Book Review: Vallejo

Vallejo native (Brendan Riley) pens book on Vallejo’s old ‘barbary coast,’ holds book signing Saturday

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald

POSTED: 08/14/17, 3:11 PM PDT | UPDATED: 1 WEEK AGO

“There’s a chapter on Baby Face Nelson that was really fascinating for me,” Riley said. He came as a “guest” of  Tobe Williams, an old safe cracker, who ran Vallejo General Hospital. According to FBI reports, though (Nelson) “committed no crime here that we know of, there was a murder during that time that was never solved.”

Nelson and his wife felt safe enough in Vallejo to “walk around town like anybody else, going to the movies, and so on,” despite being, at one point, the most wanted man in the United States, he said.

“The technology we have now didn’t exist which is why he came out to the West Coast; because the FBI was doing most of its searching in the Midwest,” Riley said.

Nelson wasn’t just hanging out in the Bay Area, but ran a bootleg liquor operation from Marin and San Francisco, while on the lam, he said.

Nelson returned to the Chicago area from Vallejo, and was soon killed in a shootout with two FBI agents, Riley said.

“At that time, he was Public Enemy No. One, after John Dillinger died in July 1934,” he said. “Nelson left Vallejo in October 1934 and died that November.”

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President Herbert Hoover 1930

Hoover seeks in vain to combat tough times, Aug. 15, 1930


On this day (August 15th) 1930, President Herbert Hoover held a news conference in which he set out his plans to help people affected by a series of devastating droughts. The droughts, combined with a stock market crash in October 1929, led to a downward economic spiral that lasted throughout much of the 1930s and came to be known as the Great Depression.

In response to widespread drought conditions, the president called for a mass mobilization of aid workers. He called on governors to draft ideas on how best to provide relief to the rising ranks of the unemployed. He ordered the War Department to provide artillery-range land to Montana farmers where they could graze their parched cattle and sheep. Read more.


On this day (August 15) 2017, President Donald Trump held a news conference in which he …

… At a stunning press conference Tuesday (August 15, 2017), President Donald Trump essentially took back his delayed, tepid denunciation of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists who incited Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. He even described some as “very fine people.” …  Read More

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The Holland Michigan Bank and Baby Face Nelson




Historic image of First State Bank in Holland, MI (image courtesy of Digital Holland, Michigan)

WHTC News has learned that the PNC bank branch on West 8th Street at Central Avenue will be closing on November 17th. Officials didn’t say a reason behind the move in a letter that arrived in deposit holders’ mailboxes on Monday.

Built in 1916 as First State Bank, it was the scene of a famous robbery on September 29, 1932 when Lester Gillis, better known as the notorious gangster “Baby Face Nelson,” allegedly joined forces with Eddie Bentz to take some 70 thousand dollars in cash and bonds, injuring a bystander in their flight. The crime was never solved by Holland police detectives. Read More.

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Hell’s Angles – Howard Hughes


Hell’s Angels was a 1930 independently made American epic aviation war film, directed and produced by Howard Hughes, Controversy during the Hell’s Angels production contributed to the film’s notoriety, including the accidental deaths of several pilots. [Source Wikipedia]

Spoiler alert, the clip above is not a puff piece.

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Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath is an American realist novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939. The book won the National Book Award] and Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.

Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they are trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other “Okies“, they seek jobs, land, dignity, and a future. [Source Wikipedia]

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Donuts, WWI, and the 1930’s Depression

WWI 1914 to 1918 

Nine million combatants and seven million civilians died.

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The following is from an article by Michael S. Rosenwald Washington Post Fri., June 2, 2017,

A century ago, not long after the United States entered World War I, the Salvation Army deployed hundreds of volunteers to France to soothe and bolster American troops.

The boys were homesick. They were hungry. They wanted a slice of apple pie.

But that, of course, was impossible. The many indignities of war include this undeniable one: A fox hole is a terrible place to bake.

So the Salvation Army troops improvised, frying dough in soldier helmets, producing such delicious donuts that when the war was over, when the troops finally came home, the government produced a guide for veterans to open donut shops.

Salvation Army volunteers (mostly women) who comforted the boys were called, “Donut Lassies.”

“As they dipped donuts for their boys, they dispensed motherhood,” John T. Edge wrote in “Donuts: An American Passion,” a seminal volume in the genre of historic deliciousness.

The recipe called for:

– 5 C flour;

– 2 C sugar;

– 5 tsp. baking powder;

– 1 ‘saltspoon’ salt;

– 2 eggs;

– 1 3/4 C milk; and

– 1 Tub lard.

The most important instruction: “Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool and enjoy.”

“As the nation slid into economic depression, the industry feared that donuts might go the way of the street corner apple,” Edge (a food historian) wrote. “So they aligned themselves with America’s emerging aristocracy, the ladies of gentlemen of Hollywood.”

Frank Capra put donuts in his movies. There’s that scene in “It Happened One Night” where Clark Gable teaches, as Edge puts it, “donut etiquette.” On Shirley Temple’s list of works is this: “Dora’s Dunking Donuts.” Laurel and Hardy posed for photos holding donuts.

And you know what?

Donuts survived the Great Depression. Hooray for donuts.

While their nutritional value is questionable, their patriotic value is as certain as the round hole at their center, through which eaters can look back through time and see not just food history, but the story of America – of our boys fighting for what’s right, fueled by what would become the country’s favorite pastry. Read more.

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“GYPSIES ORDERED TO VACATE CITY” The Marion Star Saturday. March 15, 1930

by Phil Reid, Sentimental Journey Published 5:00 p.m. ET May 25, 2017

“Mayor Jones Issues Ultimatum When Rovers Overstep Bounds of Phrenology.”

It took a band of gypsies just one week to find out they are not wanted here.

Orders to vacate the city by 12 o’clock today were issued by Mayor L. Don Jones in no uncertain terms. The orders were directed to the “chief” of the gypsies, and were forwarded to T. E. Sonnanstine, directed of public safety, who with the aid of the police department will see to it that the mayor’s orders are carried out.

The gypsies made themselves a nuisance when they stood on the sidewalks in front of their “booths” in several vacant business rooms in the uptown district and “beckoned” for trade, officials explained today.

This, and offers to “tell your fortune” exceeded the bounds of “phrenology,” which they were legally entitled to practice here. But fortune telling is barred by ordinance except with a permit and orders to travel were consequently issued. Read more.

Phrenology: a psychological theory or analytical method based on the belief that certain mental faculties and character traits are indicated by the configurations of the skull.

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Article from the Kiowa County Signal, March 13, 2017

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born and raised in a privileged family in Hyde Park, New York. He was tutored at home until age 14, and after attending a private school for his high school years, graduated from Harvard College.

FDR became governor of New York just before the stock market crash in 1929. He was re-elected in 1930 with the Great Depression underway, and his leadership in New York during that difficult time was part of the reason he was elected president of the United States in 1932.

President Roosevelt promised a “New Deal” to help lead America out of the Great Depression. This included, among other aspects, stabilizing the banking system and creating jobs. His administration created the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Civil Works Administration, which provided jobs building bridges, roads and airports, cleaning beaches and planting trees. The Tennessee Valley Authority created jobs that helped bring electricity and roads to parts of the country that didn’t have them.

FDR communicated with the country through “fireside chats,” speaking often to the American populace over the radio. FRD had integrity and his words had meaning.

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This car expert loves old Fords and rebuilds all the classics (photos)

By Kenn Peters July 21, 2016

Bridgeport, NY — If you’ve driven east or west on Route 31 through Bridgeport, you’ve passed an auto repair shop with very old cars parked in front. The shop is Chuck Nelson Auto & Truck Restorations, a shop that’s had a car show in its front yard for as long as anyone can remember.

The owner is Chuck Nelson, a guy who is arguably as much of an expert on old Fords as anyone’s going to find.

He’s fixed, repaired, rebuilt, figured out, painted, put back on the road, made look pretty and saved more Fords than he can remember.

Why Fords? “As a kid I was crazy about old Fords. In fact, I had an old Model A when I was 15,” he said. When Nelson was 15 lots of kids his age were wild about Fords, and Chevys and Plymouths, but for the most part they were cars that had V-8 motors, fancy two-tone paint jobs and loud glasspack mufflers.


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