Archive for July, 2015

About six months ago we received an email from Gail Case Davidson of Gunnison, Colorado:
“My interest stems from a visit my husband, son, and I made to the area about 5 years ago. My father had passed away in 2004 and I received many old photo albums of his after he passed.  He was a ‘coast watcher’ during WWII and was stationed at a barracks that were located at the mouth of the Mattole River on the Pacific Coast. Using those photos, we were able to locate the site of the old barracks during our visit.
“My dad was a proud member of the US Coast Guard – that was then under the US Navy Department during the war – and he took many photos using his little Kodak “brownie” camera…  I remember in the late 50’s, when I was a little girl, we visited the Petrolia area and saw an older woman named Hattie Titus who my father knew during the time he was stationed in the area.
“My father’s name was Russel Case. His nickname was ‘Casey’.  He was a Kansas-born farm boy from Wheat Ridge, Colorado, who joined up right after Pearl Harbor.  I will include some photos of some of the local ‘girls’ that had their pictures taken with the sailors.  Maybe someone will recognize them.
“He left the Mattole area around late 1943 and was sent to the east coast as a radio operator on a troop transport ship.”
These emails and the pictures Gail scanned and attached were wonderful to receive! I am sorry it has taken so long to get these out there to share with you Mattole history lovers. The final nudge was when Gail offered to send an entire album of the pictures she put together. We received it only a week or two ago, and were very impressed with both the content and the professional manner in which it was presented. Gail added introductory material and articles on the Coast Guard and the Beach Patrols at the end of the binder.
Photos are by Walter Russel Case, courtesy of Gailann Case Davidson, and are of Coast Guard Beach Patrol Station #4017, from late 1942 until late ’43. (Note that most of these photographs were tiny to begin with, and Gail did the very best she could scanning them for highest resolution. The digitized clues cannot be avoided on some of these shots.)
The barracks at the mouth, just outside the present-day beach gate near the parking lot

The barracks at the mouth, just outside the present-day gate near the parking lot

View from the hill behind and southeast of the barracks

View from the hill behind and southeast of the barracks

Russel Case in uniform

And here is Russel Case in uniform

Russel and buddies horsing around:
Russ Case WWII CalifRuss Case WWII Calif30Russ Case WWII28
Marksmanship practice:
Russ Case WWII Calif20
Russ Case WWII Calif21Russ Case WWII Calif24
Russ Case WWII Calif4
Russ Case WWII Calif18
Some of the local sights and people:
Petrolia Local Girls
Carmen (Carmella Davis) Gill, in Ferndale. There are several photos of Carmen in the album

Carmen (Carmella Davis) Gill, in Ferndale. There are several photos of Carmen in the album. Edit: Donell Hunter McCanless, seen on the right in the photo above, tells me this was not Carmen Gill, but Carmen Anderson of Ferndale. Donell, who knew Casey well, says Carmen and he were dating. She has written to his daughter Gail to express her delight in finding this tribute to such a wonderful and well-liked man.

Johnny Jackson Indian Ranch Owner Mattole River

Labelled “Johnny Jackson, Indian Ranch Owner, Mattole River”

Russ Case WWII Calif girls

73 years ago!

73 years ago!

Gail commented that “It is fun to look at the pictures of the locals with the sailors. When you think about the human side – here are the local young people, during a very turbulent time in history, meeting and interacting with the young sailors who were mostly from the Midwest, some from big cities. and all a long way from home.  Many of the local “girls” were probably born in the Petrolia or surrounding area and never had much chance to interact with guys from the “outside world”.  It was probably a little “wild” time but the sailors probably appreciated mixing with the local families to get that “little touch of home” that they left behind.  The sailors were doing their wartime duty, unsure of the outcome, but were essentially just “kids” themselves growing into manhood. The pictures of them practicing with the guns and bayonets showed that it was serious business.   What an interesting time it must have been for everyone there.”
Hattie Titus and Daughter Petrolia CA

Hattie Titus and daughter Phyllis

Hattie and Phyllis frequently entertained the Coast Guardsmen, and there are several photos in the album of them having a good time. A note from the Ferndale Enterprise of October 1, 1943, says “Sunday, the 26th, at the Titus home, a surprise party was held in honor of Ensign J. Rible. Others present were Mrs. Rible, Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Rohm, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Gardina and small daughter, Renea, Mr. and Mrs. M. S. Carter, Mrs. J.L. Hagne, Mrs. J.J. Mulsoff, and Coast Guardsmen, Harold Drier, Evans Mathern, Jonas Silver, Carl Fiore, Russel Case. Co-hostesses were Mrs. George Titus and Miss Phyllis Titus. Dancing and cards were enjoyed during the afternoon and delicious refreshments were served at close.”
Here is Rible in a couple of photos:
Lt. Perkins, Ensign Rible

Lt. Perkins, Ensign Rible

Beach Patrol Officers

Ensign Rible with Coxswain Sontwier

On a darker note, you may have heard the story of the three men who drowned when ordered to cross the lagoon in a rowboat one stormy night in 1943. Jim Cook tells the story in a YouTube interview done by the Ferndale Museum:
click this or search youtube for JIM COOK ON COAST GUARD DROWNING. I think Jim got a little confused with the story, as he says a Lt. Rible would have known better, but some Ensign (Rollay?) insisted that the men go out in the little boat. In fact, the Lt. was Perkins and the Ensign was Rible, so it’s unclear whether we go with the “Ensign” or the “Rible” story as to the person responsible for the deaths; but no matter now. I finally found the particulars of that incident. Probably for reasons of morale and security, it was not reported in the local papers, but the names can be found on a terse list in the online Coast Guard archives. “10/23/1943 [one month after the Titus party], Evans J. Matherne, Seaman 1; Jonas Silver, Seaman 2; and Sautwier, Joseph, Coxswain, Died when Boat Capsized.” Sontwier being the man in the photo above with his superior.
Beach Patrol3 USCG Mattole

The sort of heavy raingear and boots worn by the unfortunate rowers

USCG Beach Patrol Mattole CA 1942

The twenty men stationed at Barracks 4017

USCG Beach Patrol Mattole CA 1942 Names

These names are attached to the photo above; it’s unclear whether they are in order, or if only the names of the first 9 men are known, names scattered throughout the list. Either way, Russel Case is first on the right

Dogs were a big part of the patrol operation. You can learn all about how they were used in this article, which is also printed out in Gail’s photo album: World War II Coast Guard Horse Patrol .
USCG Beach Patrol with dogs Mattole CA
Russ and pups

Russ and pups

Gail concludes her introduction to the photo album thus:
“Russ often talked with pride and fondness of the time he spent and the local people he met in Petrolia. He and his wife Ann visited Petrolia a couple of times in subsequent years. Russ was a proud Coast Guard World War II Vet for the remainder of his life. He passed away in Denver, Colorado, in 2004.
“Thank you for sharing in his story.”
Thank *you*, Gailann Davidson! These pictures are only a small percentage of the photos in the album. Come on in to the MVHS office to see more!
(P.S. Note of July, 2015–my phone number has changed; to make an appt. to come to the office, please call 707-840-6044, or cell number 707-601-7300)

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