Gangs did battle at Eastside School

July 6, 2019

For The Madera Tribune

Clay Daulton, left, stands beside his brother, Raynor. As a youngster, the highly respected cattleman wasn’t above some playground fisticuffs.

Lawrence Fernandez, Madera Unified’s chief of security and gang prevention specialist, may be surprised to learn that gangs in Madera’s schools can be traced back to when there was only one school in town. He also might be surprised to find out that the membership of two of these gangs would read like a “Who’s Who’s of early Madera, and every once in a while they made the news. 

 

One of these gangs was led by Jack Brammer, son of the owner of Brammer’s shoe store. The head of the rival gang was Henry Clay Daulton II, son of Jack Daulton and grandson of Madera County rancher, Henry Clay Daulton. When these young scholars weren’t tending to their studies, they were on the school yard of Eastside School planning their next jousting match. 

 

On one particular morning at recess, Brammer was in an especially sporting mood. Desiring to prove the metal of his gang with a match of muscles, he gathered his followers around him on the playground and threw down the gauntlet. He announced to the rival squad that Ed Murphy, from his group, was going to whip Clay Daulton, leader of the opposition, after school that day. 

 

“Ed can beat Clay anytime,” taunted Brammer. Murphy looked at Daulton and swallowed hard. He had doubts, but he also had no choice. If Brammer said he was going to fight, then that’s what he had to do. Years later Murphy admitted that he was scared and that he “shivered all day, thinking of the fight that must inevitably come.” 

 

There was no indication as to how Daulton felt about the upcoming contest, but he couldn’t have been too worried. He showed up at the prescribed place, right on time. In a minute or two, Murphy came to the line as well. 

 

There weren’t any words, just a lot of punching as the two warriors pummeled, kicked, and battered each other until both were too tired to move. Years later, Murphy couldn’t remember who won, but he said the encounter itself was something he would never forget.

 

“We fought until we were both exhausted,” said Murphy. “We weren’t fighting about anything in particular. I belonged to Jack Brammer’s gang, and Daulton had his gang, and Brammer said I could beat Daulton, so we had to fight to settle it.” 

 

The Daulton-Murphy fisticuffs battle was remembered in 1950 in an interview that made the front page of The Madera Tribune, and behind the ready smile of Murphy, who by that time was Madera’s postmaster, was a lifetime rich with humor and experience. 

 

Murphy, who was born in a house at 210 North B Street, grew up with the town. He remembered the gambling houses, the saloons, the buckboards lined up along Yosemite Avenue on Saturday afternoon when the farmers came to town to shop. He also remembered well the old flume, which came down from the Sugar Pine hills to carry lumber to the sawmill, for it represented a place where the schoolhouse gangs forgot their rivalry and joined in revelry at Madera’s unofficial “swimming pool.”

 

Perched on stilts, the flume ran through the eastern part of town bringing lumber and ice-cold water from the melting snow of the mountains. It was here that the Brammer and Daulton “gangs” came together for a splashing good time. 

 

Of course it was dangerous to play in the flume, with logs coming down. But as Murphy remembered it, there was rarely an accident. A kid stood a greater chance of injury in one of those school fights than he did swimming in the flume.

 

“Sure there was danger from the logs,” Murphy told the reporter, “but we could see them and get out of the way.” He did admit that from time to time someone got hurt, and the parents put a stop to their swimming in the flume. In time, however, the incident was forgotten and the boys resumed their ducking and splashing in the flume, naked as jaybirds. 

 

Well as life goes, all good things had to come to an end. Murphy graduated from school and had to go to work. He got a job in the post office as a fill-in clerk for .35 cents an hour. In 1915 he moved up to regular clerk at $800 per year.  The next year, when his brother John became postmaster, Ed moved up to assistant postmaster for an extra $100 annually. In 1933, he moved up to the top postal job in Madera — postmaster and remained at that post until 1954. 

 

Ed Murphy lived to the ripe old age of 92, dying in 1981. He had seen Madera grow and remembered a lot, but nothing stood out in his memory more clearly than those “gangs” at Eastside School.

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