Morehouse's journey to Paso Robles was stalled by some Indians who
fancied they needed his horses more than he did. Grandfather resented
this. He no doubt cast about, looking for a policeman. You know there is
never a cop around when you need one. Apparently Grandfather Morehouse
resolved to raise his own police force, but it was not until Grandson
Elmer came along that this goal was finally realized.
Morehouse was appointed temporary chief of police for Paso Robles on
March 6, 1950, a position which became permanent a year later. When he
became chief he naturally had added responsibilities as he was in charge
of the entire police force. The officers were, in alphabetical order,
Fred Fairbairn and John Rude.
seemed to have a knack for having bizarre things happen to him --- like
getting drilled through his brand new police cap the first day of work
wile shaking doors at the old skating rink on Eleventh Street. A burglar
was inside and ventilated Elmer's cap as he rattled the door.
time he and the rest of the force pursued a stubborn suspect through
alleys, streets and buildings of Paso Robles, including the old laundry
and what is now an adjacent restaurant. All the while, the perpetrator
was firing back a total of one hundred six shots at the brave policemen.
The offender was eventually hit and died a slow, painful death. It
turned out he was wanted for four murders in San Bernardino County.
Elmer first went on the job in 1937, he drove a snappy Model A Ford
touring car complete with patent leather top, side curtains, a six-volt
spotlight and a hand-cranked siren. But no heater. Later a gasoline
heater was installed which had two positions, on and off.
On was too hot and off was too cold. It was up to the
driver to choose what he wanted to be.
bought their own uniforms, firearms, ammunition, flashlight, batteries
and billy club. Elmer also carried a Remington, model 870, 12-gauge
shotgun loaded with 00 buckshot. He worked six days a wee, twelve hours
a day --- but don't feel sorry for him because he was paid $125 a month.
Who wouldn't snap up a job like that?
equipment which aided in law enforcement in Paso Robles was primitive in
some cases and nonexistent in others. There were no radar-equipped,
interceptor engine, stiff-suspension cars especially built for police
pursuit as there are now. There were no radios until someone in Paso
built one for the police. Then it was declared illegal because it had
not been built by a licensed manufacturer, thus parts could not be
ordered from a police catalog, listing model and serial number.
the radio came into being, there was a unique communication system
devised hereabouts. A green light was installed on the top of the Taylor
Hotel (on Spring Street and 13th Streets) and also one on top of the
Canary Cottage at Spring and 11th Streets. If the telephone operator got
a call for police assistance, she would turn on the green light switch
and both lights would go on. Any patrol officer seeing that light, went
to the nearest phone and called the operator to find out where the
trouble was. The telephone operator was the police dispatcher.
It worked. The usual call was for drunk and disorderly, disturbing the
peace. Even with the delay, the parties were most often still drunk when
the officer got there.
a speeder was stopped, a cop couldn't 'run the plates' as they do now. A
normal response time was three to four days. However, auto theft was,
and still is, grand larceny and the thief was usually caught.
things got serious, a perpetrator would find himself in front of
"Judge Roy B. Fanning, Law West of the Salinas." If it was a
felony, the only way the district attorney found out about it was if the
perp's plea was, "Not Guilty." At which point the D.A. would
be called and one of the cops would take the perp in the family sedan to
the county jail in San Luis Obispo. If the culprit was a woman, the wife
of one of the cops would take the lady to the klink, again in the family
sedan. Officer Joe went along if the lady perp was deemed to be
Robles did have a jail, though. It was a room, part of the police station,
in the Taylor Hotel. This was after the old brick jail was abandoned. The
room was about 10 x 15 feet; within that space was a cage of iron bars
with a door and four bunks. The minimum sentence after being sent to that
cell was 12 1/2 days and a $25 fine. The maximum length of sentence was 30
the cage was designed for four men. But during the Camp Roberts' years,
sometimes it held as many as 12-15, at least for overnight. The room had a
toilet; above the toilet was a faucet and that was it. The back door to
the jail room was a heavy wooden door which opened out onto the alley.
Behind the wooden door was a heavy steel-mesh door which was locked as
well. Air conditioning was not even dreamed of in those days, so at times
when the weather was hot (a rare occurrence in Paso Robles), the
wooden door was opened and the air was, mercifully, allowed to flow
through. Otherwise it got pretty rank.
fellow was tossed in so drunk, he could hardly stand. He found a spot next
to the steel door and was supposed to "sleep it off." However,
his 'friends' located him and rigged a funnel out of slick magazine pages
and proceeded to funnel wine in to him whenever the poor fellow felt
thirsty. Apparently he felt thirst quite often because he was dragged in
front of Judge Fanning the next morning drunker than when he was tossed
in. Needless to say, the good judge was harshly critical of this sort of
was no segregation in the Paso jail, other than for the women. All
prisoners were treated equally, no matter what. There was a man who worked
at a well-known barber shop as a bootblack and took care of most of the
racial problems which came up from time to time. The cops would catch
someone, (a "man of color" as the saying went in those days),
and take him to the bootblack, who would find out what the problem was and
then get him a place to stay and a meal, a job or bus ticket out of town
if the situation warranted it. If there was ever a citizen-of-the-year for
Paso Robles, this man, surely, would have been a champ.
the meals, the prisoners of the jail were marched out the back door and
down the alley to the Hi Hat Cafe where Marion Henry held forth as chef
extraordinaire. Later, the Blue Moon Cafe was used for that purpose as
posterity's information, the Blue Moon was where the Santa Lucia Bank
parking lot is now, and the Hi Hat site is now part of the Boot Barn.
was amazing was that there were no aid programs, no shelters, no
counseling nor rehabilitation programs. The cops were enforcers,
confessors, ministers and nurses and they did a heck of a job. The
judges did the same. Due process might become abused, but justice
was done anyway.
A Shandon judge was known to hold court wherever he was. No
matter! A bench, the street, a park or a kitchen. His remark was, "What
do I need a courtroom for? I'm the same man here as I am in
attitude! Same for the cops! God bless 'em all!