“Fools Rush In”

Politics and Gambling in 1930s Orange County

[Originally published in Orange Countiana VII (2011)]


Early on the morning of August 20, 1938, a little pamphlet appeared on the streets of Fullerton and La Habra. The anonymous publication promised to provide voters with an honest assessment of the candidates in the upcoming election, and protect them from “insidious and corrupt forces.”

Instead, Fools Rush In launched into an astonishing series of accusations, mostly concerning which candidates opposed or supported vice and gambling in Orange County. 

Former District Attorney S.B. Kaufman, “is now and prior to his leaving public office the titular head of gambling and vice that would control all law enforcement in this county,” the pamphlet proclaims.

“Kaufman has a minister of propaganda in the form of a newspaperman known as the ‘Colonel’ who is reputed to be the son of a Kentucky colonel who became infatuated with his colored maid.”

That remarkable libel was aimed at Col. Alvin B. Berry, the editor of the feisty Santa Ana Independent, a Democratic weekly paper better known as “the green sheet” for its choice of newsprint.

“Henry Foust, ambassador of games of chance, has for years paid tribute to Mr. Kaufman…,” Fools continues. “He has corrupted chiefs of police in our larger cities where gambling devices and his only are allowed to operate exclusively without being disturbed by local officers.

“Recently Foust started featuring ‘smokers’ on a commercial basis. He has some half-dozen nearly nude young girls present for his customers to fondle over…. More recently Henry Foust installed a gambling boat off the coast of this county where one may ‘play with Lady Luck until the cows come home.’”


With those salacious charges out of the way, Fools Rush In then turns to assessing some of the candidates in the upcoming primary election, with a special emphasis on law enforcement officials. Most are graded A to F, with various comments added. A few examples should suffice:

Judge James L. Allen, running for reelection to the Orange County Superior Court, was rated a C and described as “a political demagogue … intemperate, sensual and extremely changeable. He loves to congregate with men of similar ilk in the back rooms of ‘honky tonks’.” S.B. Kaufman wants him re-elected, the pamphlet adds.

For District Attorney, Brea City Attorney Elmer Guy received the A rating, as “outstanding in a field of mediocre aspirants.” W. Maxwell Burke followed him. “He leans heavily toward the ‘pink’ element of society. He would be a vigorous prosecutor if not influenced by communistic groups.” At the bottom of the list was Anaheim City Attorney George Holden. “He drinks entirely too much. His candidacy is sponsored and financed by bookie and other gambling interests. He already has mortgaged his soul to Mr. Kaufman….”

Sheriff Logan Jackson “is hated by the gamblers who are represented by S.B. Kaufman, Edgar Hervey and Thomas McFadden.” He was rated A. Longtime Santa Ana Constable Jesse L. Elliott earned a C. He “has the united support of the liquor dealers, the former runrunners and bootleggers.”

The races for Township officers – constables and justices of the peace – are similarly dissected. A few other county-wide races are also included, but seem to have been largely window dressing, and some of the names of the candidates are not even spelled correctly, including Terry Stephenson, the well-known County Treasurer.

It would be easy to go on quoting quips. James E. McKeeper, running for Supervisor, is dismissed as “A misguided candidate who deserves no mention.” Dr. J.G. Berneicke, running Coroner and Public Administrator, was described as “A perennial candidate. He is a strange man, almost an enigma.”

The 12-page pamphlet closes with a plea to “do your utmost” to defeat Judge Allen, Jesse Elliott, George Holden, and Supervisor N.E. West.[1]

* * *

No one would have been particularly surprised to learn that there was gambling going on in Orange County in the 1930s, or even that Henry Foust was involved. Card clubs and backroom games were easy to find. Slot machines (some masquerading as chewing gum dispensers) could be found in some of the most exclusive night spots in Orange County – and some of the worst dives. Punch boards sat openly on store counters, daring customers to buy a chance to pop out a little piece of cardboard and see if it had a cash prize printed behind it. Bookies were taking bets in towns large and small, while off the coast, gambling ships were anchored just beyond the three-mile limit of county jurisdiction.[2]

A hodgepodge of laws and law enforcement agencies was part of the problem. The county had outlawed slot machines as early as 1901, but had no jurisdiction in incorporated cities. As late as the 1940s, state law made gambling a crime, but not the possession of slot machines, roulette wheels, or other equipment.

What’s more, many of the crimes actually on the books were only misdemeanors, and had to be tried before the local Justice of the Peace. District Attorney after District Attorney complained that it was difficult to secure convictions from juries in the local Justice Courts, especially in the coastal towns like Seal Beach and Balboa, where gambling was particularly prevalent.

And even if the gamblers were convicted, the fines were so low they could easily be paid out of the profits. Then, to add insult to injury, they would demand the return of their confiscated property, including their slot machines.

Henry Foust specialized in slot machines. Officially, his F & S Sales Company was in the vending machine business, but most of his income came from the many slot machines he owned and operated throughout the county.[3]

Foust’s sons grew up in the family business, and eventually took over from their father in the 1940s. “Rhae Foust, son of the man who started it all, remembers when his family controlled slot machines and punchboards, bars, restaurants, and even some newspapers,” according to a Los Angeles Times feature from 1973. “‘When you stop and think, we were pretty much “it” in this county,’ he says, with more pride than bravado.”

“At one time, Rhae Foust recalls, there were more than 2,000 machines in 120 locations – bars, restaurants, private clubs and stores. And the Fousts owned them all.”

Son Jack Foust claimed his family actually helped the county by blocking attempts by L.A. mobsters to take over. He claimed that in 1943, the Fousts told them “that if they tried to move in, we would see to it that the county was shut down – no more gambling of any type. I guess they checked and found out we could back up that threat, because they turned around and went back to Los Angeles.”

Both Foust brothers asserted their father’s friendship with judges, policemen, and district attorneys.[4]

It was those sort of charges that made Fools Rush In a scandal.

* * *

Almost as soon as Fools Rush In hit the streets, efforts began to both suppress it and to arrest anyone associated with it.

As Anaheim City Attorney, George Holden, learned of the pamphlet from the Chief of Police, who had refused to allow it to be distributed in his town. He asked one of his supporters, attorney Leo Friis, to call District Attorney William Menton and alert him. On Menton’s advice, Friis drove to Fullerton and had the distribution crews arrested. Only about 1,500 copies had gone out by then.[5]

From the distributors, he learned that the pamphlet had been printed at the Independent Press Room in Los Angeles. That evening, Friis, Holden, Col. Berry, and Sam Snodgrass met with the printers and were told the pamphlets were ordered by a man named J.M Paulsen, who paid for them in cash. All the men immediately realized that was an alias. Holden told the papers he was certain that the gambling interests were behind Fools, and reminded them that as City Attorney, he had drafted the first anti-bookie ordinance in the county.

District Attorney Menton and Sheriff Logan Jackson set investigators to work on the case, and called on Judge Allen to call the County Grand Jury into session early to investigate the matter. Holden and Berry filed libel charges against “Paulsen” and the printers, Robert Elliott and Burt Harwick, who turned themselves in. The distributors were given 60-day suspended sentences.

With the election just days away, a number of the candidates and their supporters turned to the radio to refute Fools’ charges. Night after night, they went on the air on Santa Ana station KVOE (the “Voice of the Orange Empire”). George Holden continued his attack on the gambling interests:

“You are cowards, devoid of decency and manhood; loathsome, slimy creatures – I challenge you all to come out,” he said. He denied receiving any money from the gambling or bookie interests, and added that S.B. Kaufman had not supported him or donated to his campaign. The gamblers, he said, were actually supporting “two candidates who were rated much higher than I in the pamphlet.”[6]

Judge Allen declined to call the Grand Jury into special session, noting that election laws and libel were misdemeanors, which the Grand Jury did not have the authority to investigate. But officially and unofficially, other investigations continued.

The first surprising discovery was that “Paulsen” had ordered a second pamphlet, which questioned the integrity of San Diego attorney Edgar Hervey, who had been hired by the Board of Supervisors to sue Sheriff Jackson to recover certain fees he had collected which the county now claimed. The bulk of the 64-page pamphlet were excerpts from a 1923 Los Angeles County Grand Jury investigation of a Justice of the Peace named Channing Follette, who was accused of trying to bribe a member of the District Attorney’s staff so he would back off on his investigation of charges Follette had been falsifying bail bonds for bootleggers. Hervey, then a young Los Angeles attorney, was fingered as the bag man in the transaction – or rather, the bread man, since the $700 had been hidden in a loaf of bread.[7]

More shocking was the news that Orange County Deputy Sheriff G.F. McKelvey had signed out the transcript of the Follette investigation just a few weeks before, and kept it for a day. Now a photostat of that very copy was found at the printers, who had used it to set the type for the second pamphlet.[8]

McKelvey denied any wrongdoing. Sheriff Jackson angrily demanded that the District Attorney’s office deny that anyone from the Sheriff’s office had ordered the printing of the second pamphlet. Menton said he had no evidence of any connection. On KVOE, attorney Otto Jacobs – one of Jesse Elliott’s supporters – asked why Jackson had called for a Grand Jury investigation, instead of simply asking his own deputy for the facts.

As the days counted down to the primary election, accusations flew back and forth over the airwaves and in the papers. D.A. Menton scoffed at George Holden’s insistence that the gambling interests were behind Fools Rush In. After all, some of the candidates it endorsed were men of high standing – did Holden mean to say they were in league with the gamblers? “My men have been working night and day on this case,” he told the papers. “We have some very strong suspicions, but as yet we have not completed a chain of legal evidence which would justify us in making an arrest.”[9]

Meanwhile, Jesse Elliott and his supporters were busy trying to link Sheriff Jackson’s office to the pamphlet. In his campaign ads, Elliott claimed, “He is not dictated to or controlled by any group or clique.” And that he, “Has not engaged in or endorsed any malicious propaganda designed to injury any candidates.”[10]

S.B. Kaufman went on KVOE the night before the election to air his suspicions. Fools Rush In, he said, “was written by a man with a keen political mind and a student of political history in Orange County.” He tried in several ways to link the pamphlet back to Jackson and his supporters, pointing out that some of Jackson’s most vocal critics – such as Col. Berry, and Supervisor N.E. West – were singled out for special attacks in it.[11]

The primary election was held on August 30, 1938. About 42,000 of Orange County’s 71,000 registered voters went to the polls. Results for the four key races stressed by Fools Rush In were split down the middle. Judge Allen ran third behind Franklin West and Kenneth Morrison (West would go on to win the race in tight contest that fall), and Jesse Elliott forced Sheriff Jackson into a run-off in November. But N.E. West won re-election to the Board of Supervisors,[12] and George Holden – rated last by Fools – garnered enough votes to face District Attorney Menton in the general election.[13]

* * *

Gambling was hardly the only issue in the 1938 elections, even if Fools Rush In made it a more prominent one.

During the Great Depression, the Republican Party had lost their traditional majority in Orange County, and Franklin Roosevelt carried the county in 1932 and 1936.[14] But as the President expanded the reach of his New Deal, some of his recent converts here began to turn against him and his policies. There were internal conflicts between the various wings of the Democratic Party as well.[15] The county continued to support the Republican candidates for governor, and in the 1940 Presidential election, Wendell Wilkie carried the county.

The brief increase in strength for the Democratic Party in Orange County gave a boost to Democratic officials, such as Supervisor N.E. West. As one of the standard bearers for his party, he even argued that he alone should control the distribution of Federal patronage here, rather than his Republican opponents.[16]

But West was equal opportunity in his rivalries, and sparred with many fellow Democrats as well, including County Assessor Jim Sleeper (grandfather of the historian).[17]

Still, most of West’s favorite targets were Republicans, with Sheriff Logan Jackson high on the list. Jackson claimed that it was his actions during the big Citrus Strike of 1936 that turned West against him.[18]

In June 1936, thousands of Mexican citrus workers walked off the job at the height of the Valencia season, demanding higher pay and better working conditions. When growers brought in other workers to take their place, the strikers tried to disrupt and dissuade them from working. Sheriff Jackson came in solidly on the growers’ side, swearing in hundreds of new deputies and ordering them to keep the peace at all costs. Hundreds of strikers were arrested, and the growers stood firm. After seven weeks the strike collapsed, with most of the strikers’ demands ignored.[19]

Sheriff Jackson was called upon to defend his actions many times during the 1938 campaign. A citrus grower himself, he emphasized the connection between union labor and the Communists who encouraged them in their efforts. Jessie Elliott, he pointed out, was supported by some of the same people who had supported the strike. “Do you think that … Elliott can be a favorite of the Mexican agitators and the farmers at the same time?” he asked in a radio address.[20]

Elliott replied in a newspaper ad that he “Will enforce all law and the law is not subservient to minorities.”[21] But at the same time, he was attending labor rallies, pledging that he would not confront strikers if they were not disturbing the peace.[22]

Superior Court Judge Homer Ames’ opponents also tried to use the 1936 strike against him, representing him as a union sympathizer because of his release of 115 Mexican strikers. He replied that he was only following the law. Ironically, his opponents used a letter from one of the citrus worker unions thanking him for his just treatment in an effort to undermine his campaign.[23]

The new Orange County salary ordinance of 1937, which N.E. West had helped to push through the Board of Supervisors, also became an issue in the ’38 campaign. Prior to that time, certain county officials were allowed by state law to supplement their salaries with any profit from the fees they collected. Under the new county ordinance, they would receive larger salaries, but any profit from their fees went into the county’s general fund.

Now N.E. West maintained that some of the fees they had collected in the past already belonged to the county. He got the Board of Supervisors to agree to a test case to settle the matter, and not surprisingly, selected Logan Jackson as his first target.

District Attorney Menton refused to have anything to do with the lawsuit, calling it “harassment” and “improper,” so the Board agreed to hire an outside attorney to carry it forward.[24]

N.E. West had just the man in mind – San Diego attorney Edgar Hervey, who had successfully defended him earlier that year against Grand Jury charges of misconduct in office. He had been accused of soliciting bribes, and publicly attacking other county officials – notably Sheriff Jackson. “West attended Communist strike meetings,” during the 1936 Citrus Strike, the Los Angeles Times reported, and “berated Sheriff Logan Jackson as a dictator and urged ‘liberal’ elements to oppose enforcement methods.”[25]

District Attorney Menton prosecuted the case, and Edgar Hervey defended West. The slander charges were dropped, and the jury quickly absolved West of bribery.

Sheriff Jackson’s trial in the fee lawsuit cut right through the fall campaign season, beginning in the last week of September. After a few false starts, Hervey concluded that Jackson had kept $100,000 in fees and savings from the costs of feeding prisoners in the county jail, though he never gave a precise accounting. Jackson and his attorneys fought back hard, and pointed out that a similar fee system was in use in 25 other California counties. State law allowed it, they said; the question was did Orange County’s 1937 salary ordinance trump that?

After several postponements, the trial began in earnest in February 1939. By then, the $100,000 claim had melted away to just $21,000, and in the end, the county was awarded just $4,500 – of which Hervey was to receive 27½% as his fee.  

* * *

But the scandal over Fools Rush In continued to haunt the campaign. A week after the primary election, Judge Allen announced that he would finally call the Grand Jury into special session (many people believed his failure to do so before helped cost him the election). He said he had “received reports that certain evidence has been furnished the law enforcement officers, but that no step has been taken.” District Attorney Menton denied having any information to justify any arrests. “We have lots of rumors and some facts, but there is no positive proof implicating anyone,” he said.[26]

Sheriff Jackson also finally got around to suspending G.F. McKelvey on September 6, while still denying any knowledge that his deputy was involved with the pamphlets in any way.

The Grand Jury was empaneled on September 12. Among the members were future County Supervisor Ralph J. McFadden (whose brother, attorney Tom McFadden, had been mentioned in Fools), Charles TeWinkle, who later would serve as the first Mayor of Costa Mesa, and Charles D. Overshiner, an old time Santa Ana newspaperman.

Former Supervisor William Schumacher was selected as foreman. They quickly hired their own special investigator, and on September 14 began calling witnesses. Leo Friis was the first to take the stand, and he was soon followed by Logan Jackson, Jesse Elliott, George Holden, and all the other candidates for District Attorney.

Deputy McKelvey was blunt in his testimony. He never denied signing out the Follette transcript, but said he was acting on his own, and insisted he had nothing to do with it being copied for the second pamphlet. Why would I have signed it out under my own name if I planned to do anything illegal, he asked?

Through it all, he maintained, he was simply trying to protect his boss, Sheriff Jackson.

“If you were working for a man,” he told the jurors, “a man that you respect and you know he is all right, he leads a clean life and does the right thing and you see a man in the public press attacking him, attacking his integrity, do you think you would sit back as an employee and say it doesn’t interest you? Would you have the same loyalty to someone else that you knew if someone was going to hurt a loved one or a friend, wouldn’t you be interested?”[27]

Charley Ott was perhaps the most obstinate of the many witnesses called. A well-known Santa Ana character, many people suspected him as the author of Fools. Suspicions grew when he refused several times to supply samples of his handwriting to investigators. He was cagey and careful in his answers, but seemed eager to show off that he had studied a little law in his time, and even knew some Latin. He also bragged repeatedly that if he had written Fools, he could have done a much better job. “I wouldn’t want to have that rank work tacked on me,” he said.[28]

District Attorney Menton continued to come under fire for his handling of the matter, with some Grand Jurors complaining about his lack of cooperation. On KVOE, he denied “attempting to shield or protect any person or persons,” and said the Grand Jury were the victims of a “studied attempt to misrepresent the facts” in the case.[29]

Others were doing more than misrepresenting the facts. Shortly after midnight on October 7, someone attempted to set fire to one of private investigator’s cars while it was parked in the driveway of Judge Allen’s Santa Ana home. A crude bomb was found, made from a cardboard tube filled with black powder, buckshot, and a few pistol slugs. The fire was quickly extinguished, and no fingerprints were found on the “bomb.”

“Judge Allen said threats had been made against his life ever since he first considered calling the grand jury into session to investigate authorship of the anonymous political pamphlet,” the Santa Ana Journal reported. “Everywhere I have gone for the past three weeks, someone has followed me,” he told a reporter. “I have had three or four telephone calls telling me I wouldn’t live to hear the grand jury report. Once they threatened to blow up my house.”

But other officials suspected the “bomb” was hoax, designed to discredit one of the many private investigators working on the case, or keep to keep things stirred up so there would be more work for them to do.[30]

As the general election approached, Logan Jackson went on the offensive, appearing personally on KVOE. “I did not know the lengths to which the opposition would go to defeat an honest official,” he said in part, adding that he had never known, “a campaign so vicious, so malevolent, so well organized, so well financed, and so false….”

It was Elliott’s supporters, he said, who are, “the people who seek to conduct an illicit business, who want slot machines and gambling and houses of prostitution.” He claimed to have suppressed them, and so they hated him – yet he admitted there was still gambling and prostitution going on in Orange County. He challenged Elliott to take a stand on this vital issue.[31]

Elliott, along with attorney Otto Jacobs, took to the airwaves a few nights later to answer Jackson’s charges. Jacobs led the attack: “What has the sheriff of Orange County been doing the last eight years?” he asked. “Why are they [gambling and prostitution] in Orange County at all?”[32]

And as if to prove his point, Sheriff’s Department officers confiscated 68 punchboards and eleven slot machines in a raid that same day in the northern and western parts of the county.

That night, around midnight, Sheriff Jackson and Deputy McKelvey went to see D.A. Menton at his home. “[T]hey kept me up until daylight in the morning threatening and cajoling and pleading with me to publicly accuse Mr. [Z.B.] McKinney of this crime in order to clear them, which I refused to do. Now we have established beyond any question of a doubt that McKinney had no connection with it, and couldn’t possibly be guilty. I refused to do it and I got plenty of hell for doing that, I will tell you that, from both sides, as a matter of fact.”[33]

The libel suit against the printers was still awaiting trial in the City Recorder’s Court in Fullerton when District Attorney Menton filed criminal conspiracy charges against the printers and distributors of Fools Rush In, along with the still unknown J.M. Paulsen – thus allowing him to charge them with a felony in the Superior Court. The Fullerton case was then dropped. The charges, Menton freely admitted, were designed as leverage to encourage the printers to be more helpful in trying to identify Paulsen, and they were brought down to Orange County several times to try to spot him on the street.

Two weeks before the election, Menton ordered three more conspiracy arrests – Deputy Sheriff McKelvey, J. Malcolm Green, who had been publishing a string of tabloid newspapers in Santa Ana, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach, and Charley Ott.[34]

Green had been attacking public vice (and Sheriff Jackson) in his papers, which seem to have been little more than campaign sheets. Ott was known for his cranky letters to local officials. He also held a special deputy badge from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and was a friend of McKelvey. Menton considered Ott a “nut,” and wasn’t afraid to say so. McKelvey described Green as “a tall slender fellow that was kind of a nuisance around here…. I told the sheriff once that I thought he was a mental case.”[35]

The preliminary hearing dragged on for days. Experts testified that the same typewriter was used on both pamphlets, and that the writing style was similar to articles in Green’s paper – which it turned out was also printed at the Independent Press Room in Los Angeles. McKelvey’s connection to the Follette transcript was reviewed in detail. Ott’s involvement was harder establish, but many people around the county seat, he was admitted, thought they recognized his writing style in Fools.

The hearing was still underway when election day arrived – November 8, 1938. In fact, Sheriff Jackson spent part of the day on the witness stand, trying to connect Ott to the crime. Much was made of the fact that Ott had refused to provide a handwriting sample for the Grand Jury.

Huntington Beach Township Justice of the Peace Chris Pann presided over the 30-day hearing, eventually ruling that there was insufficient evidence to prove criminal libel (despite the 36 witnesses for the prosecution), but that the charges of conspiracy to commit criminal libel could still go forward against McKelvey, printer Robert Elliott, and distributor Eddie Taylor. Ott and Green were released for lack of evidence.

But by then, the election returns were in. Menton lost badly to George Holden, and Jesse Elliott trounced Logan Jackson, 31,000 to 20,000. Jackson didn’t even carry his hometown of Orange.[36]

The conspiracy charges against McKelvey, Elliott, and Taylor died shortly thereafter. Menton, still serving as District Attorney, made the motion for dismissal as soon as the case reached the Superior Court, citing lack of evidence. “This thing has served its political purpose,” he said, catching the attention some of the courtroom observers. Others were savvy enough to realize that his dismissal cleared the way for incoming District Attorney Holden or the Grand Jury to bring new charges in the future.[37]

Green’s papers had already ceased publication, and he had skipped town (leaving some debts behind). Deputy McKelvey was re-instated a few days later, but it was a hollow victory. As was common in those days, Sheriff Elliott replaced most of the officers with his own appointees when he took office a month later. District Attorney Holden did the same.

The Grand Jury investigation had already died for lack of evidence. They also complained that “all through the investigation … we encountered a most unusual situation due to a lack of cooperation on the part of the district attorney of Orange County, as well as the sheriff’s office; that instead of receiving help and assistance as we expected, we believe we were blocked at every turn.”[38]

In fact, they went on to indict William Menton on seven counts of mishandling public funds. He had siphoned off about $1,600 from his department’s budget for his own use, they claimed, and had failed to pay some of the special investigators he hired on the Fools case.[39]

At his trial, Menton was represented by S.B. Kaufman and Sam Collins, both of whom he had worked for when they were serving as District Attorney. He was eventually found not guilty on all charges.[40]

As Sheriff, Jesse Elliott launched a public campaign against gambling in 1939, targeting local bookies and gambling clubs. His biggest raid was at the Inter-City Athletic and Social Club in Seal Beach. Yet gambling remained a misdemeanor, and when the case came up in the Seal Beach Justice Court, the seven defendants simply pled guilty and paid their $100 fines.[41]

Fools Rush In had slipped into history – except with George Holden. In March 1939 he called the Grand Jury back into session, and witnesses were finally able to identify the mysterious J.M. Paulsen. On April 6, a warrant was issued for Michael Francik, an Anaheim bookie, on charges of criminal libel against Col. A.B. Berry and others, and conspiracy to commit criminal libel.

Francik came to Anaheim around 1933. In the county directories of the time, he is listed as an insurance agent, an accountant, or a salesman. Rumors that he was the real J.M. Paulsen were circulating as early as October 1938.

He was also said to be a brother-in-law of Lt. William L. Robertson of the Los Angeles Police Department. Robertson – who left the force under a cloud in 1940 – was long associated with gambling in Seal Beach; and like McKelvey, was a one-time owner of the local paper, the Seal Beach Post and Wave.[42]

Francik – aka Mike Francis – had already left Orange County, and was believed to be in Los Angeles, taking bets on the horses. He managed to avoid officials for almost five months, but on September 2, 1939 he turned himself in to George Holden. At his preliminary hearing, he pled not guilty to all charges, and trial was set for October 2. But ten days later, he returned to court, changed his plea to guilty, paid his $2,000 fine, and walked out a free man.[43]

The Fools Rush In case was at an end.

* * *

It was the fallout from Fools Rush In which had more impact than the pamphlet itself. Few voters, in fact, ever saw it; but many read about it day after day in the newspapers in the fall of 1938.

George Holden made the most of the attacks against him in Fools and its links to the gamblers, which seems to have helped him win election in a crowded field. On the other hand, the officials most criticized for obstructing the investigation into Fools – Judge Allen, Sheriff Jackson, and District Attorney Menton – all paid the price at the polls. “It cost me thousands of votes,” Jackson told the Grand Jury.[44]

The conventional wisdom among the old timers seems to have been that Charley Ott wrote Fools Rush In – and that a lot of it was true.

District Attorney Bill Menton said, “while the pamphlets contained some true statements, they also contain statements which were utterly false and criminal libel besides.”[45] Judge Robert Gardner, who served as a Deputy District Attorney under Menton, considered the charges in Fools to be generally “accurate.”[46] Testifying in the libel suit in 1938, attorney Joel Ogle admitted under cross-examination that the statements about him in Fools – where he was rated D and dubbed, “A youthful candidate and not a heavy one.” – were “just about right.”[47]

But there are riddles within riddles in Fools Rush In. Paid for by the gambling interests, it claimed to be anti-gambling. On that view, the candidates it supported (at least in the law enforcement races) would seem to be the men they wanted in office.

On the other hand, some of the attacks against other candidates were so virulent it is hard not to believe they were simply personal vendettas. And it has to be said that Sheriff Jackson’s political enemies were clearly hated by the author(s) of both pamphlets, with Col. Berry, N.E. West, and Edgar Hervey leading the list.

At this late date, it is difficult to say whether Sheriff Elliott was better at dealing with gambling and vice in Orange County than Sheriff Jackson. There are some who feel he could have been more vigorous in his enforcement, and there is no doubt that gambling continued here during his watch.

Bill Menton, by all accounts, had never been very effective as a District Attorney, and was getting worse as time went on. Robert Gardner, his one-time deputy, remembered him as “a nice, quiet, retiring guy who shouldn’t have been DA.”[48]

George Holden served just one term, losing out to James L. Davis in 1942. Colonel Berry, at least, considered him a good District Attorney. Just five months after he took office, he reported that local gamblers were closing up shop, and that “the books are deadly afraid of George Holden.”[49]

Under Elliott and Davis, the 1944-45 County Grand Jury Report noted that “some laxity seems to be apparent” in enforcing gambling laws, and while “many law technicalities exist making it difficult to obtain convictions,” the Sheriff and the District Attorney “should better coordinate their efforts in the future to enforce the laws relative to slot machines and all forms of gambling.”

It was not until the early 1950s under Elliott’s successor, Jim Musick, that public gambling was finally stamped out in Orange County. Seal Beach was the last community to give in, voting out the card clubs in 1952. This is not to say that gambling went away here, just that the operators had to be more secretive in the future.

Fools Rush In was just one of many political upheavals in 1930s Orange County. But it provides a glimpse into the local politics and personalities of the time, along with the county’s changing attitudes towards vice and gambling.


[1] Since most were ordered destroyed, copies of Fools Rush In are rare, but not impossible to find. An original copy can be found in the Lecil Slaback Collection at the Orange County Archives (acc 2005/3).

[2] For a contemporary description of the rampant gambling in Seal Beach, “A city sold out to the ‘men of chance,’” see the Santa Ana Register, June 20, 1934. Judge Robert Gardner described Balboa’s gambling era in his memoir, Bawdy Balboa (Brea: Sultana Press, 1992), noting that most of the games of change were blatantly rigged in the house’s favor to boot. “Prohibition destroyed a whole generation of law enforcement officers who simply gave up trying to enforce an unenforceable law and, too many times, sold out to the bootleggers,” he noted. The same was true of organized gambling.

[3] Henry Foust (1881-1953) came to Orange County around 1923, and after working a few years for Sheffler Bros., a Los Angeles slot machine supplier, he formed the F & S Sales Co. in the early ‘30s with Frank Showalter of Orange. They rented space for their machines in businesses and clubs throughout the county, and both parties got a share of the take. Foust was also associated with the original Orange County Athletic Club in Delhi, which staged boxing matches and other sporting events. An obituary can be found in Billboard magazine, July 18, 1953, where he is described as an “old line coin machine operator.”

[4] Evan Maxwell, “When Gambling Flourished Along County’s Coast,” Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1973.

[5] 25,000 copies had been printed; 1,000 were distributed in Fullerton, and another 500 in La Habra. 8,500 copies were later dumped in a ditch down by Martin's Airport, and the remaining 15,000 were still at the printers. (Santa Ana Journal, August 22, 1938).

[6] Anaheim Gazette, August 25, 1938. Fortunately for later researchers, many of these radio talks were also published in the local papers as advertisements or articles.

[7] No copies of the second pamphlet seem to have survived, and none were ever distributed. None of the contemporary sources give the actual title, but it seems to have been an old Latin legal maxim, Acta Exteriora Indicant Interiora Secreta, or Outward Acts Indicate Inward Intent. Judge Follette was eventually convicted of perjury charges relating to the scandal and did time in San Quentin. See the Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1923, February 3, 10, 1924.

[8] Glen F. McKelvey (1890-1959) came to Huntington Beach during the oil boom of the early 1920s, and worked many years for the Standard Oil Company. He was active in Republican politics, the American Legion, and other civic organizations. He was hired by Logan Jackson as a Deputy Sheriff in 1931, and served throughout Jackson’s two terms. In 1941, he became the editor of the Seal Beach Post and Wave. In the late 1950s, he returned to law enforcement – albeit briefly – as Clerk of the Huntington Beach/Seal Beach Municipal Court. For a brief biography, see the Huntington Beach News, October 30, 1941.

[9] Santa Ana Journal, August 29, 1938. William F. Menton (b 1874) was a linotype operator for the Santa Ana Register beginning around 1908. He studied law in his free time, and was admitted to the Bar in 1915. In 1917 he became a Deputy District Attorney under L.A. West. When he resigned in 1920, Menton had hoped to be appointed to replace him, but the job went to Alex P. Nelson, and Menton left the District Attorney’s office. In the 1930s he served as a deputy under both Sam Collins and S.B. Kaufman, and was eventually appointed D.A. after Collins resigned in 1935. He left Orange County around 1940. For a biography and portrait, see Pleasants, History of Orange County (1931), vol. 2, pp 158-61.

[10] Santa Ana Journal, August 29, 1938.

[11] Santa Ana Journal, August 30, 1938.

[12] N. Elliott West (1889-1976) was one of the most contentious figures to ever sit on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. He was the “Pepperpot” of the Board, according to a 1941 newspaper profile, with “his rough-and-ready tactics and somewhat raucous idealism.” (Orange Daily News, July 26, 1941). “He was a militant minority,” his own biography admits, “his fighting spirit and dogged determination routing forces that outnumbered him but could not stand against his logic and sense of justice.” He was a Harvard graduate and a World War I veteran, who came to Laguna Beach in 1921 after he had married Agnes Yoch, the daughter of a prominent local real estate developer. After his father-in-law’s death, he took over the family business. He served two terms as Supervisor, in the meantime running unsuccessfully for Congress in 1936, 1940, and 1942. His biography in Thomas B. Talbert (ed.), The Historical Volume and Reference Works (1963), vol. 3, pp 672-77, is probably based on his unpublished memoirs.

[13] George Holden (1897-1973) came to Anaheim as a young attorney in 1924. Besides his private practice, he also served as City Attorney for many years. He later joined the staff of the County Counsel’s office and served as County Counsel from 1961-64. For biographies, see the Orange Daily News, May 21, 1941 and Mrs. J.E. Pleasants, History of Orange County, California (Los Angeles: J.R. Finnell & Sons, 1931), vol. 2, pp 161-62.

[14] Democrats took the lead in local voter registration by 1936. During the primaries in 1938, the totals were 38,461 registered Democrats to 29,852 Republicans, and the Democrats held a majority in four of the five Supervisorial districts (Santa Ana Journal, August 3, 1938).

[15] Some supported Upton Sinclair's EPIC movement, others back the Townsend Plan. South Coast News, April 3, 1936.

[16] Huntington Beach News, July 29, 1935.

[17] South Coast News, January 7, 1938.

[18] Logan Jackson (1884-1967) came to Orange as a boy, worked as a building contractor for many years, and owned a citrus ranch in El Modena. He served as Constable of the Orange Township from 1911-18. For biographies, see Pleasants, History of Orange County (1931), vol. 2, pp 410-13, and Talbert (ed.), The Historical Volume and Reference Works (Whittier: Historical Publishers, 1963), vol. 3, pp 497-501.

[19] For a detailed account of the strike and the events surrounding it, see Gilbert González, Labor and Community, Mexican Citrus Worker Villagers in a Southern California County, 1900-1950 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

[20] Anaheim Gazette, October 20, 1938; see also his ad in the Santa Ana Journal, October 17, 1938.

[21] Anaheim Gazette, October 27, 1938.

[22] Santa Ana Register, October 25, 1938.

[23] Anaheim Gazette, November 3, 1938. A copy of the letter can be found in the Willard Smith Papers at the Orange County Archives (acc. 2008/12).

[24] Anaheim Gazette, August 18, 1938.

[25] Los Angeles Times, January 27, 1938.

[26] Santa Ana Journal, September 6, 1938.

[27]  Grand Jury testimony, October 4, 1938. It is interesting to note that the Fools Rush In testimony is virtually the only transcripts preserved in the Grand Jury records at the Orange County Archives (Acc. 1993/10).

[28] Grand Jury testimony, October 13, 1938. Charles W. Ott (1878-1939) grew up in Santa Ana. As a young man, he had a reputation for practical jokes. His most famous was a fake news story that had the town all but demolished in a tremendous Santa Ana Wind. He left Santa Ana for a number of years to work for the Union Pacific railroad. For several years prior to his arrest, he had been working as a clerk in the Santa Ana WPA office.

[29] Santa Ana Journal, September 27, 1938.

[30] Santa Ana Journal, October 7, 8, 1938.

[31] Santa Ana Journal, October 11, 1938.

[32] Santa Ana Journal, October 20, 1938.

[33] Grand Jury testimony, September 14, 1938. McKinney was a Santa Ana attorney who had been incorrectly identified as the mysterious “J.M. Paulsen” at one point.

[34] “Mal” Green, 29, came from a well-to-do Pasadena family. He had hoped to be elected to the Orange County Republican Central Committee at the August primaries, but was defeated. Two of his papers were the Santa Ana Bee and the Laguna Ledger. The South Coast News (October 25, 1938) complained that the Ledger “had as its objective the stirring up of strife in Laguna and unfounded attacks on Laguna officials.”

[35] Grand Jury testimony, October 4, 1938.

[36] Jesse L. Elliott served as Constable of the Santa Ana Township for twenty years before being elected Sheriff. For a profile of the “tall … sparsely built” Southerner, see the Orange Daily News, April 19, 1941. He died just two years after leaving office, at age 60; see his obituary in the Huntington Beach News, March 17, 1949.

[37] Santa Ana Register, November 26, 1938.

[38] Santa Ana Register, March 1, 1939.

[39] South Coast News, February 21, April 25, 1939.

[40] Orange Daily News, May 5, 1939.

[41] Los Angeles Times, June 24, August 12, 1939.

[42] In the 1930s, Robertson was connected with the Inter-city Athletic & Social Club in Seal Beach, “looking after things, or more or less advising them,” as he later explained. From 1950-53 he was one of the owners of the Airplane Club in Seal Beach, Orange County’s last big time public gambling operation. If someone is looking for another interesting Orange County gambling story to run down, Lt. Robertson would make a good target. See (for a start) his testimony before the Kefauver Committee in 1950 in Investigation of Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, U.S. Senate Report, 81st Congress, 2nd Session (1951), available online at www.archives.org.

[43] Orange Daily News, September 12, 1939.

[44] Grand Jury testimony, October 3, 1938.

[45] Santa Ana Register, September 6, 1938.

[46] Personal correspondence, June 17, 2003.

[47] Santa Ana Journal, November 8, 1938.

[48] Personal correspondence, June 17, 2003.

[49] Santa Ana Independent, May 5, 1939.