely nobody on the streets in town because everybody was at the picnic.

What years are we talking about?

This started back, I guess, in the 1860s and 1870s, because Don used to tell me about how many, many “down-easters” there were here. All the boat shops along the waterfront were owned by people from Massachusetts and Maine, Rhode Island and so on. I know when I was a kid—gosh – you couldn’t go into a restaurant in San Diego and open a menu but what every day one of the entrees would be the New England Boiled Dinner. The influence we had here was very, very strong.

Did you see the Butcher Boy16when it was sailing around here, too?

Oh, yeah. After a while, after we got rid of the sharpie—(but) let me go on about the sharpie. Don mentioned that there were many sharpies on San Diego Bay and most of them were employed in the firewood trade—of all things in the world. Of course, in those days there was a form of heavy gnarled brush that grew on the Coronado strand. It made excellent firewood and its roots made even better firewood. People would sail over there with their sharpies—of course they were center-board boats—so they would just pull up the center board and run up onto the beach, load their boat with firewood and come back to San Diego to sell it. And when they weren’t doing that they would go outside and fish. So there were a number of sharpies on San Diego Bay—and we had the last one. 

Will you spell that name, please?

S-h-a-r-p-i-e. Basically, it is a great big flat-bottomed skiff with a center board, decked over with two masts. The main mast was right up from the bow like a cat-boat. But it had no headsails of any kind; the main mast right up from the bow and the jigger mast just ahead of the rudder, like a ketch. And they had leg-o-mutton sails. But they were very handy boats; they were easy to build; they were cheap to build; and they performed beautifully. Of course, being flat-bottomed, going windward they slapped and pounded to beat the band. But they were good boats.

After that I had a little V-bottomed boat for a number of years. She was about an 18-footer with a cabin on her. Then, getting into World War I, I was able to pick up the Butcher Boy for the amazing sum of $250. My father promised me that if I wouldn’t smoke until I was 21 he would give me a motorcycle. So, I said, “Dad, the Butcher Boy is for sale for $250 and I’ve kept my end of the deal. So, how about it?” So, he obligingly bought the Butcher Boy and I had her for 13 years. 

How old were you when he bought that for you? 


He does sound like quite a man—so very generous with his time and consideration of you. 

He was a great little Irishman.

Did he have a brogue?

No, except when he was telling Irish stories.

How long did you keep the Butcher Boy?

I had her for 13 years. So then I sold her. I had gotten married in the meantime and my wife was getting a little bored with being a “Sunday widow” because I was always out on the Butcher Boy.

Ordinarily, in those days, when you bought a boat you sold her years later for much less than you paid for her. But I bought the Butcher Boy, as I said, for $250. So, after 13 years, a guy came along and offered me $450. I thought, “Gee, this is it; I’m not going to let this slide by.” So, I sold the Butcher Boy. My conscience bothered me a little bit for I thought I had robbed this man.

About a year later, I got a call from some Lt. Commander over at the Naval Training Center and he asked me, “Did you ever own a boat called the Butcher Boy?” And I told him, “Yes.” And I asked him, “Why?” “Well, he said, “I’m thinking of buying her but I think the guy is asking a little too much.” So I said, “What is he asking for her?” He said, “Fifteen hundred.”

When the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Star of India17 bought the Butcher Boy back from the owner up north about five years ago they paid $4,000 for it! And my conscience bothered me because I took $450 when I had only paid $250.

I’d like to see it finished off.

Well, I have become so disgusted with what was done to the Butcher Boy, in the face of ample photographs and the fact that I was available and I could have answered all the questions about her when she was restored. She was restored not with the white painted hexagonal bowsprit that every salmon boat had, but with a round, varnished bowsprit like a modern yacht. Originally she had no portholes in her cabin so they put three portholes on each side of the cabin because they thought that looked better and then a lot of yacht fittings were put on to her. So I don’t have any reason to go and look at her anymore. It makes me sick every time I do.

Was that the end of your yachting experiences?


You started as a police reporter?

Yes. On the Tribune.

When you went to college did you major in journalism? So, then, after your eyes improved, you started working as a reporter and gave up the idea of college?

Well, no. I stayed in college until after I graduated. After the war, I went back to the University of California and finished up for my degree. I started out studying to be an electrical engineer. But it took me two times to get through differential calculus. And integral calculus! I flunked out of that! I still don’t know what that is all about. And here I was going to be an electrical engineer.

For a period I transferred from the University of California to what is now called Cal-Tech. We were out on the spring vacation field trip. The students there, at that time, always went down to Newport Beach and spent a week there doing triangulations and plain paper surveys and all that sort of thing. We were sitting around the fire one night and the instructor, a Professor Martel, who had been a civil engineer for the Santa Fe Railroad, said, “MacMullen, you’ve done some writing haven’t you?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Well, I don’t know what sort of a writer you will ever be but I can tell you one thing—it’s a hell of a lot better than the kind of an engineer you’ll ever be.”

You know, I was crushed; I was heartbroken! And yet, I began to think, maybe this guy has got something! So at the end of that term I didn’t go back to Cal-Tech. I went back to the University of California. Fortunately, I had had enough English so that I could take English as a major and all the journalism classes—of which there were two. They were under the English Department in those days.

While I was at the University (Berkeley), I became night editor of the Daily Californian. They had a different staff every day and one night I was the night editor. Also, in my senior year I became editor of the college magazine. Larry Blochman (a senior classmate) was editor of the Daily Californian. Toward the end of the year, he said, “Look, Jerry, I’ve got a job lined up as police reporter on the Tribune and,” he said, “I’ll tell you a big secret. I’m not going to stay there very long. I’m planning to stay about three months and then I’m going on a trip around the world—work my way around the world. For my first job I’m going on as a wireless operator on a Japanese tanker. So,” he said, “why don’t you put in for the job so when I quit you can just ease in.”

So, I did. I came home and I marked time throughout that summer until, finally, I got a call from the city editor of the Tribune one day telling me that Larry Blochman was leaving and if I still wanted the job to come on over. So I came to work the next day and spent one day doing the police beat with Larry Blochman and he left the next day.

I was on the Tribune until 1928 and then I was transferred to the water-front beat for the Union. I stayed there until the summer of ’41 when I was scooped up by the Navy. After the war I went back to the Tribune for a while, but, gosh, it wasn’t my job anymore. There were all young men and the pace had increased immeasurably and I just didn’t fit in. So I knocked that off after about a year.

At the time you started to work for the paper was your dad involved with it?

Oh yes, he was still editor and manager. In fact he was even there when I was transferred over to the Union. 

But you got the job on your own merits. How did you like the job as a police reporter?

Oh, it was wonderful! In those days there was a very close friendship between reporters and policemen and firemen, which you don’t have today. Now, unfortunately, the majority of the reporters are taught that they must be hostile to policemen, in that they represent the “establishment” and all that sort of thing. And, in those days, of course, the reporters worked their way up. They didn’t come out of school with a degree in journalism and get a job because they had a degree. You started out, generally, as a copy boy; or, rather, you started out generally bringing in the football results Friday afternoon and turning them over to the sports editor who would snarl at you. Then you’d come back the next week and, finally, he would say, “Look, son, there is a job open as copy boy if you’re interested.” And from that you became a cub reporter and went out and covered various beats under the supervision of some old experienced reporter. That’s how it developed. And, as I say, there was great friendship between the media and law enforcement agencies, which you don’t have anymore. It’s no fun anymore.

Do you remember any outstanding policemen, at the time—and firemen?

 Well, of course. The outstanding fireman was Lou (Louis) Almgren18 who was chief for 25 years. And Bert Shankland,19 who is still with us at 90 years old. Chalmer McKenzie, who worked with me at the Serra Museum.

Chalmer was a grand guy. And, again, I don’t know how many others. There were some of the leading cops in those days like: Ed Dieckmann, who was head of homicide for a number of years; Jerry Lightner, who was also head of homicide; old Keno Wilson20 was still on the job. He was probably the most famous law man in San Diego County in those years.

Why did he get busted?

Well, Keno was a hell of a good chief of police. But he was a lousy politician and he couldn’t keep up with the politics. He was the chief, you know, at the time they closed “Stingaree” and shortly after that they fired him. Finally, they took him back as a patrolman and he gradually got up to be sergeant when he retired.

But he was honest as the day is long. He had a good head on him; he wasn’t afraid of anything. He was absolutely a man without fear. But, as I say, he was not a good politician, so he didn’t make it. Because, in those days, the job of chief of police was strictly a political appointment. After each election, generally the mayor would appoint a new chief of police; and somebody else on the city council would appoint the fire chief; somebody else would appoint the harbor master and so on. They just parceled out the jobs. Until Almgren got in and he was so effective as chief that they didn’t dare fire him. So he stayed, as I say, for 25 years, until he retired. 

There was a lot of police corruption during those years, too, wasn’t there?

  Yeah. But it was all minor stuff. An apple off somebody’s fruit stand or something like that. I don’t think there has ever been a major police scandal in San Diego. In the early days, at least, we can merely say that it was good luck. They just happened to get guys in there who didn’t act up when they shouldn’t have acted up. No major police scandals at all. Oh, once in a while a cop would get drunk, go on a rampage or something and the press would scream over that for a couple of days and then forget it. There was nothing really “bushy.”

I had heard that the Exposition of 1936 might not have taken place because there was so much corruption going on beforehand. Then the people who were trying to get Ford to come in forced the situation to change. Was part of the corruption in the police department?

Well, there probably was some in the police department because I know there was some everywhere else. That was about the same general period when, they tell the story, that one of the city councilmen was in the insurance business and they found that the City of San Diego was carrying a $150,000 fire insurance policy on the Morena Dam and contents.

Do you remember the IWW21 activity of 1911? You were still young but will you give us your impressions?

Oh, yes, indeed. The IWW was, for the most part, the remnants of General Mosby’s22 army. Remember, there had been the big revolution in Mexico with the Battle of Tijuana in 1911. They came over and somebody decided they were going to make a test case of San Diego. They were going to take over San Diego.

Things got pretty rough. They would meet in the evenings in mass meetings opposite the Grant Hotel and deliver speeches, mostly in four-letter words. Finally, the city council passed an emergency ordinance regulating street meetings in San Diego. You could hold a street meeting anywhere you wanted to in San Diego except in the six blocks bounded by Third Street, Sixth Street, C Street and E Street. Anywhere else in San Diego you could hold a meeting.

Well, immediately, this became the issue that the police were trying to suppress free speech. There was a certain amount of violence. A policeman got shot and people’s automobiles would have their tires gashed and all that sort of thing. These guys insisted on coming in and trying to make speeches and they would be arrested. Of course, they all got lawyers right away and demanded jury trials and they just completely swamped the legal machinery of San Diego.

So a delegation went to Sacramento and called upon the governor and asked the governor about doing something for San Diego. The governor said, “No. That’s San Diego’s problem. That is not a state problem. It is up to you to take care of it. It is your mess. You clean it up.” So a bunch of the citizens said, “Well, if that’s what the governor wants, that’s what the governor is going to get!” So a vigilante committee was formed and they tore into these people.

One night they rounded up a bunch of them and loaded them up into a cattle car and shipped them up to San Onofre and dumped them out just across the county line with a certain amount of force. And they advised them never to come back again.

Emma Goldman23 came to San Diego—she was the leading radical organizer at that time. She got off the train down at the Santa Fe Station. She was going to the Grant Hotel—she and her manager, a fellow by the name of Ben Wrightman. They got onto a bus and there was an angry mob around the bus. Some stupid little newsboy shouted, “Remember McKinley!” The story goes that it was one of Emma’s followers who had murdered (President) McKinley so the crowd let out a growl and started for the bus.

The vigilance committee was there and they locked arms and got around the bus so the bus could get away. Well, they got up to the Grant Hotel and—that night—a delegation came in and took Ben Wrightman out. He was taken out somewhere near Escondido and tarred and feathered and booted across the line. And they got Emma off the freight elevator and down to the Santa Fe Station and hauled her onto the train and got her out of San Diego.

Well, then the governor took action. He sent the attorney general down to San Diego to convene a special grand jury for the purpose of identifying and indicting the members of the vigilance committee. The special grand jury at that time deliberated and finally handed up a bill which said that, “Due to a diligent search they had covered all the angles but it was impossible to identify who were the leaders of the vigilance committee.”

As time has gone on public sympathy has swung completely to the side of the IWW. You get young students who come in and stare at you through their thick glasses . . . I had a call from one guy who wanted me to identify the spot in which were buried 100 people who had been murdered by police brutality in San Diego. Now that is a story I never even heard! That’s the way that the thing had grown and been twisted ever since. It was a nasty situation and the people of San Diego asked for help . . . they were turned down . . . so they just took the law into their own hands as has happened in San Francisco in the 1850s; then, again, in ’53. The vigilance committee finally cleaned up the town.

Did you witness much of this IWW activity here?

No. Because I was told to stay the hell at home; not to go downtown and stick my nose into things that didn’t concern me, which was probably a good idea. Because I could have gotten messed up—as some people did get messed up.

(To Be Continued)



1. April 11, 1981. A memorial service was held at San Diego’s Maritime Museum in conjunction with the dedication of the Jerry MacMullen Library aboard the ferryboat Berkeley.

2. April 3, 1933. See San Diego Tribune, April 4, 1933, Editorial Page.

3. Alonzo E. Horton, founder of modern San Diego. See Elizabeth C. MacPhail, The Story of New San Diego and Its Founder, Alonzo E. Horton (San Diego: San Diego History Center, 1979).

4. January 1, 1954. MacMullen became director of the Serra Museum. See San Diego Union, November 15, 1953, p. A-22.

5. Red Light District bounded by H (Market) and K Streets between First and Fifth Streets (Avenues). See Elizabeth C. MacPahil, “When the Red Lights Went Out in San Diego,” The Journal of San Diego History, XX (Spring, 1974), p. 6.

6. First Curator of Serra Museum and Library, 1929-1953. Died, aged 98, 1975. See San Diego Evening Tribune, January 8, 1975, p. D-8.

7. Served 1894-1936. Died 1943. Pliny Castanien, “San Diego Police, A Look Back,” The Journal of San Diego History, XXV/ (Winter, 1980), p. 46.

8. City Ordinance No. 13237, adopted June 15, 1931, changed the names of First through Twelfth Streets to First through Twelfth Avenues.

9. Austin Adams, The Man John D. Spreckels (San Diego: Frye and Smith: 1924). passim.

10. MacPhail, Red Lights, p. 17. “Until 1914 . . . Market was H Street and Broadway was D Street.”

11. N.W. Corner Campus Avenue and EI Cajon Boulevard. See San Diego City Directory, 1912.

12. Donald M. Stewart, City Councilman 1903-1905; 1919-1927; City Treasurer 1909-1917; Postmaster, 1934. Died, aged 95, June 14, 1969. See Evening Tribune, June 16, 1969, p. B-8.

13. 1915 City Directory lists Orlan Bullard residence 1651 Tenth Street.

14. Noted author, grandson of pioneer San Diego banker, Abraham Blochman. See Trudie Casper, ‘The Blochman Saga in San Diego,” The Journal of San Diego History, XXIII (Winter, 1977), p. 76.

15. Donald M. Stewart, Frontier Port (Los Angeles: Ward Ritchie Press, 1965), pp. 153-165. Foreword by Jerry MacMullen, Past President, Conference of California Historical Societies.

16. Butcher Boy. See Linda M. Pearce Nolte, “Yachting: its History in San Diego,” The Journal of San Diego History, XX (Fall, 1974), pp. 3, 4.

17. Jerry MacMullen, Star of India, The Log of an Iron Ship (Berkeley: Howell-North, 1961), passim.

18. Joined Fire Department, 1902. Chief 1909-1935. Died, aged 85, 1961. See San Diego Union, May 15, 1961.

19. Retired from San Diego Fire Department in 1938 after 25 years service. Retired Captain of City of San Diego Fireboat. Retired caretaker of Star of India. See MacMullen, Star of India, pp. 86, 92.

20. A.E. Jansen, “Keno Wilson: A Lawman’s Lawman,” The Journal of San Diego History, VIII (October, 1962), p. 50.

21. Industrial Workers of the World.

22. Richard Griswold del Castillo, “The Discredited Revolution: The Magonista Capture of Tijuana in 1911,” The Journal of San Diego History, XXVI (Fall, 1980), p. 267.

23. Well-known anarchist speaker. See Robert Diehl, To Speak or Not to Speak, Unpublished thesis, San Diego History Center Library and Manuscripts Collection, p. 106.

THE PHOTOGRAPHS are from the San Diego History Center’s Title Insurance and Trust Collection.