When a vicious killer is caught, sometimes the townspeople lose control of their emotions and take matters into their own hands. While it is a little less common these days, people would sometimes storm the jail to execute the prisoners themselves. Often it was thought that justice would not be served in the court system. People fear the possibility that the killer might get off and be back out in society again. These days, it is pretty hard to storm a jail, but jails weren’t as secure then, as they are now.
On November 9, 1933, Brooke Hart was abducted by two men in his own Studebaker. His family received a $40,000 ransom demand and, soon after, Hart’s wallet was found on a tanker ship in a nearby bay. The investigative trail led to John Holmes and Thomas Thurmond, who implicated each other in separate confessions. Both acknowledged, that Hart had been pistol-whipped and then thrown off the San Mateo Bridge. After Hart’s body washed ashore on November 25, a vigilante mob began to form. Newspapers reported the possibility of a lynching and local radio stations broadcast the plan. Not only did Governor James Rolph reject the National Guard’s offer to send assistance, he reportedly said he would pardon those involved in the lynching. Now, when you have a governor who is on the side on the lynch mob, you have a volatile situation.
On November 26, 1933, thousands of people in San Jose, California, stormed the jail where Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes were being held. The angry mob converged at the jail and beat the guards, using a battering ram to break into the cells. Then, Thurmond and Holmes were dragged out and hanged from large trees in a nearby park. Contrary to the way most of us think, when our emotions aren’t raw, the public seemed to welcome the gruesome act of vigilante violence. After the incident, pieces of the lynching ropes were sold to the public. Though the San Jose News declined to publish pictures of the lynching, it condoned the act in an editorial. Seventeen-year-old Anthony Cataldi bragged that he had been the leader of the mob but he was not held accountable for his participation. At Stanford University, a professor asked his students to stand and applaud the lynching. Perhaps most disturbing, Governor Rolph publicly praised the mob. “The best lesson ever given the country,” said Governor Rolph. “I would like to parole all kidnappers in San Quentin to the fine, patriotic citizens of San Jose.” I understand the anger, but not the method. While the two killers might have deserved the death penalty for their crimes, this was not the way it should have happened. Nevertheless, I guess justice was served…even if it was vigilante justice.
Bob and I, along with our granddaughter, Shai Royce have looked forward to our trip to Seattle, Washington to see her parents and brother for the three and a half months since they moved there. It has been a long and sad time for us here, and them there. Now that the trip is over, the sadness has come flooding back in again. The trip was lovely and we all had such a nice time. It was so good to be able to see where they live and tour the area. We talked and laughed, and just enjoyed each other’s company again. It felt a little bit like old times, except that we were in the wrong place for old times. So, it is like new times, instead of old times.
All week we tried not to think about just how fast the week was going. Nevertheless, it was going by fast. You can’t slow time down. It goes at the pace that it does, and it doesn’t care how you feel about it. There are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a week. And you have to sleep some of them too, unfortunately. That makes a short amount of time go even faster. And a week is such a short time anyway.
This trip was centered around Amy and her husband, Travis Royce renewing their vows for their twentieth anniversary too, so there was a group of people, and not just us. We had to share them, and what I really wanted to do was to have them all to ourselves. Nevertheless, share we must, so share we did. And I understood it too, because we weren’t the only ones who had missed them. Still, we had a very nice time. It was just too short.
Bob and I have often taken just one week of vacation at a time, and thereby had two weeks of vacation at separate times, but with our daughter and family living so far away, I can certainly understand why my parents always wanted to take at least two weeks to go visit when they had daughters who lived far away. Maybe if we had taken two weeks, it wouldn’t have felt like it went by so fast, but then again, probably not. In reality, it doesn’t matter how much time you have, because it will just never be long enough.
During the week we were with Amy, and her family, it was easy to distance ourselves from the time that was coming so quickly, when we would have to leave them…at least most of the time anyway. We did all the things that tourists would do, as if this was just another carefree trip with no impending separation, but inside I knew that in just a matter of days, we would all be feeling the rush of sadness once again.
When the last day arrived, we went to breakfast, still able to pretend that it was a day like any other day, but all too quickly that time passed too, and the easy conversation of the meal at the restaurant turned into the quiet reflection of the sadness we all dreaded. In the end, the words simply stuck in our throats behind the tears we were trying so hard to hold back. Of course, we failed miserably, and the tears ran silently down our cheeks. We hugged each other, once and then again and again, but finally we had to leave. The ride to the airport was very quiet. We simply couldn’t speak. I thought about how Amy must be feeling, and the story Shai had shared with me about her first day at work. She set the pictures of her family on the shelf in her cubicle, and with a rush of emotion thought about the fact that she could not hug her daughter. I knew she would be feeling the same way again. We had hugged each other over and over and spent as much time together as we possibly could, but in the end, it is just never enough.
I talked to my Aunt Sandy Pattan yesterday. She wanted me to post that the family picnic was coming up. That is a common event each year, but what surprises me is that so many people do not attend. I know what they are thinking…there’s always time next year, but what if there isn’t. As Aunt Sandy said, we are all getting older…and the older ones are getting fewer and fewer. We have lost so many over the last few years…Aunt Deloris Johnson, Uncle Elmer Johnson, my dad, Al Spencer, Uncle Larry Byer, and Uncle Jack McDaniels…and our cousin, Forrest Beadle, along with various other cousins that passed as babies. For these, there is no more time. We will not see them again in this life. And there is no time table that we are privy to that tells us just how much time we have with each of our other family members.
For me, there is a loneliness that comes with each passing. I always wish that I had more time. I kick myself for thinking that there was always time to go visit them. We are all busy, but on this one day, and the Christmas party day, it is easy to go see several of them at once. When they come together in one group it is a joyous occasion and the stories fly. It really is a blessed time. It’s a time to meet any family members you might not know or at least, not well, because as we grow, it becomes harder to know everyone well.
For Aunt Sandy, the youngest of the nine siblings, the passing of each brother-in-law, feels like it did to lose her own sister and brother, because some of them have been a part of her family since she was a little girl. She told me that they are as much her brothers as her own brothers. Sometimes, you don’t think about that. They have always been there, it seems, and the thought that they might not be someday is a hard thing to think about. The older we get, the more that realization comes to us. Regret is a cruel emotion, and one that only you can avoid. Never look back on life thinking I wish…! It is the hardest thing to do. So many moments present themselves each and every day, to do things that we give us peace…or as much peace as is possible after a loved one dies…that we did everything we could to let them know we love them, and that we enjoy being around them. Don’t wait…there isn’t always time…the time is now.
Some little boys have such a sweet nature that it is almost surprising…especially when they are also a little bit tough guy. That pretty much describes my grand nephew, Matthew. When he was little he used to play fighting ninja on demand. He would try to make sure we all knew not to mess with him, and yet inside this little boy was a very kind heart. He loves to be a helper, especially when it involves his grandma, my sister, Cheryl. Matthew would do anything for her. He loves her so much. And second to her would have to be my mom, his great grandmother, but then, Matthew is a very loving guy, and he thinks he whole family is pretty great.
When Matthew was little…in his ninja days, I fully expected him to be a tough guy, who never showed much emotion, but then came the day that he walked in the door to my mom’s house, saw me sitting in the first chair he came to, and he walked right up to me and gave me a big hug. I was so surprised. It was just such a loving, sweet thing to do…not a tough guy move at all, but it was a Matthew move, as I have since found out.
To me it seemed like Matthew changed from tough guy to loving guy overnight. I’m sure that wasn’t the case, but I don’t see him every day…more like once a week or so. I suppose that in church there is just too much going on to notice the changes, but when he came into Mom’s living room, there were no distractions, and this sweet little boy simply acted on the feelings in his heart. His loving hug for me, his great aunt was such a precious act, and one that has stayed in my heart ever since. Little did he know that his actions that day brought joy into the heart of his work weary great aunt. And even if it meant little more than a hello hug to him, it made my entire day. How awesome that was.
Today, that sweet little boy turns 7 years old…also, unbelievable. I know that as he grows, he will become more and more loving, because it is simply in his nature. Happy birthday Matthew!! I love you very much sweet boy!! Have an awesome day!!