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Postmaster Murphy remembered ‘good old days’

Courtesy of the Madera County Historical Society

Ed Murphy, Madera’s postmaster, hands over some of the town’s first outgoing airmail to pilot Pete Schmidt while Madera Tribune reporter Winifred Peck stands by to board. The date was May 19,


“Ed can beat up Clay Daulton anytime,” said Jack Brammer, but Ed Murphy looked at Clay Daulton and was scared. All day long he shivered, thinking of the fight that must inevitably come, because when Brammer talked that way, it meant business. Along toward dusk, Ed Murphy and H. Clay Daulton II (Grandfather of Clay Daulton, owner of the Daulton Ranch) mixed it up in an abandoned building nearby; they pummeled, kicked, and battered each other until they were both too tired to move.

“I don’t know who won,” said Edmund V. Murphy, who later became Madera’s postmaster, “but that fight was certainly an incident I’ll never forget. We weren’t fighting about anything in particular; I belonged to Jack Brammer’s gang and Daulton had his gang. Brammer said I could beat Daulton, so we had to fight to settle it.”

Thus did Edmund V. Murphy, Madera’s postmaster, take readers of the Madera Tribune back fifty years in time to tell them what life was like for young lads when our town was just a village. The fisticuffs described by Murphy took place when Murphy, Brammer, and Daulton attended class at Madera’s Eastside School, the only one in town at the time. It was located near the corner of Yosemite Avenue and Flume Street.

Murphy knew of which he spoke. He was born in a house at 210 North B Street in 1890 and grew up with Madera. He remembered the gambling houses, the saloons, the buckboards, heavy with the clay of the country roads, lined up along the main street on a Saturday afternoon when the ranchers came to town to shop. He also remembered the old flume that came down from Sugar Pine to carry lumber to the sawmill in Madera and what thrills it brought to the local boys.

As Murphy remembered, the flume was the town’s unofficial swimming pool — with just enough spice of danger to make it exciting. Perched on stilts, the giant water slide ran through the eastern portion of the community, and nearly every young fellow in town at some time or other splashed in its ice cold waters that were fed by the melting snow of the mountains. Although its real function was to carry logs down from the hills, as far as the boys were concerned, it was a prime means of recreation.

“Sure there was danger from the logs” Said Murphy, “but we could see them coming and get out of the way.” However, from time to time someone got hurt, and their parents forbade boys to go swimming in the flume. Inevitably as the incident slid into the past, the boys went back again to their ducking and splashing with only the tips of tall trees between their nakedness and the summer sky.

Youngsters in early Madera were not only resourceful when it came to finding sources of recreation. According to Murphy, there were unique ways for them to pick up some pocket change. For example on Yosemite and D Streets there was a raised sidewalk that was some three to four feet above the roadway. It was made of boards and ran past a grain warehouse that opened up on D Street. It went downward along D Street past the offices of the Madera News-Tribune and after a descending swoop — continued on to Fifth Street.

Now it just so happened that the grain wagons would unload at the warehouse by rolling back and forth over the sidewalk, and invariably some of the grain spilled between the spaces of the boards. This provided a refuge for the hungry chickens that belonged to Mrs. Mace who lived in the little house just north of the newspaper office on D Street.

The birds grew fat on the grain that sifted down to them from the cracks in the sidewalk, and when they became too fat to waddle home, they sometimes settled down among the spilled wheat and made their nest. The resourceful Murphy and his friends discovered the hen’s hideout and soon were crawling under the sidewalk to gather their eggs. These they would sell — without sizing or grading — to the local grocer in exchange for cream puffs, the passion of every kid in town.

Murphy recalled another boyhood activity in Madera. In fact, it was almost a consuming interest--baseball. In school, the boys were coached by principal W.L. Williams, and Ed became one of the town’s top ball players. He played the game unflaggingly and aspired to be the Ty Cobb of Madera. Unfortunately this was an ambition he never fulfilled. His family moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, and took young Edmund with them. In two years, however, he was back in Madera and opened up a cigar store with his brother, John.

In the meantime W.L. Williams — Murphy’s old principal — had become Madera’s postmaster and Ed’s brother John went to work as a clerk in the post office, with Ed filling in during busy seasons as a contingent clerk at 35 cents an hour. In 1915, he moved up to regular clerk at a salary of $800 per year.

Ed Murphy became Postmaster of Madera in 1933 and was at the helm of the local postal service when the present post office was built. He also oversaw the first out-bound airmail service from Madera.

Edmund V. Murphy remained highly respected in Madera for his service to his community, and not the least of his contributions to his hometown were the memories he recorded for later generations. After all, how else would we have known that Jennie Mace kept her chickens under the D Street sidewalk and fed them with grain that belonged to the warehouse next door?



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