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Forums :: Forums :: HISTORY OF BIG BEAR
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Prohibition and Big Bear Part 3 - What really went on in Big Bear in 1923

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Mon Feb 11 2019, 09:40PM Email Thread Print View
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Big Bear Confidential

In making a presentation on Big Bear and Prohibition to the Big Bear Historical Society it was quickly determined that there were too many PowerPoint slides to show in one sitting. So, the presentation was broken down into three parts. The first part dealt with what were the political, economic and social forces that led up to the passage of the 18th Amendment (prohibition). The second part concerned with what problems developed from prohibition, and how did we pass the 21st Amendment which repealed the 18th Amendment. Although there were some local and state information presented those presentations were mostly on national issues.

Here in the last segment a presentation was given that concerned itself with local lawbreakers, and law enforcement. This information was gathered from newspaper archives, personal stories and some recently discovered tape-recorded interviews from the 1960s of people who were actually there in the 1920s.

Since there is a limitation on the file size that can be loaded on this website, the third part of this presentation has been broken down into several smaller file size postings. This will also allow for some additional notes. The original Big Bear Historical Society presentation was given in a PowerPoint format which does not allow for the viewer to see the notes section. These notes will give clarity to the subject presented here.

What Started the Project
What started this whole project was a story that was past down from one media or publication source to another over time. The basic story line is presented in the slides, with many of those sources claiming the following over a prohibition raid that occurred over July Fourth of 1923. A man and a woman federal agent posing as a vacationing couple solicited alcohol from locals. They gathered evidence on 17 people and the violators were arrested and held in jail. Judge Lynn presided over the cases and for those people that were not immediately caught the federal agents left warrants with Hank Crain.

Of all the possible sources of this information only one writer by the name of Syd Sullivan would have been around in 1923 to have seen or heard about this issue first hand. This story on the raid was first published in the Highlander newspaper in August of 1923. His account was very complete and was more extensive than that by the other historians that all came along later. Yet it is amazing that Syd Sullivan did not mentioned this event when describing the 1923 celebration in a letter to Bea Pedder (local historian). Newspaper accounts of the 1923 celebration showed that there were a lot of activities going on, but nothing of this supposed great raid. If 17 people were arrested, I am sure one of the various law enforcement agencies would have liked to have taken credit for the arrest. There should have been a lot of press coverage.


Richard Graham
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Mon Feb 11 2019, 09:41PM
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Local Bootleggers and Moonshiners

As research was conducted newspaper articles showed that there were two known bootleggers that were very active at that time: one being Walter Scheldon. It was difficult in gathering information on him because he used several different names over the years. The following slides describe his illegal activities and his two arrests. Since his activities involved more that selling a bottle or two his violations were handled in a higher court. He should have made whatever deal he could with the local officials for a lesser punishment. At some point after his second conviction he went into the business of providing burro meat to the fox farms and then later went into construction.

What is very interesting here is that Scheldon went by so many different names (see slide 8 of this section). From researching and contacting Walter’s granddaughter we were able to learn that Schelden went by many names.
It is believed that his given name was Schifboch. He changed it to Von Schelden. Later he went to Americanize the name by dropping the Von. It is interesting to note that on his WWII draft card he lists his name as Von Schelden but signs his name as plane old Scheldon.

To add to his mysterious past well after his death his daughter and grandchildren recently learned that Walter was previous married and had several children by his first wife. They were only made aware of this previous family due to a contact from


Richard Graham
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Mon Feb 11 2019, 09:43PM
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Examples of Complications with the Law

Information in this section illustrates how prohibition violations were handled. When Scheldon was first arrested he might have been able to plead guilty to a less charge if he had not been teasing the local authorities. But he fought against the system and had to appear in a county court. When he did this then he came to the realization that the penalty was going to be a lot stiffer. When he resisted with the county district attorney his case was shipped off to a federal court.

Note in slide 2 of this section that Scheldon need to pay bail and he did not have the money. So, he threatened to release the names of those people that were his customers. This resulted in his “friends” coming forward and paying his bail money. This would not be a good tactic to try today


Richard Graham
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Mon Feb 11 2019, 09:44PM
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Tom Lanoff

Although there certainly were many bootleggers and moonshiners in the area, only Walter Scheldon and Tom Lanoff were the only two that should up in the various newspaper searches.

Here is the story of Tom Lanoff who was a camp resort owner and operator that also got caught twice for selling alcohol.


Richard Graham
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Mon Feb 11 2019, 09:45PM
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Sheriffs and Constables
In this section two of the local law enforcement authorities are presented. Jack Brown was a San Bernardino County Sheriff that was in charge of prohibition and vice. (It is interesting to note that it was Jack’s son, Jack Brown jr that later in life became the CEO of Stater Brothers Supermarket.) Hank Crain was a locally elected constable for the Big Bear area.

Hank was a good old boy and knew that he had to keep the peace but also realized that he did not want to ruffle and feathers if he wanted to get re-elected. Thus, he most likely did not do anything about possession of a single bottle of liquor but a large still like that of Walter Scheldon’s was another issue. It appears that Crain in his younger years was a friend to some very wealth people and was mentioned in one will in the mid-1910s. He inherited $60,000 at that time and spent it all. Then in June of 1929 he claims that he has inherited $6,000,000 from one of the wealth brothers. The newspaper headlines that appears in slide 4 of this section also appeared in several other papers across the nation at that time. Then in July of 1929 he has an unfortunate accident of shooting himself while cleaning his .45 caliber revolver. He supposedly was cleaning the weapon while there was still one bullet in the revolver. As he walked over to a window to get better light, while looking down the barrel, he tripped and the run went off. He had shot himself in the eye.

It is interesting to note that his lawyer at that time could not find a copy of the will where Crain was supposed to have inherited the money from Fred Vogt. A current day research of and other sources does not show any information on a Fred Vogt that would have matched his information. Local family legend has it that the surviving relatives of Fred Vogt contested the will and were granted all the money. Even if Crain had not died with his style of life, he most likely would have lost it in the Wall Street crash of Oct 1929.


Richard Graham
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Mon Feb 11 2019, 09:47PM
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Big Bear Jail in the 1920s
As a point of interest what was the jail system like in Big Bear during the 1920s? From an article in the October 7, 1949 Big Bear Grizzly there is a photograph and description of the jail cell that was used.
In the early days of the 1900s through the 1920s this jail was used as a movable jail cell. It was placed in the area of Knickerbocker and Big Bear Blvd then moved over to the Moonridge area and then finally to an area that was located just behind the Chevron Station in the village.

In 1904 the county purchased several of these jail cells and were to be used in those communities that were populated but not incorporated. Prisoners were to be held there until the accused was tried by the local Justice of the Peace or transfer down to the central jail in San Bernardino for a superior court trial. They were manufactured by E.T. Barnum Iron Works Company, in Detroit. They also manufactured fences and building fire escape ladders. The jail cells were heavy but yet portable and used at various location in San Bernardino County well into the 1960s. The double cells pictured are currently located at the Mojave River Valley Museum in Barstow. The one cell measures to be 5 feet by 7 feet. This could not have been a pleasant experience and I think you would have to be careful in whom you might put in the jail cell.

According to Floyd Tidwell in a recent interview, he remembers the jail shown in the newspaper photograph (slide number 4) was in a building across the street from Judge Lynn’s office. The current location is occupied by Northwoods Inn.


Richard Graham
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Mon Feb 11 2019, 09:48PM
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San Bernardino County Arrest Records
So, going back to Syd Sullivan’s story, if the violators were hauled off by the federal agents, they most likely were held at the city jail and then transferred down to the county jail in San Bernardino.
Ok let’s look at the arrest records for the county at that time period and how were minor offences handled.

Slide number 2 has some information from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Historical Society, here is a sample page of the Jail House Registry which the Sheriffs used when brining in someone to be booked into jail.
If several of the men were booked in the 1923 raid according to Syd Sullivan their names would have appeared in these books. Let’s take a closer look at the book and see what information was recorded.

In slide 3 it shows a list of the columns of the information in the jail registry.
The most important information for our investigation would be:
The name of the violator
Date Received
Accompanying officer
Residence at time of the arrest.
On the second page we find the name of judge, the fine and when the violators were released.

In slide 5 is a copy of the individuals that were arrested in July of 1923. The left side of the page has listings of the violators, arresting officers and charges. In reviewing the pages that involved activity in July of 1923 there were no mass number of violators being brought in on charges of liquor violations or for that matter anyone being arrested from Big Bear.


Richard Graham
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Mon Feb 11 2019, 09:49PM
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Maybe 1923 was the Wrong Year
As you can see there is no real evidence that this raid ever did take place. There are no newspaper articles or arrest records for that time period. Possible Sullivan had the dates mixed up or was confused on some of the facts. Sullivan was in Big Bear in 1923, but related in his story that he had the information from a reliable source, thus he most likely was not there at that time. Perhaps we need to search in the other prohibition years to find our answers.

In slide 2, we have a San Bernardino Sun article from July 20, 1925. Note some of the similarities to Syd Sullivan’s story. Instead of a prohibition issue gambling was involved. The article relates that
 Midnight Raid on Billiard Parlor/Soda Fountains
 17 men some prominent
 Sitting at a “gambling table”
 Confiscated $299
 Arrest F. Sanders (11th time he was arrested for gambling)
 “The other men were from SB and LA and were sent home to bed”
 Raided by Jack Brown.
 No liquor found

From the Jail House Registry for July 1925 we do find another entry for Big Bear. It is just a single entry and it is for Floyd Sanders. It appears that only Floyd Sanders was the only one arrested. Note that the arresting officer was “Brown and posse.” He was arrested on July 19th and appeared before Judge Kavanaugh, fined $500 paid the fine and release all on the 20th. Unlike Count Scheldon he apparently did not need any friends to bail him out.

It appears that Floyd stayed in town after the raid. Here he and his wife’s name appear in the 1926 voter’s registration.

If you remember in Syd’ Sullivan’s article “the sheriff came back in town, two weeks later with warrants for the rest of the violators”. Again, from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Historical Society are the records for what warrants were issued for 1923. And we find nothing for Big Bear.

But for July of 1925 we find that there were five arrest warrants issued for five residents in Big Bear. We see the names of the five individuals on the right. The warrants were issued for violation of San Bernardino County Ordnance No 255 which had to do with smoking/fires in the forest. So, was this what Syd Sullivan was writing about?


Richard Graham
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Mon Feb 11 2019, 09:52PM
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A Most Unusual Prohibition Violation Case for Judge Lynn
Clifford Lynn was elected as Justice of the Peace in 1921 and served until 1934 where he resigned and worked in private businesses. He was later appointed as judge when Justice Rodney Wright retired.
In the July 26 1930 Big Bear Life published an article on how Judge Lynn had presided over 837 case. Of these 837 there were 402 criminal cases. Criminal cases where most likely in the realm of misdemeanors. Usually felonies of more serious nature were deferred to San Bernardino’s California Superior Court. Thus, a violator or suspect was usually transferred to the San Bernardino County Jail.

In searching out to find any relatives of Judge Lynn, a search was run through and the following information was found on Judge Lynn. As shown in slide four he had a daughter my the name of Margaret D. (Dolly) Lynn.

In searching on Margaret Lynn the following information was found. It gives her parents’ names and then her husband’s name as Earl Conolly. I remembered seeing that name once before. So I went back through my notes and found…… Sure enough there is an Earl Conolly being arrest for violation of the prohibition laws and his case was heard by Judge Lynn!!!

So when did all of this happen???? Note that the article on the left side of slide 7 has Earl being tried and sentenced for his liquor violations on August 7, 1932 and then on the right side there is an article that he is married on Margaret Lynn on August 20, 1932, just 13 days later.

Oh what wonderful dinner time conversations were had back then. I wonder what kind of toast the father of the bride gave at the wedding.


Richard Graham
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Mon Feb 11 2019, 09:53PM
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Will We Ever Know What Happened?
After doing all this research I think we can most likely say that what Syd Sullivan published was not accurate. There is always room for doubt. It is very hard to prove something that did not happen. In defense of Syd’s story, Syd’s diary was never found and Judge Lynn’s court ledger has never been located which might have given some information one way or another. Logs authored by Jack Brown and Hank Crain also have not been found.

Nevertheless, something did happen in July of 1925, but whatever did happen is now lost to the pages of history.


Richard Graham
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