Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More Violence At The Preston School of Industry

Preston has a bad reputation for brutality to the wards, but I can tell you, there was just as much brutality from the wards to each other and the staff. In this post you will read about different accounts at different time periods, but all relating to a violent incident. 

Whether it was a ward attacking a staff member, a ward attacking another ward, or worse, a staff member brutalizing the boys, there is plenty of evidence to show that this place certainly had its dangerous side.


According the Ione Valley Echo, dated July 26, 1924, a ward from Company F, Ray Baker attacked and attempted to murder guard Thomas Dooley. While Baker was nearly choking Dooley to death, Dooley was still able to reach for his pistol and shot Baker, fatally wounding him. Although Baker was brought to the hospital for his injuries, he died within 10 minutes of arriving. Guard Dooley was later exonerated for any wrongdoing due to the circumstances of the incident.


On February 7, 1912, ward # 1295, Frank Pimental, who was 20 years old, stabbed 14 year-old ward # 1266, Robert Robertson. The San Francisco Call misspelled Robertson's name and called him "Robinson," however this is the same boy. According to the papers, there had been an ongoing grudge between the two and that is what authorities believed led up to the stabbing (also mentioned "slashing") of Robertson. The newspapers also put into question why an older ward was mixed among the younger, less violent wards at the school.


On March 21, 1911 just shortly after 7 p.m., an argument of harsh words between wards John Greenan and Floyd DeHaye turned into a violent physical altercation. Once it seemed as though fists weren't enough, Greenan decided to pull out a razor and slashed DeHaye's throat. Guards at the school were able to subdue Greenan and Constable John Kelly held him in the County Jail on charges of "assault with a deadly weapon with intent to commit murder." DeHaye was sent to Hospital quarters and received several stitches to his throat but survived the attack.


Although this photo is of a model in the 1920's showing the style of "pistol packing" for women of that time period, it reminds me of a story I found recently in my further research of the Preston School of Industry about an escape that almost was. You see, on the evening of July 4th, 1923, six wards from Preston (PSI) assaulted a group supervisor, tied him up and threw him into a closet. They got as far as the Colonial Building when the head cook (a woman) who was standing in the living room looking out the window when she saw the boys run by. She quickly pulled her pistol out from under her clothing, which she had strapped above her knee, not unlike this photo, and she quickly went out after the boys and even fired in their direction scaring them. It notified the rest of the staff there that the boys were going that direction and their escape was stopped. This was a lesson learned by the Directors and Superintendent there that more staff was needed, being that they had just laid off their Asst. Superintendant, 6 group supervisors and ALL of their parole officers shortly before this escape attempt. After this incident, they knew that the budget cut had been a terrible mistake!


In his 1929 autobiography "Stealing Through Life", Ernest Booth touches on various aspects of his life, including his stay at the Preston School of Industry which started at the age of 17 in 1915. Ernest goes on to speak of horrid conditions and sexual abuse that was forced on the wards by older wards, and even worse, accusations of pedophilia that took place as well. In his book his account reads: "With fifty other boys I was herded into an ill-lighted basement each evening. There we sat, on benches for three hours, often deprived of all reading material, because some petty annoyance had, in reprisal, had been put upon the officer in charge of us. In the dormitories paederasty was nightly practiced. The night watchman seemed indifferent. For weeks he would do no more than chase an amorous older boy from the bed of some youngster. Then, waxing virtuous, he would deliver a tirade against all boys who even thought about such practices. While the boys stood at their respective bedsides, naked, he would walk about and lecture us on the evil of our ways."-- {"Stealing Through Life," Ernest Booth (1929)}

(© Copyright 2012-2015, J’aime Rubio, Originally published either on blog “Dreaming Casually” by J’aime Rubio, on my Facebook Page or in the book “Behind The Walls- A Historical Exposé of The Preston School of Industry” by author, J’aime Rubio.)

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