Madera County Historical Society
As this photograph shows, illegal liquor traffic was not tolerated in Madera, especially when Sheriff John Barnett (second from the right) was involved. One hundred years ago, this pioneer lawman set up a scam to trap a prominent hotel owner who was “blind pigging” (selling booze illegally).
50 Years Ago
Week of June 10, 1968
MADERA HIGH SCHOOL COMMENCEMENT EXERCISE TONIGHT — Commencement exercises for the Madera High School Class of 1968 will be tonight at 8:15 at the Madera High School Memorial Stadium. Commencement speakers will be Bruce McAlister, Donn Imrie, and Marra Hyde. Debra Roberts is the class valedictorian and Charles Anderson is the class salutatorian. Among those graduating are Allen Cosyns, Candace Daulton, Gerald Desmond, Richard Farinelli, Joetta Flores, Donn Furman, Gail Hanhart, Melanee Noblett, Margaret Ann Pitman, Keith Rigby, Linda Sitterding, Sandra Jo Tesei, and Richard Valorosi.
DARING CLOTHING ROBBERY AT CERIONI’S — Brash burglars who displayed quite a selective eye took thousands of dollars worth of clothes from Cerioni’s Men and Boys Shop on D Street in the early hours of today. Police said thieves gained entry to the building between 2 and 3 a.m. by boldly smashing two display windows in the front of the shop. Despite their obvious means of entry, the burglars were apparently unconcerned in going about their pilfering. Most of the clothes taken were sizes 38 through 40, and the thieves left behind indications that they took time to try on other sized clothing but discarded them since they apparently did not fit.
BERENDA, ALPHA SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED PERMANENTLY — Berenda and Alpha Schools closed this week, not only for the summer but forever. Madera Unified School District board of education members voted unanimously in a special meeting to lock the doors of both school buildings because they are structurally unsafe. The sixth through eighth grades, which have been housed at Berenda School since unification will go next year to Dixieland School. Pupils from the Alpha School, which has been accommodating kindergarten, first, second, and third grade children, are to attend next year at La Vina. Parkwood children who have been attending La Vina are to be shifted to Eastin-Arcola.
FATAL CRASHES CAUSE PROBE INTO BASS LAKE STRIP — A state investigation of the Bass Lake airport, which claimed four lives Friday afternoon, is underway. The State Attorney General’s Office is making the probe. The Bass Lake Airport does not have a state permit, never has had one, and is not legally open to the public. It cannot meet length and other requirements. The four Southern Californians who lost their lives there Friday apparently were the victims of a combination of factors, including the short runway length, the rise of Chepo Saddle at the north end, and the warm mountain air. Victims included the husband of former child star Jane Withers, and Kenneth Errair, who was a member of The Four Freshmen singing group before his marriage to the actress.
STRICT GUN LAW PROPOSED BY KENNEDY LAWMAKER — A strict gun registration and licensing bill intended to keep California from “moving toward an armed camp,” has been unveiled in the legislature by Democratic Assemblyman Winfield Shoemaker, a member of the presidential delegation pledged to assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. He said it would be the toughest gun-control bill in the nation. “No matter what we do, we are not going to completely remove from American society the man with a gun who will take someone’s life,” he said, “But the need for someone to do something has been horribly illustrated in the last few weeks.
100 Years Ago
Week of June 10, 1918
A STORY OF POLICE INTRIGUE IN MADERA: $400 FINE FOR BLIND PIGGING — A fine of $400 each was the penalty fixed this morning by Judge Cornell for violation of the new city liquor ordinance, which went into effect only three months ago. Chas. A. Dworack, owner of the Park Hotel and a citizen of this city for the past 30 years, was one of the victims in a trap set by City Marshall J.H. Barnett and who entered a plea of guilty before the court this morning. The other victim was G. Marssi, an Italian who has been conducting a soft drink house at the corner of 5th and F Streets.
The arrests were made by the city marshall, who has been on the trail of a number of suspected “blind piggers” here for some time. He stated today that he had been informed several times that different parties had been securing liquor at the Park Hotel. With a desire to put a halt to violations of the law, Marshal Barnett called upon Mr. Dworack yesterday morning and informed him of what he had heard. Dworack denied the charge flatly, and the officer told him that if he were doing anything of the kind, “he had better cut it out or he would be caught.”
Marshall Barnett decided that in the face of this warning, the present would be a good time to set a trap. He marked a silver dollar by scratching a cross on the wing of the eagle and placed it in the hands of one of his henchmen. This party was instructed to go to the Park Hotel and ask for a bottle of beer, and those instructions were carried out. Marshall Barnett, Night Officers Hobbs and Rea, and Special Officer Wells were hidden across the street.
In a few minutes, they saw the party who had the marked silver dollar come out of the hotel, and the officers took from him the package he was carrying. The arrest of Dworack immediately followed. He was searched, and the marked coin was found on his person. In the package were found three bottles of beer. Mr. Dworack was taken to jail, and the trap was set for the Italian.
The same decoy and the same marked coin were used, and the Italian bit as was expected. In the rear of his place was found a tub filled with ice water and a quantity of 13 bottles of beer.
Marshall Barnett states he has suspected Marssi of violating the liquor law a number of times, but he was never able to set a trap that worked on him before. The officer’s movements were always detected, and the place closed up before he could arrive on the scene. This time the Italian was caught and he was taken to jail.
Mr. Dworack was given a chance to make a statement in his own behalf. He said he had been a loyal and good citizen of Madera for the past thirty years and that this had been the first time he has ever been arrested for a crime and the first time he has ever been in jail. He said the young man who gave him the coin came to him in great distress and with tears in his eyes asked for a bottle of beer. Mr. Dworack said he told him he did not know if there was any liquor in the house or not but he would see.
He said he went to the refrigerator and found a bottle. This he handed to the young man who was not satisfied with that but asked for some more. Mr. Dworack said he made a further search and found two more bottles, which he turned over and then accepted the dollar, feeling that it would be impossible for him to give beer away. He pleaded ignorance of the law.
The district attorney said he could see no reason why the court should show any leniency whatsoever. Mr. Dwoark was sentenced to a fine of $400 or one year in jail. Upon paying his fine this afternoon, he was released from custody.
The Italian remains in jail, being unable to pay his fine.