The Coakleys and the Angels

My Godfather, Sargeant Skip Sutter, led fifty Oakland Cops against the Hell’s Angels, raided their clubhouse with gloves on, and ended up in the hospital for a week. Skip and Vic went to Oakland High School, and were pals of Tom McKinny the ex-president of TransAmerica Title, who was dismissed for Loan Scams in the late seventies – along with Skip – who wanted my fahter to come sit atop the pryamid building in SF, too.

Above is a photo of me with my siblings, Mark and Christine taken in 1950. According to Stacey Pierrot, and Julie Lynch, I am looking at Christine in a suspicious manner, because I suspect she is hiding in a closet with a flashlight, competing with me to become a world famous artist! I mean, look at her. How old is she, and where is she? Can Julie tell us? How about, Showtime?

While real villians are bringing down the world, the Gallery Gargoyles go after a four year old boy – and demonize him! Are you kidding me!

Above is a photo of Andrew Cuomo of HUD who went after Lawrence Chazen, the No.1 creditor in Rosamond’s probate for Loan Sharking. He hauled off Christine’s antique furniture. Show time is not interested in Larry, a partner of the Getty and Pelosi family- just that evil little boy trying to get his share of the milk for his cereal. No wonder my nieces have mental problems, don’t have a very good grasp of reality! Guess who is to blame for that!!!!!!

Jon Presco

Copyright 2011

Coakley the Cailleach and the Oakland Cops

Having read all the Grimm¡¯s Fairytales when I was eleven, I can say
the best stories begin with the appearance of an Old Hag. Most
children of my generation expected to be approached, or beckoned by
an Old Hag, or Witch, at some time in their life, thanks to Walt
Disney, the darling of Rightwing Conservatives who had the hots for
Davey Crockett, who would give the Republicans ‘Frontier America’
back after disappearing most of the other folks, somehow. So when
Dear Old Kay called to me from across the street, I must admit I was
startled, for she looked every bit like the classic Witch. Was she a
good witch? She had course black hair, a large nose, and perhaps my
youthful imagination and memory put a wart on that nose?

¡°Young boy!¡± she called to me in a garbled voice. ¡°Cumb bere!¡±

Being the only young boy on the street at the time (I was eleven) I
surmised it was me she beckoned to, and curious I came across the
street so I could hear her better.

Kay was slumped over and had a rather large hump on her back. Her
face was very pale, and wore bright red lipstick that was not applied
properly. It was hard to tell her age, for up close she did not look
as old as I first surmised. Having my full attention, she now spoke.

¡°I brandt yoob tos take deez bobbas to da store andb cabsh dem forb
me, den brug da muzzy brack and guv it ta me.¡±
¡°What?¡± I said, cocking my head to one side.
She gave me a look, having encountered dummies like me before, and
with disgust, turned and beckoned me in the house.
¡°Fallub me.¡± She said, and my heart began to race. Do I dare cross
her threshold?
¡°Fallub me!¡± She said a little louder, and I could not resist.

Kay walked with a stutter-step that propelled her forward. Some said
she had Cerebral Palsy, but she told us kids she was in a terrible
automobile accident when she was young and beautiful that had
obviously caused some brain damage, as well as crippling her.

Turning into the kitchen, she opened the door to the garage, and
pointed to several bags of pop-bottles and repeated her instructions
that I did not follow correctly, for I was distracted by the sight of
the most beautiful car I have ever seen. It was a 1930¡¯s Super Stutz
Bear Cat as I would later learn from a friend at schools whose uncle
purchased it. Jay Johansson was the son and grandson of famous
explorers who helped found Oakland¡¯s Snow Museum. He told me Kay¡¯s
Bearcat had hardly been driven.

I would hear from my mother, after all the Prescos got to know Kay,
that her father gave her the Bearcat on her coming out party, when
she turned twenty one. Kay¡¯s father was the famous Oakland District
Attorney J.Frank Coakley, an associate and friend of Ed Meese and
Earl Warren. Kay had gone driving with a boy, or another couple, and
if there was some drinking going on, it got covered up. No one got
the full story of what happened when the beautiful daughter of
Oakland¡¯s Top Cop got turned into a witch, a very young witch, who
was the only witness to the visitation of the Blue Angel that came
into Kay¡¯s room and my two sister¡¯s bedroom, and stood gazing down at
Christine at the foot of her bed. Seeing Angels, Pixies, and Fairies
was the Disney Dream that Leftwing Democrats adopted and adored, they
wishing that the Capitalists, the Conservatives, and the Cops would
disappear somehow, or, just the Fairy Folk whisked away to Never Pay
Your Duesville where the eternally young live off the rich ¨C forever!

¡°Tabe de boddas to da storb, and ged sum mummy for dem. For doobing
dis I wool gib yu ten cents.¡±

Being a Democrat and lover of the Brothers Grimm, I alas understood
Kay was my benefactor, a Good Witch who wanted to rain good fortune
down upon me, a poor Presco child.

¡°Hey thanks!¡± I said, and bent down to pick up the bags. And off to
the store I skipped.
Walking home, I woofed down my Hershey bar, and soda. Passing Kay¡¯s
house, I glanced her way, my pocked jingling with heavy coins. Life
was good to me that day. If Kay was looking out the window as I
passed, she might have been wearing a puzzled look as she wondered;

“Bear da hell is dat lil brascal goink wid my sooda-pop munny?”

Later that evening, the phone in the Presco home rang, and Rosemary
answered. Being an executive secretary, my mother had a professional
voice, a calming reassuring manner. Now she let out her famous laugh,
and hung up. With a smile she approached me and asked me if someone
had given me some pop bottles to take to the store. I told her I had.
Rosemary then told me I had absconded with the money I got from these
bottles, and had been tracked down ¨C somehow!

Giving me the money to make up for what I spent, my mother sent me on
my way to revisit the Old Crone, our beloved Irish Cailleach who
would give all the children around San Sebastian Street a taste of
Pathos. From our dear Crone we learned life was a tradgedy, even
unfair. Standing in Kay¡¯s tennis court in her over grown backyard, we
studied the weeds that broke through the playing surface. Touching
the decaying net, it crumbled like a spiders web. On this court Kay
served and vollied in her pure white tennis outfit, she the child of
Oakland socialites who lived on the very border of the wealthy
Piedmont district.

No one is certain if she ever drove her Stutz Bearcat, but it became
a hereditary job, a good source of incame when we Prescos came to
clean the dog shit Kay¡¯s black Cockerspanial dropped all around the
Stuz when she let it out in the garage to do her business.

Whenever Kay had to grocery shopping, or go to the Doctor of Dentist,
she would call her father downtown. In minutes an Oakland Cop Car
would pull up in front of Kay¡¯s house on Hollywood Street, as if it
were a Taxi. In Kay¡¯s dining room was a very large painting, a
panorama of Lake Merrit. It was rumored the Coakley family owned half
the property around this lake, and Kay was a millionaire.

The Coakleys came from Ireland, and one legend claims they descend
from Fair Rosamond. When I began to do a genealogical research of my
Rosamond ancestors, I wondered if Fair Rosamond was the angel that
appeared before my sisters, and Kay. If so, was she the entity who
was guiding me in my study of the Holy Grail?

The Black Panthers thought Kay¡¯s father was a ¡°racist dog¡±. My
Godfather was a sergeant on the Oakland police force, and he would
sometimes pull up in his squad car to pay a visit. Some of the
Oakland Cops who took Kay to the doctor would come down San Sebastian
street, stop in front of Ms. Smith¡¯s house, and pretend to be
answering her complaint that we kids were disturbing this other Old
Hag with our ball-play in the street. The truth was, Ms. Smith was an
Old Madam who was run out of San Francisco. Finding sanctuary in
Oakland, she kept a very young and very beautiful prostitute shut up
in her home, whose interior was filled with Chinese d¨¦cor, her walls
painted a deep cadmium red. The Oakland cops were there for two
hours or more, while we young boys waited for them to hear Ms. Smiths
tiresome complaint – yet again -and leave!

¡°What in the hell is taking him so long.¡± We would exclaim, tossing
the football in the air and catching it.

One raining evening I got off the bus, and found myself walking
behind the young prostitute through a walkway. She was wearing a
trenchcoat. The sound of her high heals and rain hitting the
sidewalk, put me in Paris, I a young artist from America, wondering
if I should purchase the pleasure of her company, or buy an empty
canvas. She felt my presence. We were all alone and lost in the
world. She and the world beckoned to me.

“Make me a man, for I have many things to do, places to go, and
wondersous thngs to see. To be a Man. Would this be a crime.”

Kay was one of us, a child who had no money of her own, and depended
upon a higher authority for a ride in automobile. Like us, she senced
there was a force that dealt out a dark attribute to the good and the
bad, the black and the white, the young and the old, with equal

Lady Liberty is an Old Crone, a Rose of the World. How about Justice,
who beckons us to taste her tarts she maketh in her oven….and we
come away in chains?

Jon Presco

“That in fact, brother Huey P. Newton, who is now being confined
downtown, chained in the same jail, with the same anti-demonstrators,
anti-draft demonstrators, that in fact this draws something very
significant that we¡¯re going to try and work together on.”

¡°I am saying that J. Frank Coakley is a racist dog. I am saying that
this same racist dog is out to do the same thing to the anti-draft
demonstrators. I am saying that it¡¯s necessary for us to realize that
this is a real situation.¡±

Cailleach, the Irish crone, known under many names and thought to
have been a goddess who married a series of husbands and passed from
youth to old age more than once. She still survives today as a lively
figure in modern Irish folklore. A symbol of the great mother in
continuous cycles of life, death and rebirth. She walks over the land
of the winter. As the days shorten she gives us the wisdom to let go
of what is not longer needed but keeps the seeds of rebirth tightly
clasped in her fist ready to fling into the spring. The Cailleach
lives in all of us. We are constantly changing, and readjusting our
lives from one life season to the next

Countless Irish myths tell how the Cailleach constructed huge mounds,
megaliths, and towers in a single night. Some of them are known by
names like ¡°one-night’s-work.¡± [Wood-Martin, 134] Scottish myths
often cast the Cailleach as a shaper of the landscape. She carried
earth and stones on her back to make the hills of Ross-shire.
Sometimes the basket or its strap broke, spilling the contents out to
form mounts like Ben Vaichaird and rock piles like Carn na Caillich.
Faeries called glaistigean are credited with similar land-building
feats. [MacKenzie, 164, 144] The Cailleach created the Hag’s Furrow
while ploughing. She turned up huge piles of stones while ploughing
on mount Schiehallion, the Caledonian faery hill. (Its Gaelic name,
S¨ªdh Chaillean, means ¡°Crone’s Mound.¡± Many other places are named
Beinne na Cailleach (her mount) and Sgr¨ªob na Cailleach (her
writing). Folklore says that the Crone turned into a boulder atop
Beinn na Callich, where a prehistoric cairn also stands. [MacKenzie,

Oakland Cops Under U.N.’s Watchful Eye
by Brenda Payton

THERE’S NOTHING like making the list of the world’s worst government
violence against activists. The Oakland Police Department earned that
distinction for its assault on peaceful anti-war demonstrators at the
port last year. The action, in which police fired wooden dowels and
shot-filled bean bags at protesters, was noted in the recent report
of an investigator for the United Nations Commission on Human
Rights. “This alleged incident was the subject of a letter of
allegation by the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and
the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right
to freedom of opinion and expression …” reads the report. The
question of torture, that’s pretty scary. For the protesters who were
hit, the unprovoked attack was a form of torture. The more seriously
injured went to the hospital.

Speaking from the Black Panthers the Chairman and 2nd in command to
Huey Newton, Bobby Scheer. Applause. The seven indicted ummm..anti-
war, anti-draft demonstrators are downtown at 12th & Fallon in the
same jail with our Minister of Defense, Huey P. Newton. Now, we are
going to appeal because of the same Grand Jury that indicted Huey
within a matter of 22 minutes without even covering the evidence, the
so called evidence, that¡¯s supposedly been placed against Huey, the
ice mad dog grand jury that we¡¯re referring to. We¡¯re appealing to
you to support the fact that we don¡¯t need ice dog mad jurors we¡¯re
appealing to you to support the fact that we don¡¯t need racist
policeman who shot Huey, and we don¡¯t need racist policeman who
brutalized the heads of you. We¡¯re in fact putting this position that
we¡¯ve taken against the racist policeman who brutalized us in our
black, in our communities and bringing it to the level where it is.
That what Huey P. Newton said there were only three kinds of power. A
level where a group of people that control the economic situation or
a level of power where a group of people have a ownership of land.
That the third level of power commonly referred to as military power,
and we refer to as self-defense power, with a gun, is coming to
reality. We¡¯re saying that black people that protested police
brutality, and many of you that thought we were jivin¡¯, who thought
we didn¡¯t know what we were talking about because many black people
in the community probably couldn¡¯t answer your questions
articulately, that you are experiencing the same thing, that when you
go down in front of the anti-draft, and when you go over and you
demonstrate against Dean Russ that those ¡°P¡± cops will come down and
brutalize your heads just like they brutalized the heads of black
people in the black communities. We¡¯re sayin¡¯ now, that you can show
a direct relationship that¡¯s for real, and that¡¯s not abstract any
more. That you don¡¯t have to abstract what police brutality is like
when a club is there to crush your skull. That you don¡¯t have to
abstract what police brutality is like when there¡¯s a vicious service
revolver there to tear your flesh. That you can see, in fact, that
the real power, the power structure, and maintaining its racist
regime is manifested and it¡¯s occupying troops has manifested in it¡¯s
police department with guns and force. That in fact, black people,
the Black Panther Party for self-defense are educating black people
to the position continually that we will use arms to defend

That in fact, brother Huey P. Newton, who is now being confined
downtown, chained in the same jail, with the same anti-demonstrators,
anti-draft demonstrators, that in fact this draws something very
significant that we¡¯re going to try and work together on. Now some
people are probably wonderin¡¯ how in the hell is it that what they
would call the most militant group in the Country, can come along and
tell white people, that you, and I, are gonna go down to the court
house today at 2:00 at 12th & Fallon in Oakland. And we¡¯re goin¡¯ to
march around the courthouse and demonstrate the fact that we want
Huey P. Newton set free and that you want the anti-draft
demonstrators also set free. The mass, the masses of people who stand
against the power structure of Oakland. J. Frank Coakley, who first
started his career as a Naval attorney, in the Navy he was an
attorney, a ship blew up where 50 black men were working on the ship.
There were some more goods to be loaded off the ship but the 50 black
men said we don¡¯t wanna go back on the ship because we think that
it¡¯s very dangerous. And these 50 black men and Merchant Marines were
charged with mutiny. And J. Frank Coakley started his career by
prosecuting these black men and getting as much as 50 years in prison
for these black men. I am saying that J. Frank Coakley is a racist
dog. I am saying that this same racist dog is out to do the same
thing to the anti-draft demonstrators. I am saying that it¡¯s
necessary for us to realize that this is a real situation. I¡¯m not
going to argue black or white. I don¡¯t do that no more. In other
words, I stopped bein¡¯ a racist a long time ago. You haven¡¯t stopped
being racist though. But I¡¯m going to show you something. There¡¯s a
lot of people running around, and I can¡¯t blame ¡®em, and my culture,
I feel my culture¡¯s beautiful. But a lot of us have taken our culture
a little too far. Because when Huey and I decided we were gonna get
down to the real nitty-gritty we decided also we weren¡¯t going to
stoop to the level of a Klu Klux Klansman and hate a person just
because of the color of their skin. This is important, because this
is where racism starts.

Descent from Charlemagne by way of Henry II, though improbable, is a
possibility if one dismisses the legend of the family’s exile in the
Midland forests at the time of the Norman Conquest. The Colcloughs
certainly did not share the Norman dread of the forests and of their
inhabitants, rationalised in the savage Norman code of forest laws,
and when in trouble were quite happy to take to the forests and to
associate on terms of cordiality with such forest denizens as Adam
Bell, Clym of the Clough, William of Cloudesley and “Robin Hood’s”
predecessors. One is reluctant, though, to dismiss the theory that
Shakespeare’s Duke in “As You Like It” was a Colclough.

“Fair Rosamond” Clifford had two sons by Henry II and to protect
these from kidnapping or murder by the minions of Queen Eleanor they
were brought up in concealment in the forest. Writers in later
centuries have identified them with Sir William Longsword and
Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, but the Dictionary of National
Biography points out that both these were born before their supposed
mother. Fair Rosamond died in 1177 but the Colclough family was
firmly established in Suffolk long before she or Henry II was born
and there is no record of any unaccounted additions to its numbers at
the end of the 12th century. However American genealogical
researchers have determinedly traced the Colclough origins to her.

Other fanciful origins include a William Cokely who was purportedly
married to a Danish princess and accompanied William of Normandy to
Hastings. His grandfather is given as Eliston Kokey, a German
chieftain. It has also been suggested that the origin of the name
referred to the cold ridge – the 700 foot high half mile long ridge
in Great Chell on the Western face of which stands the Westcliffe
Hospital which was originally the Stoke Union Workhouse, built in
1843. However as a patronymic it only appears in Staffordshire in the
middle of the 13th century and it seems certain that Selwyn and
Thomas are descended from an earlier family
Krassner, Paul, editor The realist no. 86 [featuring] The Oakland 7
by Frank Bardacke. the monthly, New York. Nov.-Dec., 1969, 32p.,
browned, faint signs of handling. The Frank Bardacke essay runs eight
full double-column pages. The Oakland 7 was the most important anti-
draft demo of the period. His account “contains,” he starts, “some
hitherto unrevealed dirt, a few laughs, a smattering of politics, and
a confession or two. I have been an Oakland 7 for some time now, and
as you read on, you will learn a lot about me. But this is not a
story of my life.. Alameda County District Attorney J. Frank Coakley
created the Oakland 7 a year and a half ago. He indicted seven
leaders of October 1967’s Stop the Draft Week for conspiracy to
commit three misdemeanors..”

In the modern era, the best-known DA was Earl Warren who joined the
office in 1920 as a deputy district attorney and was appointed DA in
1925. In 1939, he was elected Attorney General of California, and in
1946 he was elected Governor. Warren served as governor until 1953
when President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him Chief Justice of the
United States Supreme Court. As Chief Justice, Earl Warren is
probably best remembered as the author of the landmark case of
Miranda v. Arizona.
Warren’s successor as DA was his Chief Assistant, Ralph E. Hoyt. Hoyt
was DA until 1947 when he was appointed to the Superior Court by
Governor Warren. Hoyt was succeeded as DA by J. Frank Coakley who
served as District Attorney until 1969.
As DA, Coakley returned to the trial courts in 1955 to prosecute
Burton Abbott in one of the most highly-publicized cases in the
history of California. Abbott was charged with abducting and
murdering 14-year old Stephanie Bryan as she was walking home from
school in Berkeley. Abbott was convicted and sentenced to death. He
was executed in San Quentin’s gas chamber in 1957. For Coakley and
the DA’s Office, the 1960’s were a particularly difficult time
because of civil unrest and criminal acts associated with the free
speech movement, Vietnam War demonstrations, and the emergence of the
Black Panther Party in Oakland.

THE PEOPLE, Respondent, v. SMITH EDWARD JORDAN et al., Appellants.
Edmund G. Brown, Attorney General, Clarence A. Linn, Assistant
Attorney General, Raymond M. Momboisse, Deputy Attorney General, J.
Frank Coakley, District Attorney (Alameda), Robert S. Anderson and
Richard C. Lynch, Deputy District Attorneys, for Respondent.
Vince Monroe Townsend, Jr., and Enrico Dell’Osso for Appellants.

The defendants were convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to
suffer the penalty of death. Their motions for a new trial were
denied. They appeal from the judgments and from the orders denying
their motions for a new trial.

On Saturday evening, March 28, 1953, Charles Rose, a driver for the
Yellow Cab Company, was found slumped in a semiconscious condition
behind the wheel of his cab in front of a house located at 3428 Haven
Street, Oakland. The left rear door window was broken. There was
blood on the front seat. The radio microphone was off its bracket on
the dashboard. The ignition and lights were on, the brake was off,
the gear was in high, and the meter flag was still in the “running”
position. The driver was bleeding from four wounds on the back of his
head, one of which proved to be fatal, and there were abrasions and a
laceration on his right hand. He died several hours later.

¨D [Date of Interview: November 24, 1970] ¨D
I Family Background
Could we begin by your telling me something about your background?

I was born in Oakland, California, just a few blocks from here at
Seventeenth and Grove.
Although my name is James Francis, it was abbreviated to Frank
Coakley because of the fact that my father’s name was James and my
mother, I guess, rather than be calling two James around the house,
decided to call me Francis. She had a brother whose name was Thomas

When I got to grammar school, St. Francis de Sales Grammar School,
Hobart and Grove, Twenty-first and Grove, Oakland, I just simply had
the name Francis Coakley. This is how I was known, on my report cards
and so on. That just kind of stuck with me, and after I went to high
school out at St. Mary’s High School on Broadway in Oakland, I was
Francis Coakley. I continued that way through St. Mary’s College. It
was abbreviated to Frank. People, instead of calling me Francis,
called me Frank. I guess I’m better known as Frank Coakley, or J.
Frank Coakley.

Your father, you said, had the same name as you?
Yes. My father’s name was James Coakley. He was born in Ireland,
County Cork near Bantry Bay, in a small
¨D 2 ¨D
village called Skibreen, a short distance from Bantry Bay, in the
southwest corner of Ireland.
How did he come to the United States?

He came to the United States by ship. In those days people from
Europe, particularly from Ireland, coming to the United States —
those who were unable to pay, and most of the young folks from
Ireland were unable to pay — would sign an agreement withe steamship
companies, a promissory note which obligated them to pay back to the
company the cost of their transportation as soon as they could after
getting a job in the United States.

My father was born in 1868. Of course Ireland was very poor at that
time, and had been very poor for centuries. The Irish, particularly
the Irish in the southern part of Ireland, that is to say, south of
what is now North Ireland, were ground down and persecuted and
discriminated against by the British in a very, very flagrant manner.
They were murdered and massacred just for going to church. It’s one
of the blackest and most sordid things in the history of
civilization, particularly of the British Empire.

So anyway, the average young Irish boy was poor. My father had two
brothers and two sisters. He had an uncle who had come to this
country earlier, and who, by the way, I’m infomred, and I think
reliably informed, crossed the United States to California on
horseback in the very early days. The uncle settled around here,
around Oakland. He liked the climate and so forth, and he wrote back,
and my father’s oldest sister, who was a schoolteacher in Ireland,
came out here. Then my father came out. He was seventeen years old.
Imagine leaving Ireland and coming to California in 1883 at
seventeen. He had no idea what he was getting into.

That must have been a grueling trip in those days.

Oh yes. He came out in steerage. That was the cheapest way that
people could travel. They were just all herded into the lower part of
the ship, and survived as best they could. He came into New York
through Ellis Island, got on a train and came across the country to
He got a job in a butcher shop in Oakland. A
¨D 3 ¨D
couple of years later his younger brother came out the same way. They
were orphans, by the way. Their mother and father were dead. You see,
people didn’t live too long in Ireland. The weather’s very raw and
cold in the wintertime, and if they got a cold it could very easily
go into pneumonia. His brother, Michael Coakley, came out a couple of
years after he did, and he got a job in another butcher shop.

I’m going to mention this, because my father’s background is relevant
to the opportunities, the great opportunities of this country, and
how young men coming to this country with little or no education, no
influence, no connections whatever, could if they wanted to and had
the desire, really succeed.

Well, anyway, after my father and his brother had been working as
butchers — they learned the butcher trade quickly — they formed a
partnership and started their own little meat market at Fourteenth
and Washington. You know, this is Thirteenth Street. The next street
up is Fourteenth, and Washington is two streets west of Broadway.
Right across from what was then the Oakland City Hall. The City Hall
is still there, but it’s another building now.

Butchers in those days, and for many, many years afterwards — it was
a real trade, or craft. Nowadays you go to a Safeway chain store, and
the meat’s all cut and packaged. You just point to the window of the
refrigeration unit, and say, “I want that,” and the man reaches in,
weighs and tags it.
But in those days the butcher had to be able to skin a calf. The
calves would have their skin on them. You’d cut the skin off, and you
had to do it in such a way so you didn’t cut a hole in the skin,
because that skin was then sold to the tanneries and they didn’t want
any holes in it.
The beef cattle came in big sides of beef. The butcher would have to
know how to cut different kinds of cuts from that side of beef. He’d
cut what was left of the leg, way down near the foot, for soup bones,
saw off the soup bones.
In those days they’d give the soup bones away free. They gave them to
people, and they gave the
¨D 4 ¨D
liver for the cats free. They gave scraps of meat for dogs free. They
gave bologna to the kids free. Prices were relatively low as to what
they are now.
They’d have to know how to cut. If you wanted a round steak, which
was a cheaper cut, you’d get it off near the rump of the animal. If
you wanted a sirloin steak, a little further in towards the loin.
Then a tenderloin, and the T-bone steaks and the filets, and all
these quite tender cuts, and the more expensive ones. Then cut the
roasts of various kinds, prime rib roasts, and sirloin roasts, and so
on. This was a real trade, a craft.

My father and his brother were in this trade, working in the butcher
shops, and then they went into business for themselves. Now that took
a certain amount of courage, didn’t it, these two young men. I guess
my father wasn’t any more than nineteen or twenty years old.

So they didn’t apprentice very long?

No, not very long. They started into business — well, they didn’t
have this apprenticeship in those days. There were no unions.
The business they started then was the Coakley Brothers Meat Market.
The Coakley Brothers Butcher Shop as it was known in 1885. They
prospered. They were both very good men, goodliving men. In due
course they got married and they had families. My father had six
children, and my uncle had eight children. There were three of us
boys, three boys in our family. I was the oldest of the Coakley
tribe. I was also, on my mother’s side — I’ll talk about her later —
I was the oldest child.

Working in the Coakley Brothers Butcher Shop
As I started to grow up, I was the first one who worked in the
butcher shop. When I was just a little boy, my father thought it was
good training to work, so I worked in the store on Saturdays. I
didn’t go to school on Saturdays. I’d sweep off the sidewalk, sweep
¨D 5 ¨D
You know, they had sawdust on the floors in those days, and sand.
Wash up and cleaning, things like that. Then, on a bicycle, I’d
deliver meat close around.
We lived in a place where we had five horses for delivery wagons. I
took care of the horses, fed them and watered them and so forth. We
had a lot where they could roam around. Clean the stalls out and all
that sort of thing, which you have to do in taking care of horses.
That’s a lot of work.
Morning and night. Yes. That’s something you have to do every day.
Every morning and night, because the horse has to eat, he has to have
water, he has to be clean, the stall has to be cleaned out and all
that sort of thing. These are things that are daily chores. It’s like
milking a cow. If you have a farm and you have cows, you have to milk
them every morning and every night or they get sick. So anyway, these
are things that you just had to do. I had to do it while I was going
to school.
Gradually, as I got a little older, I got to where I was driving in
vacations, whenever there was a vacation, like at Christmas or
summertime, other holidays, I would be driving horses, horse and
wagon, delivering meat all over this East Bay, all over Oakland, and
Piedmont. We had different routes.
It was good training and responsibility for any young person. There
were things you had to do, and you had to do them right. You couldn’t
goof off. It was good exercise too, by the way. I’d jump off that
wagon, grab a package and run into the back of the house, and leave
the meat with whoever was in the kitchen, or if there was a place to
leave it, run back and jump onto the wagon, and start out for the
next place.
As I say, my father’s business prospered, and he had a very good lot
of customers. Most of the restaurants and the bars — this was long
before Prohibition — traded with my father. The bars in those days
had what was known as “free lunch.” At the saloons, as they called
them, you could buy a great big
¨D 6 ¨D
stein of beer for a nickel, and you could eat all the free lunch you
could eat, cold meats and cheeses, and sometimes hot food even, stew
and potatoes. This was where the working man would eat his lunch a
lot of times.
As time went on, the horse and wagon phased out and we got trucks in.
We had Ford trucks, which I learned to drive at a very early age, and
delivered the deliveries with Ford trucks. Those Model T’s sometimes
were a rough deal, because the brakes on the Model T’s, when driving
every day, and particularly up and down hills and so forth, that
brake on the Model T would wear out in nothing flat. Then we used to
use the reverse to slow the trucks down. The Model T’s had bands,
high and low, and then the reverse band. And you had a hand brake.
You would put it in neutral and then use the reverse to slow the car
down. When you stopped it on a hill, you’d have to turn it into the
curb and put the hand brake on and hope that it wouldn’t slip off the
curb and run down the hill. It did on me one time. Fortunately it
didn’t do any damage.
Well, there’s lots of things about that. It was hard work, it was
long work. My father used to get up very early in the morning and go
to work, go to the butcher shop very early. He wouldn’t get home
until seven or seven thirty at night. We’d always eat dinner late. In
those days the butcher shop would stay open as long as there were any
customers. There wasn’t any ordinance, there wasn’t any law that you
had to close at six o’clock, like now. Generally about six o’clock,
or six fifteen, the people, the customers, would be through coming
in, and they’d start in cleaning up.
The cleaning up was really quite a job. Merchandising in those days
was entirely different from what it is now. They had a big icebox
with big cakes of ice on the top of the icebox, and then hooks
around. The butcher took great big halves, a whole side of a steer,
and in the morning would carry that out of the icebox and hook it
onto a hook, see, along the wall of the store, out in the open.
That’s why you had sand or sawdust.
They they had whole lambs. The hind legs would be tied together, with
a long pole, put that lamb up and put it on a hook. You’d have those
lambs all along
¨D 7 ¨D
one wall in back of the counter, with the back of the lamb facing
out. It was quite a nice sight. All these lambs along like that.
That’s your display. Your big sides of beef on the other side of the
store would be hung up on hooks. You’d have a big long butcher’s
block or table with pieces of these sides of beef on that, different
cuts that people would want. You’d come in, and you’d want a
Porterhouse steak, you see, as they used to call it, and they’d go
over there, and they’d say, “I’d like it off of that piece.” “How
thick do you want it?” “Well, I want it that thick.” So, the butcher
would cut it off, and then saw it, because there’s bone, you have to
saw the bone.
They didn’t have electric saws like they have now in the butcher
shops. You did it by hand. You had to know how to cut meat, because
if you didn’t you’d lose money. You had to cut it just right out of
that side of beef, with the different pieces of meat which cost
different prices.
Well, he had a nice business; he had a fine, honest shop. He built up
a wonderful reputation for honesty and quality. He didn’t advertise.
The reputation of quality got around by word of mouth

The Irish Community in the Bay Area
Of course in those days, lots of young Irish would come to this
country. The ones who came here, got to know my father and his
brother. There was a certain camaraderie about it. The Irish stuck
together. They weren’t complaining about being discriminated against.
They liked to live together. They liked to party together. They
preferred it that way. They generally always lived in the same part
of town, in those days in west Oakland. There was a big Irish colony
of young Irish people who came out from Ireland and they lived
together, they partied together, they belonged to little clubs
together, and enjoyed life together, you see? While they did speak
the English language, they had the same background.
¨D 8 ¨D
Just like the Italians, when they came to this country, they talked
Italian and they lived together in a certain part of Boston that’s
all Italian. Another part is all Irish. It’s still that way.
The Irish, of course, had a strong background in religion. The Irish
were Catholics, you see, by and large. Most of them that came to this
country were poor Catholics, coming down from the days of St.
Patrick. They had these things in common, their Irish heritage, their
Catholic religion, their games and their songs, and all that, their
wit. All of this they had in common.
I can remember, I still think of some of the old Irish songs, about
the persectuion of the Irish by the British. I remember one song went
something like this: “Oh, Paddy dear, and did you hear the word
that’s going `round. The Irish are forbidden to live on Irish
ground,” or something like that.
This is the kind of song, as you know. The songs were about the
terrible persecution which they suffered from the British. These
things sort of molded the character of the Irish youngster. They were
persecuted and they were discriminated against, and this caused them
to live together. There was a togetherness about them, you see. When
they would come out from Ireland, although they might come from
different parts of Ireland, if some of them settled in San Francisco,
pretty soon they belonged to these little clubs and so forth, Irish
clubs and organizations like the St. Patrick’s Alliance or the Rebel
Corks or the Hibernian Society. This was their social life. To a
certain extent, if an Irishman ran a grocery store, his friends would
buy from him, or if he ran a butcher shop, his friends would buy from
him. Eventually by word of mouth it got around and he got a
considerable business that way.
My father and his brother were very high type individuals, very good
religious, Christian gentlemen. They developed a fine reputation for
integrity, for honesty, for fair dealing with people, and for
quality. Another thing, they did a lot of good. Sometimes, as
happened frequently, some family had hard luck. Maybe the man, the
head of the house, the father, lost his job, or got sick and couldn’t
work. Sometimes in
¨D 9 ¨D
those days with quite a lot of drinking, the man might be drinking
too much and eventually lose his job, and he was an alcoholic. Well,
he and his wife couldn’t pay their bills. My father and my uncle
would carry them. If there was a family there that had had hard luck,
why they’d just supply them with meat. If they could pay, all right,
and if they couldn’t, they’d carry them anyway. They did a lot of
charity that way.
I remember the Little Sisters of the Poor out here, a Catholic nun
order out on East Fourteenth Street. They gave the Little Sisters of
the Poor a white horse and a wagon, and these two little sisters
would drive around. The basic principle of the Order of the Little
Sisters of the Poor was that they could not campaign for money. They
had to depend upon charity. They’d drive this little black-paneled
wagon and the white horse all around Oakland. They’d stop at
different places and people would give them food, you see, different
grocery stores and butcher shops and things like that. That’s the way
they took care of the old people, who didn’t have any money.
Now they have welfare and they have medicare and everything else, but
in those days they didn’t have welfare and they didn’t have old age
pensions. They didn’t have medicare or social security, and so when
people got old and they didn’t have anyone to take care of them, the
little Catholic orders of nuns like the Little Sisters of the Poor
would take care of them until they died.
Well, this is the thing that my father and his uncle did, helped that
sort of thing out, helped the Little Sisters of the Poor. I remember
so well, their white horse and that black wagon driving around, and
the two little sisters getting out, climbing off their wagon and
going into a store and getting meat or whatever it was. It was an
institution. This is the early history of Oakland, the sisters
driving around in that black-paneled wagon. That was quite a
stimulating and inspiring sight. They were fine women. They lived
entirely off of what they could beg, what people gave them in the way
of food and so on.
Unless it has been changed, they were not even recipients of the
Community Chest or the United Crusade.
¨D 10 ¨D
The principle of their order was that they had to do it on their own.
Well, anyway, all this background is history of Oakland. Lots of
other young Irishmen came out from Ireland as young men and started
to work here.
I know some of them that started as ditch-diggers, digging ditches
for sewers. He’d have a wagon and a horse and drive around some place
where a building was being put and they needed a sewer. He’d dig the
ditches and put in the sewer. Some of those men went on from little
independent businesses like that to become contractors and road
builders, and were very successful at building some of the streets
and highways of this state. These men were fine men. They were high-
prkncipled men. They were honest, and had a lot of character and
integrity. My father used to say, “When you do business with a man,
your word is your bond. You don’t have to have it in writing. If you
give a man your word, stick with it. Never, never go back on it.”
These are the kinds of men they were, which is a fine thing.
I wish more people were like that now.
Nowadays, why, in any kind of a business deal you’ve got to get a
lawyer, draw up a complicated contract, and all that kind of
In those days, of course, the businesses were not as complex or as
big as they are now. But among those young Irishmen who came out from
the old country, by and large their word was their bond. That was a
religion with them. If you ever give a man your word, never, never
break it. So they helped each other. They’d lend money to each other
to help each other in business ventures and so on. They raised their
families and gave their kids an education.
For instance, I have one sister living now. My oldest sister, passed
away a couple of years ago. My two sisters both went to the College
of the Holy Names, which used to be right up here on Lake Merritt,
where the Kaiser building is now, on the shore of Lake Merritt before
they had any road around it. The convent went right down to the lake.
¨D 11 ¨D
It’s a lovely site.
Yes, a lovely site. There were some very nice homes around the lake
there. The back of the house would go right down to the lake and
they’d have boats down there.

Brothers and Sisters
Well, my two sisters went to the Convent of Holy Names, and
graduated. My oldest sister, shortly after graduation got married.
Her husband went overseas as an officer in the army in World War I,
and she worked while he was overseas. In World War II he went
overseas again, to France both times, as an army officer, and she
worked while he was overseas. There was a shortage of stenographic
help. She was a good secretary.
My other sister became a school teacher. She married a school
teacher. She married a man who is now the principal of a junior high
school in San Francisco. He was a football player at the University
of San Francisco, and a very good one. He came up in education as a
physical education teacher. They’re now traveling in Europe. He’s on
a sabbatical.
Then I have a brother, Thomas Coakley, who is now a California
district court of appeals judge. There was a piece in the paper here
just last week. He’s preparing to retire.

Mother and Her Family
When did your mother come out here?
She didn’t. She was born in San Francisco. I’m coming to that.
Another brother, Joseph, is a Catholic priest. He’s at St. Thomas
Moore, the parish of St. Thomas Moore, out near the beach in west San
¨D 12 ¨D
Well, my mother — my mother’s people — my mother was born in San
Francisco. She had two sisters and a brother. Her father and mother
were born in Ireland, in County Galway. Her father’s name was Patrick
Curley. Her mother’s name was Mary Norton. I guess they spell that N-
o-r-t-o-n or N-a-u-g-h-t-o-n, one or the other. I guess the Irish
didn’t pay much attention in those days how they spelled it. Just the
way it sounded.
Anyway, her mother and her father emigrated from County Galway to
Boston and then came by sailing ship, from Boston down to Panama.
There was no canal there in those days, so they used to go across
over the mountains on donkeys. When they got over on the Pacific
side, they’d get on another sailing ship and come up to San
Francisco. Either that, or they came around the Horn, all the way
around the Horn in South America.
They came over the Isthmus of Panama on donkeys, and up to San
Francisco in the very early days. There’s an interesting story about
that. My grandmother used to tell me about it. Those were the days
when the people who would come in were going up to the gold fields to
dig for gold. There was a fever in the air. This was the appeal of a
gold rush. Where the Palace Hotel is in San Francisco right now, on
Market and Montgomery, there was a boarding house there. They had
boarding houses, where men would go in to live and eat in the same
place. Generally some woman would run the boarding house.
In connection with the boarding house, as a common thing, they would
have a bar. This woman who owned that hotel, if you will, or boarding
house, had trouble keeping bartenders. A man would go to work there,
and as soon as he’d made a little money, he’d buy himself the
equipment that he needed to go on up to the gold fields in the Mother
Lode country. So she’d have to get a new bartender.
She told my mother’s father, “If you will stay here, steady,” — she
thought he was a good man. He was a good man, a very fine gentleman,
honest and good and clean and decent and everything else, and
reliable, see? — “Now, if you will just stay here and tend bar, and
not run off to the gold fields like all the other fellows, I’ll give
you this property right here on the corner of Market and Montgomery,”
¨D 13 ¨D
where the Palace Hotel is now. She had more property there where her
hotel was. Part of it was the corner lot.
Like the rest of them, my grandfather did not take the deal. He went
on up to the gold fields, and like a lot of others dug for gold.
After some time, like a lot of the others, he came back to San
Francisco and got a job with the City of San Francisco, working for
Golden Gate Park. There he was until he died. He had a heart attack
one Sunday morning, and didn’t live very long after he got the heart
attack. I was just a little boy then. We got word. They had
telephones. I guess it was either just before or just after the Great
Earthquake of 1906. Anyway, we got the word, so my mother and I and
my father went over by ferryboat and streetcar to San Francisco. They
lived out on Willow Avenue right off of Van Ness. He died there that
day. My mother’s sister Agnes and her husband, William Cummings, were
there, and they were trying to prop the old man up. They got a doctor
but he just died. On a Sunday morning.
My grandmother, my mother’s mother, lived for many years afterward.
She must have been about eighty-three when she passed away. She
always lived in San Francisco.
There again, my Aunt Agnes married Mr. Cummings. Mr. Cummings,
William Cummings, was also an Irishman from Ireland someplace. He
came over like other young Irishmen. He got different jobs. He got a
job working in a warehouse as a night watchman. In the morning he had
an arrangement so that — his shift ended early, extremely early. All
that area of San Francisco where the St. Francis Hotel, Union Square,
all those hotels and so forth, was his area for the San Francisco
Chronicle. The Chronicle trucks would leave big bundles of papers,
and he would deliver these papers. It was quite a business. Then he’d
finish with that in the early forenoon, and he’d go home and sleep,
because he worked all night. He would sleep until he was ready to get
up late in the afternoon, have dinner, and then go to work. Those
young men worked hard.
They sure did.
He did all right, too. He bought some property and
¨D 14 ¨D
flats and things like that. They’d live in one flat and rent the
other, and the rent would help to pay off the loan on the flats, you
see, and eventually they’d own it.
Well, his daughter became a school teacher and did very well.
Eventually she ended up as the principal of a school in San
Francisco. He had a son who became a priest, a Maryknoll missionary
priest. The Maryknoll Missionary Society is strictly an American
society. It started in America. Father Will eventually became the
head of the Maryknoll Mission for the Orient. He had his headquarters
in Manila. He became a very good friend of General MacArthur, who was
out there in Manila before World War II started. He became a chaplain
in the army in addition to being head of the Maryknoll Missionary
Society in the Orient.
When the War started, he went on active duty with the troops, on the
marches, from Manila to the Bataan Peninsula. The Japs were dropping
bombs all over the place, and they captured Manila. They had the
American troops and the Phillipine troops all hemmed in on the Bataan
Peninsula, and dropping the bombs and everything. You’ve probably
heard this famous statement, “There are no atheists in the foxholes.”
My cousin, Father William, was the one who said that, the first time.
Romulo, who later became president of the Phillipines, was a great
friend of my cousin. In a book about the life of Romulo, Father
William is credited with saying it.
Well, MacArthur as you know went over to Corregidor — I don’t know
if you’ve ever been over there to Manila. You come through the
straits there, into Manila Bay, and about thirty miles down is the
city of Manila. Corregidor is an island right out at the entrace to
Manila Bay, highly fortified by the Americans, big tunnels under the
ground, and old-style cannon and that sort of thing. Here’s the
Bataan Peninsula at the entrace to Manila Bay, and Corregidor.
Of course, the Japs were pounding away; just a question of time til
they captured the whole thing. MacArthur got over here to Corregidor
for a while. He
¨D 15 ¨D
invited Father Will to go over with him. Eventually MacArthur got on
a PT boat that took him and his party away from Corregidor and down
to Australia, or he would have been captured. Wainwright stayed
there. Father Will said, “I’ll stay here with the troops.” He did. He
went through that Death March, that famous Death March when so many
people died. He was in prisons during World War II in the
Phillippines until 1944.
The United States of course was beginning to conquer the Japanese.
The Japanese collected up a lot of United States officers who had
been in Japanese prison, and they put them on ships to take them
someplace, up to Japan or Formosa. They had, at that time, all the
east coast of China under their control; they had all of Indochina
under their control, they had all of Malaysia, Indonesia, and New
So they were taking these ships out from Manila, and our own planes
bombed these ships. The ships were sunk, and my cousin, Father Will,
swam ashore, some way or other and he got ashore around Subic Bay.
They put them on another ship, and while they were on this ship going
up towards Japan or Formosa someplace, they practically starved them
to death. They got no food and very little water. They all died
except one man. Apparently all the prisoners of the Japs, the POW’s
on the ship, died, starved to death, except one man. This man, after
the war was over, after the Japanese surrendered, was found in some
kind of Japanese prison camp or something, he was practically in a
daze. He was just about ready to die. So they finally brought him
around. Eventually he lived. He wrote a book about my cousin, Father
William. The name of the book is Give Us This Day. It’s quite an
interesting book.
I’d like to read that.
The title, Give Us This Day, was taken because my cousin every day on
this ship used to say prayers, the Catholic prayers, and one,
the “Our Father” is one of them, and “Give us this day our daily
bread,” and so forth. So the name of this book is Give Us This Day.
His name was Father William Cummings. That’s quite a family.
I’ll get back to my premise, these young Irish people came out here,
like Father William Cummings’
¨D 16 ¨D
father, my father, and my uncle, and other young Irishmen, raised
families, gave them a good education, and these kids in turn took
their place as policemen or as priests or as nuns or as businessmen,
and people working in government particularly. They kind of drifted
into the government. They say that the Irish built the railroads
across this country, then they got into the police departments and
they’re still there.
Well, anyway, that’s the general broad brush treatment of the
background of the Coakleys.
How did your parents meet?
Through these Irish societies, church groups. They’d go to a church
party of some kind. They’d meet that way. And my father and my mother
got married. That’s the way they would meet
I was born on July 7, 1897, right here in Oakland. Well then, when I
got old enough to go to grammar school, I went to St. Francis de
Sales on Grove Street, Hobart and Grove. It’s the same as Twenty-
first Street and Grove. Right over here a few blocks.
Does it still exist?
See, [pointing out window toward Lake Merritt] there’s a church here,
where all those buildings are now constructed. I don’t think you can
see it any more, but you used to be able to see the spire, the
steeple of the church. The buildings have obstructed it, now.
I went to grammar school there, and then I went to St. Mary’s High
School. The high school at that time, St. Mary’s High, and St. Mary’s
College, were on Broadway, at about Thirtieth and Broadway. The
Christian Brothers of St. Baptiste de la Salles — John Baptiste de
la Sallas was the founder of the Christian Brothers Order in France.
They went all over the world and became teachers all over the world.
Then, when I graduated from high school I went
¨D 17 ¨D
into college. I went four years at St. Mary’s College in arts and
letters and graduated in 1918.

Working in Logging Camps
And then did you go to law school?
I’ll come to that. I might say, while going to college, my two
brothers and my uncle’s four boys — they had four boys and four
girls; these kids were coming along — began to work into the butcher
shop business. By that time they were driving these Fords, delivering
meat and working around the butcher shop. I was able to graduate from
work in the butcher shop and got into other things.
I worked while I was in college in a logging camp, the logging camps
of the High Sierras, of the Red River Lumber Company, which had
headquarters in Westwood. The logging camps were in the mountains in
various places, particularly around Lake Almanor. I worked as a
logger, chopping down trees, loading logs, blacksmith’s helper, and
various jobs in the woods.
I first started in working when I went up to Westwood, working in the
mill, great big sawmill, a tremendous big operation, tailing off on a
saw. It was dangerous, too, because sometimes if you were careless,
you might get your hand cut off. You work for ten hours, ten hours at
night on the night shift. A young fellow in college is not used to
working at night. He’s used to sleeping at night. Might doze once in
a while, and this big bandsaw — you’ve got to take this, as it cuts
the wood, you’ve got to tail off, they call it tailing off.
Anyway, I worked in that for a while, and I also worked out in the
woods. I liked working in the woods better, where I was cutting down
trees and that kind of work out in the open. We worked ten hours a
day. The pay was twenty-seven cents an hour. $2.75 a day for ten
hours work. Ten into $2.75 is twenty-seven and a half cents an hour!
The highest paid job out in the woods was thirty-three cents an hour,
$3.30 a day.
Well, I worked all summer up there and saved some
¨D 18 ¨D
money. We had to pay out of that $2.75 a day, seventy-five cents a
day to the company for our meals, twenty-five cents a meal. We lived
in a camp. I lived in camps, sometimes in bunk houses and sometimes
in tents. You had your own blanket, your own cot that you slept on.
They provided a place to sleep but you had to pay twenty-five cents a
meal. It was pretty good. A lot of rough and tumble food, but working
hard every day you have a good appetite.
Often I had to work at night, fighting forest fires. Work all day and
come in to camp to get dinner, and then go out and work all night
fighting forest fires. Take our lunch out to eat at midnight. You
didn’t get any overtime pay. You got paid same as your hours. You
worked ten hours at night, you got twenty-seven cents an hour. You
didn’t get time and a half.
And you didn’t get coffee breaks.
Well, you’d be out there watching the fire. No you didn’t get coffee
breaks either.

Wartime Service
I graduated in 1918. As soon as I graduated, World War I was on, and
I volunteered for the Naval Flying Corps, the United States Naval
Reserve Flying Corps. I qualified for that, and I went to an officer
training school. I was under orders to go to the naval flying school
to learn how to fly when the Armistice was signed. Of course the navy
cancelled all orders so I never did get around to getting my wings.
After that, I joined the United States Army Transportation Service,
which was under the jurisdiction of the United States Army
Quartermaster Corps.
The transports were relics of the Spanish American War. Fifteen
allied nations who were fighting against Germany and Austria, the
Allied Powers versus the Central Powers, sent troops to Siberia and
Russia. The troops who went into Siberia went in through Vladivostok.
¨D 19 ¨D
The others who came in to Russia went up through Murmansk and
Archangel and came down that way.
You see, the Bolshevik Revolution occurred in 1917, and the
Bolsheviks under Lenin had made a deal with Germany, the paradox of
the whole thing. Here Russia, under the Czar, got England, France,
Italy, and eventually the United States into World War I. They
declared war on Germany because of what happened down there in the
Balkans. France, Italy, England, and Japan in the Pacific, Canada,
and other countries, were the Allied Powers. Germany and Austria were
the Central Powers under the Kaiser.
Of course there had been a lot of unrest in Russia for a long time.
Lenin was living over in Switzerland. Germany made a deal with him to
bring him into Russia after the Czar abdicated. The Czar of Russia
When the Czar of Russia abdicated, Kerensky became the ruler of
Russia, in a democratic administration. He was a young lawyer. They
had a thing similar to the Congress, a representative body they
called a duma.
Kerensky was a good man. I eventually got to know him, when he was
out here. I had lunch with him out at Mills College. The president of
Mills College, whom I knew, invited my wife and me out there to have
lunch with Kerensky. He was a legendary character, very historic.
Well, anyhow we had a nice conversation about those days in Russia,
and Siberia, the days before, during, and right after the Bolshevik
Anyhow, be that as it may, Russia was supposedly fighting with
England and France and Italy and the United States and so forth, for
democracy, to make the world safe for democracy. That was the thing,
make the world safe for democracy against the Central Powers of
Germany and Austria. Lenin, who was supposed to be the hero of the
people and stuff, makes a deal with Germany, and Germany brings him
in a sealed boxcar all the way across Europe into Russia, so that he
can undermine the Russian government, in a deal to fight with Germany
against England and France and Italy and the United States, you see.
It’s typical.
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That’s the treachery of the Communists, going clear back to when it
first began with Lenin and Stalin and Trotsky. Through the treachery
of these people and the conditions which existed there on what they
called the Eastern Front, Russia started falling apart and the
Russian soldiers on the Eastern Front started deserting. They didn’t
have the materiel which probably they should have had, and just
started cracking up.
The fifteen Allied Powers, the United States and England and so on,
decided to send in troops from Vladivostok across Siberia, and troops
down from Archangel to put more or less of a token front against
Germany on the Eastern front in Russia, hoping to keep Germany busy
on the Eastern front so they couldn’t take all their troops off the
Eastern Front and put them over in France and Belgium to fight
against us in France.
That’s how I got into that transport service. The Army Transports
were taking troops, materiel, and supplies from San Francisco to
Vladivostok. The United States had troops in Siberia until August,
1920. In 1919 I came back to San Francisco. I was back here at the
end of September.

Law School
The University of California in those days used to start August 15.
All classes started August 15. I was too late to go to law school,
either there or Hastings. But Stanford had the quarter system, and
the autumn quarter started October 1, so I went down to Stanford and
started to study law there. My first year of law I took at Stanford.
In the summer of 1920 I worked in the Moore Shipyards on the estuary
at the foot of Adeline Street in west Oakland. They were still
building ships, and I got a job as a machinists’ helper.
What made you decide to go into law?
Well, I just wanted to do it, that’s all. I always thought I’d like
to be a lawyer, and thought that law offered an opportunity to make a
contribution to the
¨D 21 ¨D
betterment of the community and help people. I still feel that way.
The law is a wonderful opportunity in various ways, in private
practice or in public service. Many lawyers go into public service,
and if they’re honest and they think right, they can make a real
contribution. So many lawyers have. If they stay in private practice
they can still be helpful to people who need counseling, need advice,
need legal service. Well that’s why I wanted to do it.
I had a book on law which I had with me when I was in the transport
service. I used to read it in my spare time and liked it. So I came
back and went to Stanford. Then, in the summer I worked at the
shipyards, and I found out that I could transfer to the University of
California, to Boalt Hall, which was small in those days. There
wasn’t much of a student body, probably not more than a couple of
hundred, if that. So I transferred. I found out I could get a job at
night working at the shipyards, so I transferred over to the night
shift, at Moore’s Shipyard, and I arranged my schedule at Boalt so
that I had all my classes in the morning.
I didn’t have an automobile. I lived on the other side of Lake
Merritt, and I would take a streetcar in the morning. I would have to
take a streetcar about 6:30 or a quarter to seven, come down, get off
on Broadway, and take a streetcar on Broadway then out College to the
University, which would take about an hour.
I had 8:00 classes, from 8:00 to about eleven. Occasionally I might
have a class from 11:00 to 12:00. Then I’d study from 11:00 until
3:00. At noontime I’d run down to Barney’s Beanery, which was about
where Sproul Hall is now, and get a bowl of soup or a dish of beans,
and then dash back and start studying again. I couldn’t fool around.
At 3:00 I’d take a streetcar. The streetcar would go down to Oakland
and I’d transfer over to Eighth Street, get off at Eight and Adeline
and walk from Eighth Street down to the estuary to the shipyards,
punch a time clock and go to work. Work from four in the afternoon on
til midnight, eight hours, an eight hour shift. Then at midnight I’d
walk up to Eighth and Adeline, get another streetcar, come up to
¨D 22 ¨D
transfer to another streetcar, and go home. I worked six days a week.
On Saturdays our shift started at noon time. I worked from noon to
8:00 on Saturdays.
I found I was riding streetcars three hours a day, and I was working
in Moore’s Shipyard eight hours a day. That’s eleven hours. Six times
eleven is sixty-six hours a week. And going through law school.
I don’t know when you got any sleep.
Well, I didn’t get too much sleep. I did a lot of concentrated
studying. Then I did another thing, which I’m rather proud of. I
crammed over the holidays of 1921 — I was in my third year at Boalt –
– December 1921, over those holidays. I crammed, and I took the
California bar exam the second of January, the day after New Years.
It was a three day examination. In due course I got word that I had
passed it. I was still going to Boalt.
On March 7, 1922, I was sworn in as lawyer. I was admitted to
practice. I was a lawyer, admitted to practice, before I had finished
You graduated from Boalt that June?
Yes. I got a JD, Doctor of Jurisprudence. In those days, you earned a
Doctor of Jurisprudence, and this it the way you did it. To get a
Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, there was some extra work you had to
do. Of course you had to have a good record. You also had to write a
thesis, a doctor’s thesis, which was supposed to be an original
contribution to the subject. It had to be approved by the faculty,
and then you had to take a special faculty examination.
The way that faculty examination worked, every Saturday they’d take
about four or five or six of the law students. You’d reach in and
take a piece of paper out of a box. The title of the subject — it
would be a statement of facts of supposedly a real case. Now then,
you were supposed to sit down in the library at Boalt Hall and write
an opinion, just like you were an appellate court judge. Write a
decision in a blue book.
Now the case was someplace in those books in the library. You had to
know how to recognize these facts,
¨D 23 ¨D
recognize the subject, and find that case. Then from that case, write
your opinion. The day after I finished taking my bar ex, the bar
examination was Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, see, three days. I took
the faculty JD exams.
We all went into the library, those of us who were going for the
Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, to pick out of this box a number. The
number would be the order in which you would take that faculty
examination, see. I picked number one. So I had to go right to work
after finishing the bar exam nation and spend all day searching the
books and writing a decision right then. So I got most of my work
behind me. Then I found out I was admitted to practice on March 7,
1922, and so I was in pretty good shape.
After I finished Boalt and graduated in 1922, I didn’t have to study
for the bar ex like most law students do nowadays after they’ve
finished law school. They have all summer to study for the bar ex,
and they take the bar ex at the end of August. I had all that behind
me. Of course I had to write my thesis. I did that and got it
What did you write your thesis about?
I had found a novel idea. The title of it was, “The Legal Problem of
Productive Cooperation in California.” Now, the theme of that was —
there are two things, consumer cooperation and productive
cooperation. Of course they have lots of consumer cooperative
ventures for people to join. They all buy at the same store, and get
a rate, you see, a discount. Productive cooperation — they have a
certain amount of that here, whereby people who own farms, maybe
they’d be growing prunes or apricots, or they’ll be raising cattle,
and they belong to a cooperative association, and the cooperative
association does the marketing for them.
Strictly speaking, the kind of productive cooperative enterprise I
was talking about, was something which they’d experimented with in
Europe, whereby it would be kind of a partnership. Say you wanted a
company, or an organization, or a business enterprise to construct,
to build, say furniture. You’d need carpenters, cabinet-makers,
artisans, to build the furniture
¨D 24 ¨D
and design the furniture. You’d need salesmen, you’d need marketing
operation, you’d need bookkeepers, an so forth.
Now, on a small scale, you could form these people into a sort of
partnership type of a thing. Each one would have a share of the
business, and each one would have ownership of a proportionate share
of the business. Some of them would be doing the actual work, making
the furniture. Maybe one or two others would be designing the
furniture. There’d be a bookkeeper of course, there’d be salesmen.
Maybe they wouldn’t need salesmen, maybe they’d just make a deal with
some bigger furniture company which would market the furniture. Well
anyway, it was the idea that it was personal ownership, individual
ownership. Each man with a share of the business, of the operation.
You didn’t have any union to contend with, because they were all
partners in the enterprise. It eliminated labor trouble. I also
advocated that legislation be passed to give this type of
organization special consideration with respect to taxes, the
expenses of doing business. Sure, two or three men could go into
partnership, like my father and his brother did and do business that
way. But when you get into a bigger operation, like that, you’d have
to have something on paper whereby each man had his share of that
business. Like corporations, you have a certificate of stock, so many

So anyhow, that was the subject. It was approved, and I wrote up the
thesis. I suppose it’s still buried in the archives of the University
someplace. There was an operation which was similar to it in the
restaurant business, Layton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco and Oakland.
They had restaurants around where every one of the employees had a
share of the business. It was a novel idea. At least the professor
for whom I wrote the thesis thought it was quite an original idea.
Well anyway, that’s the thesis. That’s what I did.

I eventually graduated, and I practiced law for a while, then I got
in to the district attorney’s office

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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