The Trouble with Great-Grandpa Luis


Chasing family history can be fun, but it can also be difficult and even a little surprising. For instance I’ve been trying learn why my great-grandfather Luis Jose Olivera left his family in Scotia, California, and returned to the Azores.

It could be that I’ve finally found the reason and it is not a happy one. It appears he was in trouble with the law and may have been compelled to leave the country.

From the 1938 ‘Modesto Bee and Herald-News,’  datelined: “Merced, August 9 – District attorney F.A. Silveira yesterday filed complaints charging eight dairymen with violation of a quarantine order of the department of agriculture issued August 1st against the movement of milk taken from reactors into market channels.”

The final paragraph of the story reads: “The dairymen named are Joe Lawrence, Antone G. Pimentel, George Silveira, Antonio Silva, Saverino M. Souza, Joaquin Olivera, Frank Roberto, Joe Oliveira and Augustine Ferreira.”

A number of times during my searches for great-Grandpa Luis, I’ve found his name and my Grandpa Joaquin Luis Olivera to be confused with one another. It has happened to me a time or two, when people referred to me as ‘Thomas Darby, Jr.,’ when they actually meant my dad, whose full name was ‘Thomas Junior Darby.’

(I’ve also found instances of Lou, Louis, Joe and Joseph.)

Great-grandpa’s troubles seem to start five years earlier though, when is appears he was implicated in a ‘swindle case probe.’ I found the story in the January 28, 1938 edition of the Oakland Tribune.

Evidently a dragnet had been established to keep the alleged ringleader from getting away. In this case V.L Coffelt and L.W. Garcia were arrested by the District Earl Warren’s office.

It completed the roundup of officials and agents of the ‘Pittsburg Building and Loan Association’ and the ‘Lusitania Corporation, Ltd.,’ who were accused of participation in a swindle of some Central California residents.

According to the article, Coffelt, vice-president of the Pittsburg company and secretary of the other, was captured on the Altamont Pass highway after eluding police sent to Los Angeles. As for Garcia, described as “an agent for the interlocking companies,” he was arrested in Mariposa and returned to jail.

Two other men, also described as agents, Jack Freitas and Rufino Fernandez, were taken into custody at Fernandez’ Oakland home. Earlier that day, G.R Searl, secretary of the Pittsburg and president of the Lusitania, was arrested at the company’s headquarters, while agent Frank L. Smith, was handcuffed in Sacramento.

All were charged with grand theft and booked ‘for investigation,’ to prevent release on bail until witnesses, many of them unable to read or write, can identify them. All, with the exception of Coffelt, were taken to Hayward and questioned by the D.A., Warren.

So how does my great-Grandfather fit into all this?

Evidently, Fernandez told investigators that he acted as a ‘salesman,’ for the companies and that another company, ‘General Explosive & Powder Company,’ was brought into the case by Joaquin Olivera, of Niles. Meanwhile, Police Judge George H. Hickman, secretary of the powder company claimed no knowledge of the stock fraud scheme.

Fernandez also told officials that he ‘worked on’ Olivera and Antonio Silva to invest $7,000 and $6,000 respectively into the Lusitania Corporation.  He then admitted he directed Freitas to take Silva and Olivera to a couple of women’s homes to tell them about their investments and the great returns they were getting on the money.

Problem is, there were no returns and the women, smelled a rat, but not before handing over their savings to Freitas. Emily Pine gave the alleged con-artist over $6225 and later using the same ruse, bilked Antonia Gonsalves and her three daughters, Laura, Adeline and Louise, out of $1,500.

By all appearance, my great-grandpa was cleared of any charges brought against him and he even went on to become a complainant in the case against the company officers. But by then he was a marked man and under the watchful eye of the law and a second brush with the legal system sent him packing for the old country.

The chase continues.


Two Brothers Arrested in String of Vegas Robberies

In fairness, this news article is about two young men I have known since they were in grade school. Imagine their mother’s heartbreak, seeing one of her two eldest children in the television news, wanted for committing a violent crime.

That is how this story came to be known by me.

Las Vegas Metro police arrested two brothers in connection with a string of violent purse snatchings. Raymond and Brent Cline are suspected in at least four incidents in the northwest valley.

In a robbery on January 5th, one of the men ran up behind a woman about midnight as she returned home and entered her garage near St. Rose Parkway and Bermuda Road. He grabbed her purse and dragged her across the driveway before she let go.

During another robbery, a woman was injured as one of the suspects ripped her wallet from her hands. In a third one, one of the suspects entered a grocery store within the area of Centennial Hills and Ann Road.

He then exited the business and approached the victim in the parking lot at which time he robbed her of her wallet. The suspect then ran and entered a vehicle which then sped off.

In September 2010, Brent Cline was charged with unlawful use and possession of drug paraphernalia. His older brother, Raymond was arrested in November 2011 for petty larceny.

Both men are in the Clark County Detention Facility awaiting hearings. Meanwhile Metro Police continue to investigate the robberies.

Personal Mail Arrives

Today, I got my first piece of ‘personal’ mail for 2014 — not a bill or an ad, but a real letter. I’m so tickled pink, that I could hardly wait to share it with you.

It comes from my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Van Zanten, whose now 100-years-old. And with the note comes a nice photograph of her inside the card.


It reads:

“Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you very much for your beautiful and thoughtful Christmas Cards sent to Mom. As ones’ visited, they would take time to read them to her. She was one happy Lady receiving and hearing from you! As we get older many tasks we had taken for granted we are unable to do now. For years Mom enjoyed sending cards but unfortunately at her age and poor eyesight she is unable to continue. I promised her that I’d contact you all with a card thanking each and every one of you for thinking of her with your loving cards and notes. Mom greatly appreciated hearing from each of you and wanted to wish you all a very happy an healthy New Year 2014. When time allows please send her another line or two catching her up on your news. There is always someone around to read your cards/letters as she enjoys you keeping in touch with her.

Love to all. Valeria, Maurya and Darol.”

Excuse me, I have mail to answer.

The Art of Surviving the Flu and Writing

“Starve a fever and feed a cold.” It’s the only thing I could think of, besides dying, when I came down with the flu five days ago.

Since then I’ve found my self struggling to complete even the smallest of tasks, including getting out of bed or answering the phone. This illness has left me zapped and I lack the want to do anything – including write.

But it is now day five and I have to change things around. I must sit up right at my computer and tap out some sort of message before I fall over into bed, to suffer more fevered dreams and hallucinations.

The weirdest dream involved a radio friend of mine. She was in a large bed and I was in the bathroom.

When I came to the side of the bed, I asked if I could cuddle with her. She told me ‘no,’

She was on the far side of the bed, so I climbed onto the bed and lay down on the opposite side. When I awoke, my friend had changed her mind and was laying against me.

Then I woke up for real, only to discovered our lab was sleeping against me in the same position I though my friend was laying.

The first night actually began early Sunday afternoon. I had a severe tickle in my nose and figured it was wild hair that wiggled with every breath I drew.

Later that evening, my shoulders and head started to ache. It was at this time I concluded something bad was happening inside my body, so I took immediate action: hot lemonade with a shot of rum, several layers of clothing added by three or four heavy blanket, followed by sleep.

It’s worked before.

By early morning, I was freezing, but sweaty, exhausted from tossing and turning and ready to go step in front of a bus. I didn’t think the last part would really help, since I already felt like a bus had hit me.

Sleep – it’s basically all I did that day into the next.

By the end of 48-hours much of the general aches and pains had subsided. The only lingering effect remaining was a serious case of malaise and that headache.

Still, I couldn’t muster the energy to write. Instead I lay in bed creating stories and articles in my head, hoping that I’d recall them once I felt better.

But like many of the strange dreams and hallucinations I’ve had over the last few days, I find it hard to recall what I had planned so perfectly in my head.

Lastly, I haven’t had a flu shot since 1985, when I was still in the service. After that one, I decided never to have another because I was so sick I could hardly stand-up and I lost 15-pounds in less than a week.

Plus, I have tried several cures including those which are simply ‘wives-tales,’ to true homeopathic remedies – and nothing has resolved my suffering.  Plus, I don’t like going to the doctor and getting antibiotics because I think they’re over-prescribed and the reason the 24-hour bug lasts longer than 120-hours these days.

So I’m going to do what my old man would’ve done – pull myself up by the boot straps, roll-up my sleeves and get moving. As for the writing part – well – I’ll let you judge that for yourself.

Latest VA Suicide Figures Released

“Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans,” screams the headline from CBS News. But there is more to the story than the report first admits too – and while one suicide is one too many, the report is better than you think.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released its ‘Suicide Data Report 2014.’ The study’s author, Janet E. Kemp, RN, PhD, used data from the VA and 23 states to look at the issue of suicide and the military veteran.

The Census Bureau estimates there are 21.5 million veterans in the United States, with 19.3 million male veterans and 2.2 million women vets. However, the 23 states studied contain less than 50- percent of the U.S. population in 2012.

Included is data from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Interestingly, the state with the second largest population, California is not included in the study.

Veterans, ages 18-24 enrolled in the VA’s health program, killed themselves at a rate of 80 per 100,000 in 2011. This means two veterans a day in this age group, commit suicide, down from the 22 per day in 2010.

The study also shows suicide among civilian men, 35 to 64, increasing by more than 27-percent. On the other hand, the suicide rate dropped over 16-percent for male veterans in the same age group..

For women 35 to 64, who served, a 31.2 percent rate was found while the rate for civilians was slightly higher at 31.5 percent. The greatest percentage of suicides among female veterans resulted from both poisoning and firearm injury, while men tend to use a firearm in most cases.

If you are currently active duty military or a veteran and are experiencing emotional difficulties, call the VA’s Suicide Prevention Office at 1-800-273-8255.

Del Norte’s Memorial to WW II Veterans

Near the current entrance to the Jed Smith State Park campground, a memorial stone sits 20 feet from Highway 199, north of Crescent City, California. Hundreds drive by it daily, never realizing it’s there.

Following World War II, a push to form memorials to its veterans was made. Small memorials were established all over the country, but one in particular has national significance and it’s been there since 1949.

The memorial is like no other. This is because the ‘National Tribute Grove,’ includes 5,000 acres of old-growth redwood forest.

Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur, a former Secretary of the Interior, said “Instead of stone or concrete, this monument is made up of living trees, survivors of centuries of combat with storm, drought, fire and flood.”

At the start of the war, the land was owned by the Del Norte Lumber Company.  The ‘Save the Redwoods League’ contracted with the company to buy the land as ten, 500-acre parcels and asked Americans to give to the cause.

The 5,000 acres purchased with these donations are almost half of the park. The names given with the donations were published in the ‘Golden Book,’ with one copy to be kept in the state and another in Washington, D.C.

Adopting the grove as a national project, the ‘Daughters of the American Revolution’ took up the goal of purchasing the final 500-acre parcel, raising over $26,000 through thousands of 10 to 29 cent donations.

The state of California matched the DAR donation dollar for dollar to make the final purchase. Located on the only part of the grove along the highway, the monument was placed so that anyone traveling 199 would see it.

The monument was unveiled September 15th, 1929, during a dedication ceremony. Mrs. Roscoe C. O’Byrne, the DAR President General, gave a speech about the importance of the trees to the veterans and to America.

“We recognize that conservation is of vital importance to this country,” she said. “Unless we conserve, we shall be among the nations that have not. Preservation of this grove is a lesson in conservation to every American. We should apply this lesson not only to our trees, but to our very national life.”

She concluded, “In loving memory of the men and women of our country who served in the world war, we dedicate these trees to their courage, to their fidelity and to their sacrifice. May this ‘Land where our fathers died’ never be despoiled by the enemies of democracy.

“May these trees stand through the centuries as living symbols of the enduring strength of a free people, a great nation, our own United States of America,” she concluded.