The recent news story about the alleged robber who started a fight with a sheriff’s deputy in the Mojave jail booking office reminded me of another interesting crime story.
The jail fight wasn’t the first time that happened; back in the mid-1950s, the Mojave town doctor threw the jail typewriter at a deputy, a story for another time.
Great Boron Payroll Robbery
When my wife Billye and I published the Mojave Desert News from 1979 to 1982, three young Boron residents robbed a bank in Boron of the U.S. Borax payroll, which was a lot of cash back in those days before paychecks were mailed or direct deposited.
The bank, which no longer exists, was in a storefront on 20 Mule Team Road.
One of the trio, a young man, entered the bank one morning and demanded the Borax payroll, which bank employees handed to him.
He left the bank and met with the other young man to divide the money.
That young man and his wife, a former Miss Boron, took off for Arkansas or some other southern state.
Cash in a bag
A day or two later the robber walked into to a car dealership in Bakersfield and picked out a new Corvette, which he paid for with cash from a paper bag.
When the startled salesman told him he needed more money, the young man walked out to his car and refilled his bag.
After he drove off in his new ride, the salesman called the Bakersfield Police Department, which called the FBI since bank robbery is a federal crime.
One of the factors that helped the FBI was that the young thief had a pronounced limp that had been noticed by everyone in the bank and by the car salesman.
He was soon arrested and the hunt was on for his accomplices, who were quickly located and returned to Kern County.
The former Miss Boron, who was out on bail, lived near Betty Swanson, our advertising salesperson.
She agreed to be interviewed by Swanson, which helped the FBI immensely when the interview was published.
A friend who was an FBI special agent in Bakersfield asked me if I would let Swanson testify at the trio’s trial in Federal District Court in Fresno, which I did.
I also asked Swanson to stick around and write a story about the trial, which she did.
This, of course, was a very big story, which quadrupled our circulation in Boron after it was published.
That happened because the daughter of the man who owned the Boron paper was a schoolmate of the former Miss Boron and didn’t want to embarrass her friend with a story about her being an alleged accomplice to a bank robbery.
There was a lot of luck involved for us in this story. One was the fact that we had been planning to mail a paper to every mailing address in Boron on the Thursday the story was published to promote a big wrestling tournament.
The editor of the Boron paper walked into a local café the morning our paper came out and discovered that everyone was reading the Mojave Desert News instead of his paper.
“Why don’t you have this story?” one reader asked him.
He was so embarrassed that he published a second edition.
The story ended in tragedy. The robbers were convicted and, while they were awaiting sentencing, the former Miss Boron died in an altercation with her partner.
China Lake payroll
Speaking of payrolls and robbers, when I worked at the old Mojave Post Office on Cerro Gordo street in 1954, the payroll for what was then called the China Lake Naval Ordnance Test Station, arrived in Mojave once a month on the Southern Pacific’s beautiful red, orange and black “San Joaquin Daylight” morning passenger train.
A railway mail clerk handed a couple of padlocked mail pouches containing the cash to Joe Rolland, a nice old gentleman who hauled the mail between the railroad depot and the post office, which was on Cerro Gordo Street, in the open bed of his ancient and battered green Chevy pickup.
In those days, several Southern Pacific and Santa Fe mail trains stopped in Mojave at all hours with mail and express for the region.
Four Navy civilian cops carrying Thompson submachine guns escorted Joe’s truck to the post office, where postmaster Barney Finnin and I signed the registered mail paperwork while the officers and their Tommy Guns stood guard on each corner of Cerro Gordo and the alley.
When the paper work was completed, they took the money to Ridgecrest.
In those days, no one ever even thought of trying to steal the money or the mail.
Except in Boron.
St. John’s Episcopal Church, the one President Donald Trump visited after Park Police used tear gas to remove people peacefully protesting in Lafayette Park between the church and the White House, was where my brother Mike and his wife Carolyn and their family worshiped.
It was also where we attended the wedding of their daughter Amanda in the mid-1990s.
No one involved with the church was informed of Trump’s visit, and one of the priests was forced to run to safety during the Park Police attack.
Some folks claimed that tear gas was not used on the protesters.
As someone who has been tear-gassed more than once, the term applies to any substance that has the same unpleasant effects.
When I was in the Army, we received gas training annually, always on a Friday.
At the end of the training, we removed our gas masks in a room filled with tear gas and walked outside into a nice breeze.
A pleasant side effect was that the sinus problems I suffered in those days went away for the entire weekend.
They went away permanently when I quit smoking.