Dad's Run-in With Al Capone
Notes on the photo below - In the foreground of the picture is a white boat. Directly above the boat is a dark, chalet-style house. This is the home of my grandparents, Charles and Agnes Kircher, where my dad was born and raised.
Another story from the tapes my dad recorded of his childhood memories.
In our house, when my parents were assigning chores, sex was not a contributing factor, age was what governed. It didn’t matter - if you were old enough you did one job, if you were not old enough, you did another job, so that the youngest child had to bring the kindling up to start the woodstove the following morning. The child above that filled the wood box with firewood. And the child above that dried the dishes. The child above that washed the dishes. And the child above that would go down, take the mailbox key and pick up the mail and bring it home before going off to Tiburon Grammar School. The children above that were already exempt because they had to catch the boat to go to high school.
When you took the post office key downtown to pick up the mail in Post Office Box 76 which was in Mr. Chapman’s store (he was the postmaster), you also went over to Billy Beyries’s and bought whatever groceries your mother put on the list, and then you stopped right next door to the Pioneer Meat market, which Mr. Anderson ran, and bought the hamburger or the chop or whatever else it was that was on the list and you took that home just in time to take off and go to school.
One day in 1934 it was a very interesting day. It was my turn to go downtown and pick up the mail, so I started with the key to the post office box, but I could not get across the viaduct that went across the railroad yards. They wouldn’t let me cross that. And I looked down around the road, around Mar West to the bay, and I couldn’t go down that way – it was surrounded by men, and they would not let you move. So I went home and told my mother, and she sent me off to school.
During the morning that day, there was a lot of commotion in the Tiburon railroad yard and we all got to go to the window and look, and here came a train, an engine and several passenger cars, and all of them were taken right on the freight barge. That freight barge was for freight cars, not passenger cars, but all these cars on this particular train were put on the freight barge down at the freight slip and the barge took off. It was so unusual to see these passenger cars on the freight barge and all the extra men in suits around the railroad yard.
We eventually learned, of course, that this was the movement from one of those mid-Western prisons to Alcatraz of Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. They had come through Tiburon. The train came overland into Martinez but there it took a detour that surprised even the Department of Justice officials. They routed the train over to Napa junction and then to Schellville. There at Schellville it stopped being a Southern Pacific train and became a Northwestern Pacific train and traveled down to Novato and San Rafael and though the tunnels into Tiburon where they transferred two cars of prisoners and a car of guards onto the freight barge and as it left the dock more guards in small launches patrolled the waters as the barge made its way on its three-mile journey to Alcatraz. The FBI or whoever it was managed to bring all those dangerous criminals to Alcatraz Island because they surprised everyone with their sneaky 75 mile detour around San Francisco Bay. And I couldn’t do my chores that day, all because of Al Capone.
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Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.