By Monroe Stinson (1953 – 1983)
“Car 821, take a detail. Found child at 4145 Holbrook Way, Concord.”
“Check, KQCE. Car 821 out.”
Thus began the saga formation of Deputy Sheriffs Association, one day during the year 1953.
Acknowledging the radio call was Deputy Sheriff John Scott, taking details while Deputy Sheriff Earl Falkenstrom drove the patrol car.
Falkenstrom headed for Holbrook Way.
“Well, here we go again. Another orphan,” decried Falkenstrom, himself father of four.
“What a shame,” Scott remarked.
In short seconds the two deputies on evening duty arrived at the residence and went 908 (out of service).
The family had heard a muffled cry, went to the front door and found bundled in a cardboard box one tiny male child, barely a day old.
Scott and Falkenstrom handled the matter routinely, taking the child to County hospital .
Back on the beat Scott said, “You know, there’s a youngster who not only doesn’t have a father, he doesn’t even have a mother. Sets you to thinking. You know this deputy sheriff business is hazardous at best. We’ve both got kids. What if something happens and we don’t make it? There’s more orphans and our wives will have to find work. I don’t like that. Seems to me there’s something we ought to be able to do.”
“How do you mean,” asked Falkenstrom. “I mean like getting some kind of insurance coverage.”
Both mulled it over. Yes, perhaps the wife would get a small percentage of their $311 monthly salary, but why shouldn’t they also try to add to that? How to accomplish this? Today, all sorts of insurance is available to all ages, in many forms. But, during the 50’s insurance business as we know it today had not greatly expanded. Better coverage was yet to come.
“You know,” said Falkenstrom, “we ought to try and organize a club of deputy sheriffs just to have fun, picnics, meetings to play cards. Then also maybe we could start a widows and orphans fund by raising money – somehow. That venison picnic we just had last month brought a lot of our county deputies together for the first time. I think we ought to expand on that.”
“Good idea,” agreed Scott. “We should get some of the guys together to see if they’d like to form a club.”
Early December 1953 Falkenstrom posted a sign-up sheet on Department bulletin board at Martinez, asking Deputy Sheriffs interested in joining a club to indicate their pleasure by signing up. the notice read:
In the past, some Patrol Deputies have expressed their desire of forming a “club” or some type of organization for better fellowship and mutual benefits for its members and families. If such a club or organization should be formed, meeting places can be arranged to be alternated between the Eastern, Central and Western areas.
Such meetings as proposed, could consist of a short business meetings – cards – refreshments – or other activities as desired by the members. Law enforcement groups in other counties have formed similar organizations as herein proposed, which have proven both successful and beneficial.
All Patrol Deputies Grade 2, interested in holding a meeting at an early date, for the purpose of forming such a Club, please indicate your interest by signing this sheet. If enough interest is shown, an announcement will be posted concerning the date, time and place for a meeting, to form such a Club as herein proposed.
Before year 1953 ended, 26 interested deputies had signed. At that time there was only 34 patrol deputies in the entire department.
Reference in the notice to arranging meetings between Eastern, Central and Western areas became necessary to bring all deputies together throughout the county. At that time the department ran on a regional basis, deputies based in East county rarely coming to Martinez. They hardly knew deputies working the West county area.
Grade 2 deputies were patrolmen. Grade 1 deputies were jailers. Some years later that was changed and they all became equal.
The 27 who signed were: Earl Falkenstrom, John Scott, Stan Soder, Tony Silva, William Waldeck, Lloyd Erickson, Stan Cahill, Glenn Porter, “Buzz” Arendtson, James Steffenson, John Snyder, Richard Cakebread, John Teuscher, Harry Ramsay (later become sheriff), Frank Rizzio, Clinton Jones, Thad Ormes, Earle Clark, William O’Leary, Bud Shepherd, Monroe Stinson, Robert Frank, James Short, Ed Stockman, Lloyd Kelley, George Hinckley and Joe Walsh.
Since Falkenstrom and Scott had formed the club, both were chosen at the first meeting, January 12, 1954, as president and vice president respectively. The meeting was held in newly built County Communications building, Arnold highway 4. Plans were made immediately to stage a “Sherriff’s Ball.”
Charter “Buzz” Arendtson agreed to chair the ball, however the budding organization was without funds. Where to get money for tickets, prizes, advertising, a band? Arendtson approached Sheriff James N. Long, asking for a loan. More than delighted, Long handed over $300, also voiced approval of his deputies forming an association. Long himself in earlier days belonged to a construction union and had strong pro-labor feelings. He also posed for publicity photographs that later appeared in metropolitan newspapers announcing the ball.
Another officer appointed at the first meeting was Stanley Cahill, secretary-treasurer. Three committees started working, one to investigate a constitution and by-laws similar to other law enforcement organizations, the second membership and third, the Sheriff’s Ball committee.
This writer, at the second meeting February 11th, offered to issue a monthly newsletter. The proposal was accepted and issue one came off the mimeograph May 1954. I continued to edit and handle the publication with but few breaks until my 1972 retirement and have since continued chronicling association activities and will complete 30 years on this committee next year.
In the beginning DSA News was mailed first class at 2 cents each to all department deputies. Some had not joined the club and were being urged to become members. Today the paper goes out third class non-profit to almost 500 addresses. Stan Cahill kept book on payment of dues, 50 cents a month, in a check-off ledger. Decision was made to consider a member delinquent who failed four months in a row to pay dues. Most made the monthly payment, some advancing the yearly $6. Today dues is payroll deduction, the amount geared to three-fifths of 1 percent of the basic deputy sheriff entrance salary.
Highlight of the organization’s first year of existence, of course, was the Sheriff’s Ball. Sheriff Long had no direct participation in this activity but gladly allowed use of the appellation. An astute politician he easily saw its value as an elected official. Tickets sold at $1 each. The only way tickets could be sold was for members to get out, go door to door, selling to store owners, businesses and the like.
A month before June 26, 1954, the date chosen for the ball to be held at Diablo Country Club with dancing to the music of Henry
Gallagher and his orchestra, deputies received an okay from Sheriff Long to solicit ticket sales in residential areas. This greatly expanded the sales field and a contest ensued among members to see who could sell the most.
Dance chairman “Buzz” Arendtson set a goal of selling 5,000 tickets. “If we can’t do that,” he remarked, “then we’d better fold.” With Arendtson’s enthusiasm and the collective effort of every member ticket sales were high. John Kirschner, when the count was finally in, sold the most, $450. Second was Falkenstrom, $335 and third, Jim Steffenson, $206. The $300 owed Sheriff Long was quickly repaid. An Insurance fund had started.
However, Arendtson’s aim fell short. The effort grossed $3,588.49 with a net $2,761. He nevertheless termed the event a success and a credit to both the department and the working deputies. During the final three weeks of the sales campaign the strong neighborhood canvas was credited largely with what modest financial success was enjoyed. Crux of the gain, as originally envisioned by Falkenstrom and Scott, was that a money pool had been created to establish a widows’ and orphans’ fund. With that in mind members at the July 13th meeting passed an interim motion setting a $350 benefit. This scant amount, for those days, was no big deal, but at least the fund had been started.